Kamide’s Korner: Area Fans Excited as Nationals Remain ‘In the Fight’

October 11 - The Nationals finally won a playoff series, and it couldn’t come at a better time for D.C. sports fans in need of a distraction from the woeful Redskins. 

Area fans, frustrated after four previous playoff runs ended in defeat in the National League Division Series, got little sleep while staying up for Wednesday night’s Game 5. Howie Kendrick, who will now be etched into D.C. baseball lore much like Aaron Boone is in New York, Kirby Puckett is in Minnesota and Magglio Ordonez is in Detroit, sent those fans to work and school yesterday morning with a big smile after his grand slam gave the Nats their first series win since moving from Montreal in 2005. 

Fans from Northern Virginia - where, let’s not forget, was for a number of years the epicenter of the movement to bring an MLB team back to the area - are hooked. By the thousands, they’ve crossed the Potomac River to support the Nats as they beat Milwaukee in the wild card game and then knocked out the 106-win Dodgers, who had represented the NL in the World Series the past two years. Heck, Yorktown coach John Skaggs even made the trip out to L.A. to watch the deciding Game 5!

A year that started by losing Bryce Harper to the Phillies and then losses in 31 of their first 50 games all of a sudden has the same feel of the Capitals’ run to the Stanley Cup two years ago. The Caps, by the way, are also on the bandwagon. Count me in as well, this is fun, this is what being a baseball fan is all about. Manager Dave Martinez, who many were ready to run out of town on Memorial Day, still has his boys “in the fight” on Columbus Day. 

Enjoy the ride, soak it in, let your kids stay up and watch the games. There’s nothing quite like postseason baseball, especially when your team is still alive. 

Kamide’s Korner: Patriot Administration Should Be Ashamed of Steinberg's Ouster

September 18 - Josh Steinberg has won nearly 75 percent of his games, his league’s championship in two of his four seasons, is widely respected by his peers, and by all accounts I’ve received, has tremendous support among current and former players and parents at Patriot.

My assumption has always been that would create a dream scenario for any athletic administrator. 

That isn’t the case for Brad Qualls, Patriot’s director of student activities who is apparently more concerned with how sharply the grass is trimmed around cutouts, the cleanliness of dugouts and attendance at boosters club meetings than what actually occurs between the lines. 

Last Monday, Qualls called Steinberg to his office - without the knowledge of the school’s principal, Mike Bishop - and informed him that he wouldn’t be renewing his contract for the 2020 season. More specifically, he attempted to coax the coach into resigning, indicating he’d like to have the opening posted on the county’s employment site the next day. 

Again, this without Bishop’s knowledge, according to what the principal told Steinberg. Bishop, reached by Steinberg the next day, asked the coach to hang tight until he was able to meet with Qualls. It took over a week for that to happen and a resolution to be made, culminating with this morning’s meeting making things official. Over a week where Steinberg was left in limbo regarding his status and had to postpone offseason workouts amid questions from players and parents as to why.

Patriot’s administration putting the coach through that was criminal. Get better. Get a hold of what’s going on in your building and in your athletic program. 

According to multiple reports, the majority of Qualls’ hangup with Steinberg centered around the baseball facility. He feels the coach wasn’t spending enough time working on the field - something mind you, that a football, basketball or soccer coach is rarely if ever tasked with. And many baseball coaches aren’t overburdened with as outside landscaping companies are generally hired to offset the maintenance.

So a big part of Qualls expelling his coach was for a perceived lack of time spent working on the field? Oh, you mean the same field his teams made a habit of winning on? Under Steinberg, the program won 35 of 42 home games, had a 14-game home winning streak from late 2016 to late 2018, and his teams have lost just twice at home to league opponents.

And it’s not like Patriot’s field is something out of The Sandlot. I’ve had coaches I’ve talked to describe it as “outstanding” and “among the best in the state” in my several conversations today.

This gets deeper, trust me. 

Qualls’ initial meeting with Steinberg happened on the coach’s first day back in his teaching capacity at the school after taking paternity leave following the birth of his first child. The first day back following the birth of his child. A day that’s generally full of smiles and congratulatory handshakes and hugs, spent sharing photos of the latest addition to his family, instead consisted of having his DSA take away another love in his life.

Not only is this situation a demonstration of poor institutional control, the timing of that meeting is an example of simply being a poor human being. 

Here’s my impression of what’s going on here. Qualls went rogue, and in reported cahoots with a select few others in and around the program, attempted to box Steinberg in. He attempted to force a resignation without his principal’s knowledge, hoping to achieve that and the ability to advertise the opening before the principal caught on to what had happened. 

