Wednesday, Feb. 11 at noon ET

The Washington Nationals' Collin Balester

Nationals starter Collin Balester takes your questions.
Nationals starter Collin Balester takes your questions. (By Nick Wass -- Associated Press)
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Collin Balester
Pitcher, Washington Nationals
Monday, February 9, 2009; 12:00 PM

Washington Nationals pitcher Collin Balester was online Wednesday, Feb. 11 at noon ET to discuss the team, his hopes for this year and what he learned during his 2008 rookie season.

The transcript follows.

Balester, 22, was drafted by the Montreal Expos in 2004. He made his major league debut July 1, 2008 and went on to pitch 80 innings and finish with a record of 3-7. He's also been keeping a blog: Bally's Blog.

Full Coverage: Washington Nationals

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Wilmington, N.C.: Thanks for chatting today, Collin.

We've all heard of some ballplayers having strange and unusual pre-game habits, rituals, and superstitions. The Yanks "Golden Thong" comes to mind.

Can you give us any goods on any sort of unique rituals any of the Nationals players do or how about even yourself? How does this team pump itself up?

Collin Balester: Yes I really think that this happens a lot in sports, period. As far as me, I do a lot of weird stuff but I would think the coolest and thing that pumps up everyone the most is I do air guitar to a Dragon Force song.

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Vienna, Va.: Collin,

Thanks for answering questions. Do you have more trouble with left-handed hitters, and what is your "out" pitch?

Collin Balester: Hey everyone happy to be here.

I really used to have trouble with left-handed hitters because I couldn't use my changeup, but now I feel like that's a good pitch for me, so for me, it doesn't really matter if it's a right-handed hitter or left-handed. My out pitch is really different with every hitter, depends on what's going on. I would like to think that all my pitches can be out-pitches in different ways.

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Washington D.C. - The place to be!: Ballystar,

How are you feeling health wise this year? Did you do anything this off-season to improve your strength and conditioning? How are you feeling about battling for a spot on the rotation for 2009?

Collin Balester: I'm feeling great this year. I got a trainer this offseason and really felt like I got a lot stronger and I am ready to battle for a spot this year and it's going to be a lot of fun. Can't wait

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Wilmington, N.C.: What would be the most impressive play you've seen made by a National since being in the Majors?

Any good memories of some great minor league plays?

Collin Balester: Umm, the best play I saw last year by a National had to be by Bernidina, we were in Florida and he made an awesome diving catch on the rubber track, so he gave up his body for that catch.

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Neptune, N.J.: Hi Collin, Ed from Federal Baseball here, what was the biggest adjustment you had to make between the minors and majors last season?

Collin Balester: I just had to realize that I belonged up there and I didn't have to try and do too much. Once you figure out that you just have to pitch the way you did to make it up there, I think you are fine.

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Section 138: Collin,

Has Randy St.Claire ever expressed concern over your...excessive gum chewing? Has he ever feared you choking on it at some point? Care to give a shout out to your favorite brand and flavor of gum?

Collin Balester: This is a good one. No, Randy has never been concerned with the way I chew my gum, but I will tell you one person who has, my dentist. My favorite gum has to be Stride, any flavor, it's just the best gum out there.

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Section 111: Hey Bally-

So do I get a home white, road gray, red alternate or blue alternate #49 Balester jersey?

Collin Balester: If it was up to me I would get all 4. Can't go wrong and just cover all the base's right. Hope that helps you out.

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New Carrollton, Md.: Hey Bally, good luck in Spring Training!

Are there any particular changes/additions that you've made to your game over the offseason?

Collin Balester: I got a Trainer and worked really hard with him for one. Really focused on my throwing and my mental training because that's what's going to help me out the most.

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Springfield, Va.: Which National do you think is going to be the "surprise" of Spring Training? Who should we be keeping our eyes on?

(Other than you, of course!)

Collin Balester: I really feel that this whole team is going to surprise everyone. We are all healthy and it's going to be a totally different Nationals club this year. But if I have to choose one player I would pick Nick Johnson. He is going to have an awesome year.

