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Thomas Boswell

Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About You . . .

By Thomas Boswell
Friday, February 18, 2005; Page D03

VIERA, Fla.

The Nationals are getting a little worried. People keep quizzing them about their new District home. And they keep flunking.

"Somebody asked [reliever] T.J. Tucker to name the owner of the Washington Wizards. They gave him a choice of four names," said catcher Brian Schneider. "The name he picked off the list was the grandfather on 'The Simpsons.' "


Right-hander Zach Day tips his cap while he and other pitchers and catchers take the field for the first time as players and coaches get a feel for who's who and what's what. (Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)




Schneider then asked quietly, "Who is the owner of the Wizards?"

Tucker doesn't get the booby prize. An imaginative TV crew showed 6-foot-11 Jon Rauch a picture of D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, complete with his trademark bow tie, and asked the Nats' pitcher who he thought the person was.

"I have no idea," said Rauch.

Take a guess.

Rauch bent over, studied the picture seriously then said, "Pee Wee Herman?"

Told that the photo was the man who had helped liberate his team from Montreal and was trying to build them a new $550 million stadium, the towering pitcher, known for his enormous tattoos, looked horrified and said, "Oh, I'm really sorry."

This ritual of "Getting To Know You" between the Nationals and their new city goes both ways. The town doesn't know much about its new team, either. This is going to take some time and effort. Another symbolic step was taken on Thursday when the Nats had their first actual practice. Five fields were full of Nats running the same classic spring drills as 71 years of Senators.

One of the first to arrive was second baseman Jose Vidro, the best player on the team, who drove up in a red Lamborghini.

"Last year, Jose had a yellow Lamborghini," said assistant general manager Tony Siegle. "Do you think he traded it in?"

No, Tony, these days, after they get the four-year, $30 million contract, they just buy 'em by the baker's dozen.

Ironically, Vidro is well known in baseball as one of the few players in recent years who has taken less money in his free agent year, probably $10 million less in Vidro's case, just to show loyalty to the organization that originally signed him.


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