I’ve been around high school baseball a long time. This is the worst I’ve ever seen a coach treated. Josh Steinberg deserved better than this. The Patriot baseball program deserved better than this. 

Brad Qualls should be ashamed, and I hope the area baseball community ensures he’s aware of that. 

Photo of Josh Steinberg by Fred Ingham

Kamide’s Korner: Madison’s Sports Community Loses Its Lens

September 6 - Albert Jacquez was one of those rare individuals who could have an impact in sports without ever stepping between the lines. 

A father to two Madison High School student-athletes, Alex and Evan, Mr. Jacquez was the true definition of what one could want a sports dad to be. A successful businessman with a demanding job downtown - he served on both the Clinton and Bush administrations - who still made time to support his kids ... as well as many others. A former high school athlete himself, Mr. Jacquez carried himself with a quiet confidence and grace that left an impression on anyone he came into contact with. 

“He was a really special person, just a person you really respected,” Madison coach Mark ‘Pudge’ Gjormand said. “He helped me to grow up as a coach and as a person. We became very good friends over time. We would go to dinner, it was much more than sports.”

On Aug. 18, Gjormand along with the Madison and Vienna sports communities received the jarring news of Mr. Jacquez’ passing while en route to the family’s vacation home in Martha’s Vineyard. In the days since his death, the community has rallied behind the family that has been such a presence at the school for so many years. 

If you’ve been to a Warhawk sporting event over the past dozen years, chances are you’ve seen Mr. Jacquez - always with his camera in tow and a warm smile for anyone he might encounter. In the years since Alex and Evan graduated and went on to play collegiately in baseball at Lehigh University and in football at the College of William & Mary, respectively, he remained a fixture at Madison. 

His sons played baseball and football, so naturally he took many photos at those games. But he also did so at boys and girls lacrosse, basketball, soccer and softball games. His online photo portfolio has just shy of 17,000 action shots taken at Madison sporting events. Since 2007, he managed the Warhawks’ baseball website, and he and his wife, Lynn - who has spent countless hours volunteering with the Vienna Little League, Vienna Mustangs travel program and Madison’s football and baseball teams over the years - have continued to donate time and money to the program, even traveling to support the Warhawks over spring break trips to South Carolina and Florida. 

Yes, his camera would also make those trips.

“Those people behind the scenes, the volunteers, they are who really make it run. They’re who make high school and youth sports go,” Gjormand said. “They usually come and go with their kids, but Albert was very unique, he really became a part of it and became an extension of our coaching staff. He went above and beyond, and it wasn’t just baseball. He took photos for so many different sports at Madison. 

“His love for the school and his love for the kids was special.”

If I was covering a game Mr. Jacquez was at, I knew I could put my camera away as he’d take much better photos anyway, and would enjoy sharing them with me. Our readers have benefited over the years from the color those images have added to our stories. As have the readers of The Washington Post, the Sun-Gazette, Gameday Magazine and other publications that he provided photos to. 

So I’d catch up with him for a few minutes - I knew he enjoyed talking about the Nationals, the Warhawks and updating me of the latest with his sons, who I coached with the Vienna Mustangs - then I’d leave him to continue with the hobby he had so much passion for. 

Mr. Jacquez was, quite simply, the pure definition of a volunteer and a gift to the Vienna sporting community. Which is fitting, considering he was born on Christmas Eve. An outgoing and generous member of the community, a supporter and volunteer in youth and high school sports, and above all, a great husband and father. 

He was all of the above, and we were all lucky to have him in our lives. 

For information on Albert Jacquez’ viewing and to read his full obituary, click here. The family has requested in lieu of flowers that memorials be made to Madison’s athletics department, the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation, or to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.

Photo of Albert Jacquez by Jill Hecht

Kamide’s Korner: Loudoun South's Refreshing Run to Williamsport

August 26 - Far too often, baseball gets lost in the madness of today’s social media-driven society. 

No, I’m not referring to the sport itself. That remains very prevalent - just look at the money that is paid by parents to train and showcase their kids and earned by owners, players and everyone in between at the Major League level. 

What I’m referring to is the game. 

In its purest form, baseball is the only game that mirrors life. Players learn to face and overcome failure, thus by nature gain more of an appreciation for success. They understand that luck often plays a role in the outcome, and that maybe, possibly, it can be swung in one direction or another by simply doing things the right way. Preparation and studying the game’s many intricacies can be just as valuable as talent alone. You can’t simply go dunk on someone if your jumper isn’t falling. 

What a group of 11- and 12-year-old’s from South Riding gave us this summer was a reminder of why we love baseball. Loudoun South Little League’s American All-Stars weren’t a group of individuals plucked from each corner of Northern Virginia, given uniforms and told to act as if they’ve been playing together for years. They actually have been playing together for years while growing up in a pocket of Loudoun County. 

