Shelley Duncan, Dave Duncan in his underwear, my daughter and me

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Anna at ballgame.JPGI’ll bore you with one more story about my trip with the kids to the Columbus Clippers-Charlotte Knights game last night.

Shelley Duncan’s name is announced as he comes to bat for Columbus. Anna, my six year-old daughter, hears this and giggles a bit that a man is named Shelley.  I tell her that Shelley can be a man’s name too. She nods, but I can tell that she’s not letting this one go.  The subsequent conversation:

Anna: Why would his mommy and daddy name him Shelley?

Me: I told you, it’s a boy’s name too. [trying to change the subject]: Hey Anna, I actually met Shelley Duncan’s daddy once.

Anna [surprised and impressed, because she believes baseball players are impossibly famous and therefore unapproachable]: Really? Where?

Me: When I went on my trip to Florida last month. His daddy is a coach for another baseball team and I talked to him.

Anna: [still impressed] How did you talk to him?

Me: [thinking I’m impressing my daughter even more than I am] They let the baseball writers in the locker room after the game and we get to talk to the players and coaches. He was in the locker room after a game I went to.

Anna: What do they do in the locker room?

Me: [not paying close attention to where this is heading] It’s where the players take a shower and change out of their baseball uniforms after the game before they go home.

Anna: [thinking hard about this, and then breaking out into a mischievous smile]: Did you see Shelley Duncan’s daddy with no pants on?

Me: [sudden realization that, yes, I actually did see Dave Duncan with no pants on, and that I was actually talking to him as he was getting dressed. Think fast, Craig!]: Um, I don’t remember.

Anna: YOU SAW SHELLEY DUNCAN’S DADDY’S UNDERPANTS!  YOU SAW SHELLEY DUNCAN’S DADDY’S UNDERPANTS! [followed by uncontrollable laughter].

The subject was finally changed with cotton candy.  Multiple innings go by and I figured it was dropped for the night. I was wrong.

It was getting late, I had tired kids, so we left the game in the top of the eighth. As we’re leaving, we walked down a sidewalk that follows along the outfield wall with little places to look-in and watch the game for free. Anna stops as she sees Shelley Duncan in right field, just a couple dozen yards from where we were standing.

Anna: Hey Shelley Duncan! My daddy saw your daddy in his underpants! [followed by giggling the entire drive home].

I have no idea if Duncan heard this. I desperately hope that he did not.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