The Nationals' pastime

Baseball fans have lunch with Washington players

Baseball fans have lunch with Washington players

January 26, 2007|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - Fans gathered Thursday in Hagerstown for a meet-and-greet with several members of the Washington Nationals.

What they didn't realize is that they would eat lunch next to the players, talking baseball and making predictions for the upcoming season.

Click here to see video clips of some fan reactions!

"I didn't think we'd be sitting at a table with (the players)," Clint Rawlings of Williamsport said.

Rawlings and a few others ate lunch Thursday at the Clarion Hotel & Conference Center at a table with Nationals pitcher Mike O'Connor. The luncheon was one event on the Washington Nationals Winter Caravan, which is expected to make about 15 stops. About 70 people attended the event.

Simey Wyand of Williamsport, who said he supports the Hagerstown Suns, went to a few Nationals games last year. The Suns became an affiliate of the Nationals in September 2006.


Wyand said he was surprised to be eating lunch next to O'Connor.

"Now that I know this gentleman really well, I'll follow his career," he said.

Nationals Manager Manny Acta and center fielder Nook Logan also attended and signed autographs and answered questions from fans.

Brenda Hawbaker of Hagerstown had the players sign a hat for her 5-year-old son who couldn't be at the event because he was in school.

"We're trying to explain (to him) that the Nationals are part of our family now," Hawbaker said, referring to the team's affiliation with the Suns.

Twelve-year-olds Sam Weaver and Sean Ranson, and 13-year-old Brian Wilk, all of Fairfax, Va., said they attended the event to meet the players and get autographs. The boys printed photographs of Logan and O'Connor that they had the players sign. They also had other posters and hats awaiting signatures.

Tom Caron of Hagerstown said he started going to Hagerstown Suns games in 1981. He said he was pleased that the team is affiliated with the Nationals, but he said the affiliation has never mattered to him.

"I just like to follow the Suns," he said. "We get to see the players here before they get swelled heads and swelled wallets."

Zach Spedden, 14, of Hagerstown, described himself as a "huge Suns fan." He's been going to games since 1992. He said he went to the luncheon Thursday because he usually doesn't miss a Suns event.

"I'm very excited to see the players," Zach said.

He said he expects this season to be a good one for both teams, and he hopes to make it to a few Nationals games.

Wyand said he'll see the players again at spring training in Florida, where he has a home. Wyand said he plans to leave for Florida in March.

Jennifer McAlear of Hagerstown said she's been a Suns fan since 2004 and has worked with the team as a seasonal employee. She said she expects to make it to a few Nationals games and was excited about the team's affiliation with the Suns.

"I just love the game of baseball, but I hadn't considered minor league," she said. "But you really get to know the players. I'm a big fan."

Fan reactions

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