WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Nationals pitchers and catchers reported to West Palm Beach on Tuesday, and while some had been unable to get in as early as they might have at a completed facility, they found the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches ready for what they needed.
The new multi-purpose field
is just outside the clubhouse, made of brand new turf with a shiny Washington Nationals logo built into the middle. The new clubhouse has a red W built out of the ceiling in the center of the room. The logo lights up in a way that reminded starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez of an airport lounge, and made fellow starting pitcher Joe Ross wonder whether the Nationals’ West Palm Beach locker room might be nicer than the one they have in D.C.
“This is pretty significant upgrade from last year,” said Ross. “… It’s great. I’m glad we got to come down here. I haven’t seen the actual fields, but the cages and bullpens look pretty ridiculous.”
Instead of the “12-pack” of bullpen mounds they previously used in Viera, the Nationals now have a “pack.” No one is sure of how many mounds it will fit just yet.
Scaffolding covered the back wall, leaving the players unable to settle into the locker room a few days ago. On Tuesday, blue carpet lined the room and nameplates sat atop the 60 or more lockers that open up into the middle of the room. Sixty-four players will begin the spring in major-league camp, so there are not many spare lockers, though a few remain unlabeled in the back left of the clubhouse.
The back right is reserved for veterans, such as right fielders Adam Eaton and Bryce Harper, first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, second baseman Daniel Murphy and outfielder Jayson Werth, who have lockers there. At the head of the row of pitchers, a more recent addition, Max Scherzer’s locker winds around the other side of the room. In Viera, more-proven players had bigger lockers, sometimes more than one. In West Palm Beach, the lockers look identical, and while everyone seems to have plenty of room, no one has much extra.
A Ballpark of the Palm Beaches staff member showed an emergency response team around the clubhouse, pointing out the steam room and the exits to ensure everyone would know where to go in case of trouble.
After day one in West Palm Beach, the general consensus was that while the complex is a work in progress, it allows for plenty of progress for the Nationals to flourish in the facility in the seven weeks before opening day.