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Nats add athleticism with 1st two picks, are confident they'll sign

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Nats add athleticism with 1st two picks, are confident they'll sign

The Nationals entered the first day of the 2015 MLB Draft with a specific goal in mind. With the game of baseball moving more and more towards defense and speed, the Nats wanted to add athleticism to their farm system.

They feel they accomplished that goal by taking outfielders Andrew Stevenson from LSU with the 58th pick and Blake Perkins from Verrado High School (AZ) 69th overall.

"The first day we really concentrated on getting more athletic and to improve our speed in the system," general manager Mike Rizzo said. "These guys are both plus-plus runners. They are guys that will have opportunities down the road to be extremely good defensive center fielders with also some offensive prowess, guys that can fly and steal bases. As the game turns to pitching, defense and athleticism, we felt that we had the opportunity to take two guys early in the draft that really exude all three of those fields."

Both Stevenson and Perkins have the option to not sign with the Nationals by the July 17 deadline if they so choose. Stevenson is a junior at LSU and Perkins is committed to play at Arizona State University in the fall. The Nationals were unable to sign their second round pick, Andrew Suarez, in 2014, but are confident this time will be different.

"We’re going to leave the negotiating for a little bit down the road, but we feel good about it," Rizzo said. "We take players that we feel want to play for the Nationals. We really do our due diligence on their makeups and background and their signability. We rarely draft a player if we don’t feel confident to sign him. We feel good about these guys. We’ve only spoken to them in regards to congratulating them on being drafted by us."

Rizzo held a conference call Tuesday morning to discuss the two draft picks along with assistant general manager Kris Kline and director of player development Mark Scialabba.

Here are some highlights of their scouting reports on both players:

Andrew Stevenson

Rizzo - "This guy plays 100 miles per hour with his hair on fire. That was a big part of why we were so attracted to him... He’s an extremely toolsy player. We’re adding to our already fertile stable of athletes. You know our motto here, we go pitching, defense, athleticism and certainly both of these guys fill those voids. Stevenson is a guy who is a plus-plus runner. We’ve got him up to 70 or 80 on a 20-80 scale as far as speed goes. He’s got the ability to steal bases. He’s a terrific defensive center fielder. We think he’s got the ability to be a leadoff-type of guy in the future and a guy that adds to our athleticism and speed part of the game. His unorthodox approach works for him. We’ve already got ideas once we sign the player to kind of tweak that a little bit. We look back to what he’s done in the past. We’ve got great history on this guy. He’s a Team USA guy. He plays for one of the best programs in baseball and he’s their best hitter. We really like this guy and he’s a guy that we feel is going to be an everyday guy for us."

Kline - "He does have the ability to center the baseball. He’s got good hand-eye coordination. He’s actually had more success with that and that showed up in the Cape Cod League. He’s always just had a very good feel to hit."

Blake Perkins

Kline, who compared him to MLB outfielders Austin Jackson and Brian Hunter - "We’re going to give him a chance to switch-hit. He’s been doing that since high school, but never really took it into the game... Rich Schu liked it a lot and that’s going to make him a little more versatile."

Scialabba - "I think think the biggest thing about Blake is the athleticism. Just the passion and fire that burns on the field. He’s got a lot of tools, he’s a really good athlete. The switch-hitting thing obviously helps him with his speed. Playing in center field, he’s a highlight reel."

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Stevenson and the LSU Tigers are still alive in the NCAA Tournament after advancing to the College World Series on Sunday. They play their first game in Omaha against TCU at 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 14.

Rizzo said there is no concern about Stevenson playing in the tournament and he wishes him well as he plays out the rest of his junior season.

"We love it. They’ve had a successful season and we love seeing our draft choices play at the highest level with pressure on them in big games. This guy is no stranger to the national spotlight. He’s been on ESPN many, many times for his exploits defensively. We’re excited to see him play. Hopefully they go a long way and he plays for a long time now. Then we’ll get him and fire him into our system," he said.

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Nationals extend protective foul ball netting

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Nationals extend protective foul ball netting

The Washington Nationals will become the latest MLB team to extend their protective netting down the first and third base lines, team owner Mark Lerner announced on Thursday. A new netting will be installed at Nationals Park during the MLB All-Star break. 

The new netting will extend from the end of the dugout, where they currently end, and go to the left and right field corners. It will be designed with certain sections that can be raised to allow for fan interaction before the games. 

In his announcement, Lerner stated "I could not help but become emotional last month watching the Astros-Cubs game when a four-year-old little girl was hit by a line drive. I can’t imagine what her parents must have felt in that moment. And to see the raw emotion and concern from Albert Almora Jr. was heartbreaking. Further extending the netting at Nationals Park will provide additional protection for our fans."

This announcement comes fresh off the heels of a national conversation about the importance of netting in ballparks and more that needs to be done to protect the fans. As Lerner referenced, a young fan was hit by a foul ball during an Astros-Cubs matchup in May. The girl was rushed to the hospital and left those in attendance paralyzed in shock, especially Cub Albert Almora Jr. 

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said he did not expect the league to step in this season for a league-wide change. However, he did mention that it would continue to be discussed and stressed the importance of fan safety. 

As a result, some teams are taking matters into their own hands. The Chicago White Sox became the first team to announce an extension of their current protective netting to the foul poles. 

