Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Despite Nationals' hilarious flubs, Tigers get the last laugh

Nationals second baseman Willie Harris and the umpire share a chuckle after Harris caught a popup on his fourth try.

Tigers batters slap hands after scoring on a two-run home run, which gave Detroit a 3-2 edge over Washington, and eventually the win.

Without alcohol, it's sometimes difficult to stay occupied throughout a nine-inning baseball game. Especially when it's the Washington Nationals.

But the perennially bottom-tier team found a way to entertain fans Monday at its last spring training game of the year at Space Coast Stadium in Viera. And it was by shear ineptitude.

Willie Harris of the Nationals, who more frequently plays outfield now, started at second base, where he has played much of his career. Maybe his time away from the position played into his performance.

The first mishap was when the first baseman went after a popup in foul territory. Harris rushed to get behind Adam Dunn, called him off - I got it, I got it, I got it - and proceeded to miss the ball. It should have been Dunn's catch. At the end of the half inning, Dunn jokingly tossed Harris a popup. Harris squared his body, and caught it. The crowd cheered.


In the fourth inning, on probably the highest-hit ball of the day, Harris misjudged the popup, which fell to the grass behind him. Harris also fell (above), but after getting a checkout from a trainer, he stayed on the field. He was charged with an error. The crowd applauded.


Meanwhile, the fans showed skill, catching foul balls left and right (above). Most of them could have pulled off a "Rookie of the Year" moment and taken Harris' slot at second base.

In the fifth, Harris chased a popup near the first-base line, but it went over his head, again hitting the ground in foul territory. He wasn't charged with an error, but it was a catchable ball. He bent down, ripped up some grass and threw it into the air, checking for wind speed and direction. But that's something you would more often see Tiger Woods doing. The crowd laughed. I stood up and yelled, "Apparently, third time isn't a charm."


Finally, on a high popup to shallow right-center field, Harris tracked the ball through its flight (above) and actually caught the thing. The crowd gave him a standing ovation. The umpire laughed. Harris gave a bow (below). After the inning, Harris lifted his arms for a curtain call as he headed into the dugout.


But, yet again because of the Nats' ineptitude, opponent Detroit Tigers got the last laugh. They won, 3-2. Fortunately for Harris, none of those runs were a direct result of his defensive issues.

Adam Dunn had two strikeouts on the day.

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