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Alexandria, Va.: Colin,

Thank you for taking the time out today to speak with us. My question: You're a National -- how do you make the case to entice more players to come here? (The future is SO bright for this team!)

Collin Balester: Well you answered the question in your last line. I mean we have a bunch of great players on this team and we have more in the minors waiting to come up, I really think that our system has done a great job bringing us all up and when we all get together, watch out, it's going to be fun.

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Berndaddy: Bally Star -- the Nats have brought in Odalis and now there's Bergmann, Hill, Martis, Zimmermann, etc., nipping at your heals. Are you ready to beat them out for a spot on the roster? Whatever happens I think you're awesome and just play your game and we'll hear big things from you. Keep up the good fight (and blog).

Collin Balester: I mean all the spots are up for grabs, that's the way that everyone has to go into spring training. Noting is for sure and anything can happen. All I can do is work hard and only worry about the stuff I can control and then let the rest play out.

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Warren, Mich.: Do you think Nationals Park is a hitter's or pitcher's field?

Collin Balester: I would say Pitchers, but I have seen some good home runs hit there, so it's close either way.

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Anonymous: Who is your most difficult runner to hold on first?

Collin Balester: Jose Reyes no doubt.

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Herndon, Va.: I was excited to watch you debut last year and look for a breakout rookie season in 2009. We really enjoyed your miked-up video. Are most of the players really that disinterested in talking in the dugout during a game?

Collin Balester: Thank you, I appreciate it. See the joke is that no one wants to talk to anyone that is miked up, you guys just so happened to see my video haha, so everyone thinks that no one wants to talk to me haha.

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Silver Spring, Md.: How would you like people to cheer for you? Would it be cool to have adjoining sections shouting "BALLY!" and "STAR!" in turn after a strikeout? Or should everyone just shout "BALLIN'!" after a K, or a particularly dramatic out? Any suggestions for us upper-deck denizens to spur you to victory?

Collin Balester: I would just like you guys to cheer for me period (haha). I also would like to see more banners with players names, you know how they do that. Some kind of inside funny stuff, I see that a lot at other places.

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Crofton, Md.: Hey Colin, Thanks for your time today!

I really enjoyed watching your first game in the bigs! It was fun seeing your dad in the stands, too. He was so proud he couldn't contain himself! How many games did your familiy get to last year?

Collin Balester: Thanks, yeah my Dad and family really loves it and loves to be at the games. They made it to that game and then a couple at Dodgers Stadium.

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Ashburn, Va.: Bally,

Who do you think will be in the starting rotation on Opening Day?

Collin Balester: The top 5 pitchers at the end of spring training.

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One Step Ahead of Teddy: What is your favorite place for chow down in Viera?

Collin Balester: A couple sushi places.

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Anonymous: Hey Collin, thanks for doing the chat. I'm planning on coming down to Viera for some Spring Training games... what matchups are you excited about? I love the Nats and can't wait to see you guys this season!

Collin Balester: I'm excited for all the games to get started.

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Washington, DC: So with the new training regimen, have you thrown hard yet? Any noticeable difference in your stuff?

Collin Balester: Yeah I have been throwing 100 percent for about a month and a half now, and I feel like the ball comes out a lot more freely and just loose, so I'm really excited to start this spring training off.

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Bradenton, Fla.: What has been the biggest surprise about Bally's Blog? By the way, Gracie wants a new No. 49 jersey like DJ!

Collin Balester: The biggest surprise has to be how many people actually look at it and write back to me. I really love doing it and I'm glad the fans like it, because baseball is all about the fans.

Thanks spinman

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Fredericksburg, Va.: Do you have a favorite catcher when you are pitching? Best of luck in spring training.

Collin Balester: Our catchers really work so hard, so I like throwing to all of them. I have no favorite.

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Wilmington, N.C.: The off season has been a long one for the Nationals. Things definitely didn't turn out how everyone wanted.

Can you comment on the moods and attitudes of players currently or at least the ones you have been in contact with? Are they upbeat, positive, and ready to take this team into their own hands or do they feel a sense of pressure?

