WASHINGTON – It was an early Sunday morning in 2009 as I was driving north on I-95 in Florida while covering Spring Training.
I had been staying with friends near Fort Lauderdale while covering the Orioles – who were in their last spring there before heading to Sarasota – and had scheduled just one day to cover the Nationals while in Florida.
As I was driving, I just happened to find an ESPN station on my car radio when I heard some big news around 9 a.m. about the Nationals.
“Washington Nationals’ GM Jim Bowden resigns following allegations of skimming bonuses to Latin American players and the identity fraud scandal surrounding Esmailyn Gonzalez,” according to baseballreference.com, as the baseball website looks back at that day.
By the time I had arrived at the Nationals’ site in Viera, Florida, the press conference which announced the news had already been held, and that afternoon the Nationals hosted a Spring Training game against a team that I have long forgotten. (A quick web search says the Nationals hosted the Orioles that day).
The Nationals had finished the previous season 59-102 with several players Bowden had brought to Washington from his days with the Reds, including outfielder Austin Kearns and infielders such as Felipe Lopez and Aaron Boone.
After Bowden departed, Mike Rizzo was named the interim general manager of the club on March 4, 2009, and the permanent title was given to him on August 20, 2009, according to baseballreference.com.
The Nationals went 59-103 in 2009 under managers Manny Acta and Jim Riggleman, who grew up in Rockville, Maryland and went to Frostburg State before playing in the minors for the Dodgers.
Washington eventually left Viera for more modern facilities in West Palm Beach, where the Nationals share a facility with the Houston Astros.
And 10 years after that Sunday morning in Viera, the Nationals won a World Series title under Rizzo in 2019.
Maybe there will be some big news about Spring Training on this March 1 beyond just what happens with the Nationals.