We all watched them face and overcome adversity as they snapped Virginia’s quarter-century drought in Williamsport. In fact, millions of people watched them, as they played seven games on national television. In last week’s LLWS game against the Hawaiian state champions, 1.74 million people tuned into ESPN’s broadcast. In their previous game against the Minnesota champs, there were 15,447 in attendance. 

After an upset loss to Dulles, they won six straight elimination games to win the District 16 Tournament. They’d sweep to a second straight state title, then made their national television debut at the Southeast Regionals by winning in walk-off fashion. They’d cap regionals by avenging LSLL’s loss in last summer’s championship game, then became just the sixth team in the 73 years of the Little League World Series to toss back-to-back no-hitters. They’d run the winning streak to 18 games before having their LLWS end with a loss to eventual champion Louisiana. 

I walked with the team as it went to take batting practice before its game against Minnesota last week. Along the route, the players were routinely stopped and asked to sign autographs. Was I covering a team of pre-teens affectionately referred to locally as the Big Red Machine, or was I actually covering THE Big Red Machine of Bench, Rose, Morgan and Perez? 

They bonded and flourished in the spotlight under the guidance of manager Alan Bowden and his assistants, Brian Triplett and Keith Yates, and didn’t back down from a fight. Which shouldn’t be a surprise considering their home diamond is named Lions Field. At first, it was the Loudoun South community that rallied behind the 13 players and three coaches. Then it was Northern Virginia. Finally, the entire Washington, D.C. metro area was hooked. When the Nationals’ players are tweeting you good luck messages, you’re a big deal. 

Loudoun South’s run was the highlight of the region’s summer, bumping Capitol Hill from the lead on the evening news. It rallied the local baseball community and produced a lifetime of memories for its players, coaches and family members. 

And it reminded us all of everything that’s right about the game. 

Kamide’s Korner: Loudoun County, The Center of Virginia’s Baseball Universe

August 4 - Much like Fairfax County was for much of 1990s, Hampton Roads was for the following decade and the Richmond area was at the end of the 2000s, Loudoun County has become the biggest hotbed for baseball talent in Virginia. 

Do other areas have arguments? Sure. But the state’s third-largest county - with a population of just under 410,000 - can provide the best case. And I don’t think it’s even really close. 

Since 2014, six teams from the county have reached high school state championship games. Loudoun Valley won the 3A title in 2014 and returned to the final the following spring. Stone Bridge won a 5A title in 2015, and Ashburn rival Briar Woods won it two years later. Riverside, which was the county’s 14th and newest school until Independence opens its doors later this month, advanced to the 3A final in 2017 and the Class 4 final this past spring. 

The county’s prep success doesn’t end there. Both Loudoun-based districts, the Dulles and Potomac, are as deep as any in the state. Nine of the 14 teams in those leagues had winning campaigns this past spring. Seven of Loudoun’s 14 schools have made state tournament appearances in the past five years.

Leesburg Post 34 continually fields one of the top American Legion programs in the state, and two years ago won a regional championship and played in the World Series. They play their home games at one of my favorite places to watch a game, Fireman’s FIeld in Purcellville. 

Travel and showcase ball has become the rage this decade, and the Diamond Elite program has quickly become one of the most-respected on the recruiting circuit. They’ve won numerous tournaments and have helped develop several collegiate players. 

At the professional level, two Ashburn natives have pitched in the Major Leagues in the past few years in Broad Run graduates Conor Mullee and Taylor Clarke. A third, J.B. Bukauskas, was the 15th overall selection in the 2017 MLB Draft and if he’s not called up this September, chances are pretty good he’ll crack the Arizona Diamondbacks’ 25-man roster next year. He could one day join Clarke in Arizona’s rotation.

Loudoun may very well produce another first-round pick next June, when many expect Potomac Falls left-hander Nate Savino to be the first prep southpaw off the board. This year, Woodgrove’s big right-hander, Nick Lockhart, was the only area high schooler to be picked when he was taken in the 12th round and he signed with the Texas Rangers. 

And then there’s the little guys, who certainly don’t play small. 

Loudoun South Little League’s American All-Stars repeated as state champions last month and will play on national television tomorrow night attempting to get back to the Southeast Region championship game for a second straight year. They’re attempting to become Virginia’s first team to advance to the World Series since Central Springfield in 1994. 

For me, that would be the closing argument. Case closed. 

Kamide’s Korner: VHSL Comes Up Small in Providing Big-Game State Tournament Atmosphere

June 6 - When it comes to showcasing the baseball teams at its largest schools, the Virginia High School League is failing.