Collin Balester: I can tell you that everyone is excited for this year because we know its going to be a totally different year. I think the fans are really up for a huge surprise.

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NatsTown: Where in NatsTown do we go to get your autograph on game days?

Collin Balester: Right next to the dugout in the camera area.

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In The Line At Five Guys: Bally, other than your own wonderful blog, what are some other blogs you've checked out and enjoyed around the Nationals Universe?

Collin Balester: Phil Hughes, Kevin Slowey. Those are the only two I really look at to tell you the truth.

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Arlington, Va.: Mr. Balester right out of the gate it looks like the Nats first month schedule will be a tough road against the NL East. Does that make you want to be better prepared to handle the rest of the season going forward or do you treat every team the same?

Collin Balester: I feel that the NL East is one of the toughest leagues out there, but that being said you just have to take every team with the same approach because they all are Major league teams.

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Columbus, Ohio: Hey Bally-,

What is your favorite thing about being in Florida for Spring Training?

What do you do on your off days?

Collin Balester: Well one is the warm weather. We golf, hangout by the pool, hangout with my fiancee. You know, the norm.

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Manassas, Va.: Any thoughts on the new guys on our block? Olson and Willingham

Collin Balester: These guys are great guys and great players, they will fit right in with our clubhouse and help us out on the field as well.

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Natstown, D.C.: Have you been working on any new pitches? On a similar note, have you worked any with Jose Rijo?

Good luck in Florida, I'm sure we'll see you here in town come April.

Collin Balester: I have been trying to throw a slider and it has been coming along pretty good. I have worked with Rijo a lot hes a great teacher and he helped me out with my changeup a lot.

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Oakton, Va: Collin,

You've been very effective when facing lineups the first go-round, but less so the second or third time through a lineup in a game. What can you do to be more effective in later innings?

Collin Balester: Yeah, that is one thing that I looked at this offseason, really it comes down to focus and bearing down, and I think that I worked a lot on that and also just need to mix it up a little more. Getting all that time under my belt is going to help me for this spring training and this up coming year. So I couldn't be more excited.

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Charlottesville, Va.: When can we expect a Bally Bobblehead promotion?

Collin Balester: Not for a while (haha)

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Manassas, Va.: Hey Bally,

Once here in DC, do you ever attend other sports in the area? Caps? Wizards?

Being from California, what other sports teams do you root for?

Collin Balester: I loved the Angels growing up so I always rooted for them. I really like the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Clippers. I also like the Dallas Mavs and the Colts. One thing most of you don't know is that I'm a huge hockey fan.

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20003: Thanks for doing this Collin.

Joe Torre was recently asked if an active major league baseball player could safely come out as gay and said "I just hope that an active player, if that's the case, can feel free to do that."

What do you think? As a young player breaking into the bigs whose peers will set the tone on this issue for the next 20 years, your view would mean a lot to me.

washingtonpost.com: Torre hopes gay ballplayers would feel free to go public (latimes.com)

Collin Balester: I mean I think that it would be fine and I think that no matter what you are you shouldn't have to be scared or worried to hide it. I wouldn't look at a player who came out as gay any different than I view anyone else.

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Sec 309: You say that Nick is going to be the pleasant surprise of the season. Are you in Viera yet? Have you seen Nick or Dmitri? How do they look and feel?

Collin Balester: No I haven't seen Nick yet, but just wait and see, he's going to be a different guy this year.

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Pitching hero?: Did you have a favorite pitcher to watch growing up, one who was an inspiration to you?

Thanks for the chat and the blog.

Collin Balester: I liked Chuck Finley, Troy Percival, you know I had Angels blood running through my veins.

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New Carrollton, Md.: Hey, were you properly compensated for your #40?

A wink/nod will suffice for an answer.

Collin Balester: No, I wasn't looking to get anything out of it, he is a veteran and he deserves it so he asked me and I gave it to him no problem you know.

But that's it guys thank you all for coming out and asking all the questions, that was a big turnout and I hope I got to all your questions. Once again thanks and hopefully I can do this again some time

Collin.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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