A Night at RFK
Five members of the Washington Capitals traded their hockey sticks for baseball bats last night. Chris Clark, Steve Eminger, Matt Pettinger, Tom Poti and Brian Sutherby went to RFK Stadium several hours prior to Monday night’s game between the Nats and the New York Mets. The players were given the opportunity to take batting practice, play catch on the field and shag flies in the outfield.
None of the players embarrassed himself in the batter’s box, and all were able to make regular contact, but none was able to match Jamie Heward’s feat of hitting a batting pratice home run last September.
Poti was asked whether he had a sense of who displayed the most power.
“Not really,” he said. “Nobody hit one out, so I think we were all pretty equal.”
That’s a true and reasonable assessment. I thought Poti hit the most towering shots of the group. He got the most height and arc on his drives, which is not necessarily a good thing when the ball is staying in the yard. The lefty-swinging Sutherby made the most consistent contact and sprayed line drives to left-center and right-center.
“It felt awesome,” said Poti after finishing in the cage. “It was a lot of fun to do this, to be able to be out here on a major league baseball field. It was cool.”
For a guy who hadn’t picked up a bat in a while, and hadn’t picked up the lumber in well, maybe ever, the left-handed hitting Poti acquitted himself well.
“About 15 years ago,” he said, when asked how long it had been since he took some swings against live pitching. “It’s been a while. I’ve never even swung a wooden bat before, I don’t think. It feels different. It feels like when you hit the ball it doesn’t go anywhere. You’ve really got to swing hard to try to get the ball to go anywhere.”
After BP, the players headed to left-center where they chatted up some of the Nats players and trotted after some fly balls. The five o’clock sun in left field at RFK is blinding, which prevented any serious pursuits in the pasture.
After his Caps teammates headed up to the stands to get some food, Clark, a Red Sox fan and baseball junkie, lingered on the field. He was able to meet ex-Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez, which was a highlight for him. Clark, myself and Dan “Beaker” Stuck and Justin Kullman of the Hershey Bears stayed on the field almost until game time, chatting with Mets assistant trainer Mike Herbst. I was also able to chat with Mets general manager Omar Minaya, a very warm and genial guy and a man I admire greatly.
Herbst arranged for us to have a short converstaion/photo opportunity with Mets pitcher Tom Glavine, a 300-game winner and future Hall of Famer who was a high school hockey star in his native Massachusetts.
Glavine expressed surprise that the hockey season was already on the verge of getting underway, and he noted that his three boys play the game competitively. He and Clark talked about the schedules in their respective sports, and Glavine told us that San Diego and Chicago are his favorite road cities.
After eating some dinner upstairs, the Caps players watched some of the game and signed autographs on the concourse for a few innings. They also posed for a few photos in their new white jerseys.
All in all, it was a pretty enjoyable evening for five Caps who also enjoy baseball.
“I think everyone who plays Little League wants to play in the pros,” admitted Poti. “But I played up until high school and then hockey took over. The dream kind of ended in high school.”