Preceding the White Sox announcement, both Chicago and the Nationals experienced a traumatic foul ball situation. Chicago's Eloy Jimenez ripped a foul ball down the line and hit an unsuspecting fan.  

The first game with the new netting with be on Monday, July 22 against the Colorado Rockies. 

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How to celebrate the ultimate D.C. sports day of the summer

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How to celebrate the ultimate D.C. sports day of the summer

Summertime; the time of year when you only look at your calendar to make sure you haven’t double-booked yourself for your ritual weekend brunches, or the time of year you exhaust every vacation day you’ve stored up over the course of the year to get the kids somewhere near their grandparents so you can continue to work on that ever-elusive summer dad-bod. Either one is a win in my book.

Summer also gives birth to one of the rare occasions when there can be three to four different DC-sports related activities all occurring within the same 24-hour timeframe. Thursday, June 20, is THAT day!

Who’s playing? Is there a chance I can attend the game? If not, how do you watch them all? These burning questions are about to be answered faster than you can ride down the escalator at the Pentagon City Metro Station…I think. So, let’s hurry and get started.

We’ll run through these one at a time, in chronological order!

Event 1: Soccer: 3 p.m. EST

1.       Who’s playing?

The US Women’s National Team takes the pitch against Sweden as they look to continue their international dominance in the Women’s World Cup. And yes, it’s DC team because we’re the nation’s Capital.

2.       Reason to watch/attend?

These women are the best Soccer players on the planet; having showcased their proficiency for many years on the world stage. Remember they put up 13 against Thailand in their first match! Don’t miss an opportunity to witness history in the making.  

3.       How to watch/attend?

You can either pull up to Dulles and jump on the next flight to France, or you can be like the rest of us Super-geniuses and tune in at 3 p.m. to watch it from the comfort of your favorite Soccer bar. Make sure to buy a round for anyone rocking a USWNT jersey; #OneNationOneTeam. USA, USA, USA!!!

Event 2: Baseball: 7 p.m. EST

1.       Who’s playing?

 The Washington Nationals are wrapping up a 4-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

2.       Why should I watch/attend?

This is the last day of Bryce Harper in THIS city until September. HALLELUJAH! 

3.       How to watch/attend?

First pitch is at 7:05 p.m. so you can either slide by the park and enjoy the smorgasbord of delicacies offered at Nats park, or you can tune in on the tube. I suggest hitting the park and booing Harper until you lose your voice! Tell your boss it’s my fault you’re hoarse. It won’t be the first time someone did that.

Event 3:  Football: 7 p.m. EST

1.       Who’s playing?

The Washington Valor are back home in Capital One Arena for another chapter in their I-95 battle with their rivals the Baltimore Brigade.

2.       Why should I watch/attend?

 The Valor won the AFL XXXI crown against the Brigade, on their home field. Baltimore hasn’t forgotten that sting in the least bit. Plus, COA has a wicked Bud Light Party Zone where you can catch unlimited beer and perhaps a football from the field. If you haven't seen and AFL game in person, then you're missing out on some really fun action. They even let you down on the field after the game for autographs and pics with the players.

3.       How to watch/attend?

 Kickoff is at 7 p.m. whether you’re at the Arena or not. Since the Nats game is at the same time, you may have to decide which game to see in person and which one to stream on your phone. Hint: the Valor game is on NBC Sports Washington so there’s that. And, if the Nats game gets rained out, then problem solved and see you in the party zone! 

Event 4: Basketball(NBA): 8 p.m. EST

1.       Who’s playing?

 NOBODY, derp! But, it’s the NBA draft and frankly put, I couldn’t be more excited it’s finally here.

2.       Why should I watch/attend?

 This is the first official activation in the post-Grunfeld era for the Wizards. More importantly, this will be the first chance for Wiz fans to wrap their minds around the new direction the team will be taking. Optimism starts here!

3.       How to watch/attend?

Unless you feel like traveling to see the Draft in person, I highly suggest you tune in to NBC Sports Washington for full draft coverage on ‘Wizards on the Clock’ starting at 6:30 p.m.  In my humble opinion, you won’t find better comprehensive coverage. You can watch on TV or via the MyTeams App while you’re at the Nats game booing Bryce if you’re slick with multi-tasking.

Event 4: Basketball(WNBA): 10 p.m. EST

1.       Who’s playing?

 Your Washington Mystics are out in Sin City to take on the Las Vegas Aces. Note: Bill Laimbeer sighting!

2.       Reason to watch/attend?

 The Aces sit atop the Western Conference with Australian native Liz Cambage (she can BALL) holding down the paint. It’s going to be a good test for the Mystics and you’ll get a chance to see how unrelentingly talented Elena Delle Donne, Natasha Cloud, and crew really are. Buckets, the Mystics get buckets!

3.       How to watch/attend?

I know the temptation to hit Vegas is rising by the moment but fret not. You can save a ton of money and possibly help your best bud save his fragile relationship by staying in DC and catching the game at 10 p.m. on Monumental Sports Network/NBC Sports Washington.

Now you know how to do it while maintaining some semblance of sanity, and you can even keep a running tab on who’s been the most DC among your friends. I’m certain we’ll have another opportunity for this phenomenon when Fall comes back around, but for now, let’s all enjoy the summer and all the games therein!