WASHINGTON – Spring Training has been the time for drama for decades, from visa issues delaying the arrival of players to holdouts over contracts – and even lockouts.
The Nationals had drama in Spring Training in 2006 – the second spring for the franchise after the move from Montreal following the 2004 season.
And this drama involved one of the best players with the club in the early parts of the franchise in Washington.
On March 23, 2006, the Nationals and then-general manager Jim Bowden got some good news.
“Alfonso Soriano ends his brief stand-off with the Washington Nationals, agreeing to move to left field and abandon his perch at second base,” according to baseballreference.com, regarding that day 16 years ago.
Soriano, from the Dominican Republic, broke in with the Yankees in 1999 and by 2002 he was an All-Star in the American League as he had 39 homers and 41 steals – a portent of things to come while in D.C.
The right-handed slugger played with Texas in 2004 and 2005 and in his last season with the Rangers he had 36 homers.
After settling into his position in 2006, he became the first player in Nationals’ history to become a member of the 40-40 club, as he had 46 homers and 41 steals.\
Soriano ended up with the Cubs in 2007 and finished his career back with the Yankees in 2014.
He ended up with 412 homers in the majors and 289 steals.
That 2006 Washington team was managed by Frank Robinson and ended up 71-91 with home games at RFK Stadium.
The only other players on the team to have at least 10 homers that year were Ryan Church (10), Nick Johnson (23), and Ryan Zimmerman (20), who had broken into the majors at the end of the previous year after a successful run at the University of Virginia.
March 23 is historic for other reasons in Washington baseball history.
Jim Lemon was born on that day in 1928 in Covington in southwest Virginia.
He played for the Senators from 1954-60 and was an All-Star his last season with Washington; he led the team in triples with 11 in 1956.
Lemon was the manager of the Senators in 1968; he is one of the few Virginia natives to manage in the majors. Lemon died in 2006.
Pitcher Bruce Howard was born in Salisbury, Maryland on March 23, 1943 and went to high school in Norfolk, Virginia.
Howard appeared in 13 games, with seven starts, under Lemon with the Senators.