While surrounding states have placed an emphasis on creating an exciting environment for teams - with semifinal and championship games held on fields at major universities or minor league ballparks - the VHSL hosts those games for its top two classifications on high school fields.

It’s bad enough that the semifinals begin at 10 a.m. on a Friday, so only adult fans taking off work and students who are either playing hooky or out of school for the summer break are able to attend. And now this year, they’ve decided to hold the finals for Class 5 and Class 6 at high school fields roughly 10 minutes from each other … at the same time, 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.

The VHSL just doesn’t get it. Or maybe, it just don’t care about creating a big-game atmosphere for its student-athletes.

Let me state that this is no knock on those Richmond-area schools, Glen Allen and Deep Run, which have very nice complexes. They just pale in comparison to what the state’s governing body for private schools, the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association, has in place for its teams. Or where the VHSL holds the championship games for its four smaller classifications. Or the venues that host the final four in nearby states such as Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina and West Virginia.

The VISAA holds the semifinals and final for all three of its classifications at Shepard Stadium in Colonial Heights, a beautiful historic ballpark south of Richmond. The championship games for the VHSL’s two smallest classifications are held on the turf diamond at Radford University’s stadium, and the finals for the middle classifications are played at Salem Memorial Stadium, a 6,300-seat park that serves as the home of the Single-A Salem Red Sox.

In Maryland, the larger schools have their state semifinals held at Shirley Povich Field in Bethesda, the home of Georgetown University. They then play the championship game at Ripken Stadium, the home of the Single-A Aberdeen Ironbirds. Big schools in Pennsylvania have their semifinals and final at Penn State. In West Virginia, the semifinals and final for all three classifications are held at Appalachian Power Park, the home of the Single-A West Virginia Power.

Down in North Carolina, the best-of-three state championship series for its four classes are split between the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and at Five County Stadium, the home of the Single-A Carolina Mudcats. Across the Potomac in Washington, D.C., the city championship game is hosted on the turf stadium field at the Nationals Youth Academy.

Meanwhile, in Virginia this week, the state’s best four public school teams in its top two classes will play on high school fields.

And on Saturday, media members like myself, college coaches hoping to recruit, and the casual baseball fan without allegiance to any of the four teams playing on the final day of the season will all have to choose between attending the Class 5 final or the Class 6 final.  

There are fantastic new or renovated stadiums at the University of Richmond, James Madison University, Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia and at Liberty University. In Arlington, Barcroft Park - the home of George Washington University - has become one of the state’s best facilities during its recent upgrades.

That’s where this week’s Class 5 and Class 6 state tournament games should be held. It’s time for the VHSL to step up its game and provide these teams with the proper setting and platform that they’ve earned.

Kamide’s Korner: Harper’s (Br)exit Could be Snyder, Guyer’s Gain

March 5 - Count me among those disappointed that Bryce Harper chose to sign with the Phillies and won’t be returning to the middle of the Nationals’ order this year. For me, Harper’s at-bats were must-see anytime I was able to take in a Nats game.

Several years ago, I took a date to a game and we were late arriving to Nationals Park. Of course, the Baseball Gods punished me and we missed Harper homering in the first inning. A few innings later, painfully-slow bartending at the Red Porch cost me his second upper-deck bomb that day.

After that, whenever I was watching or listening to a Nats game, I ensured I was tuned in to his at-bats. I also stopped seeing that young lady - us baseball guys are superstitious, after all, and there was just too much bad juju involved with missing two Harper homers while attending our first game together.

The emotion shown by area baseball fans over the past week demonstrates how polarizing a figure Harper was while in D.C. - love him or hate him, you were and likely will continue to be drawn to him. He’s a generational talent and has that “it” factor that makes it hard to take your eyes off him when he’s in the batter’s box. Who knows if the Nats will be better or worse off without him - you certainly won’t struggle to find commentary online covering that topic - but one thing is for sure, I’ll miss watching him wear the Curly W on his cap.

While Harper’s exit has resulted in varying emotions locally, it could lead to some positive news for Northern Virginia fans.

Over the winter, Washington signed former Westfield star Brandon Snyder to a minor league deal and invited him to big league camp as he tries to make the Majors with a sixth team. If Harper had re-signed with the Nats, that likely would have sealed Snyder’s fate as a Triple-A guy to start the year. Instead, Snyder, who in spring training has logged more time than anyone in Harper’s old post in right field, could make the club as the Nats’ fifth outfielder and a backup option at both corner infield spots.

Snyder has certainly taken advantage of Harper’s absence. His go-ahead grand slam was the difference in a 10-6 win over the Twins on Saturday, and he entered the day hitting .286 with six RBI in 18 at-bats this spring.

Also affected by Harper’s decision is Brandon Guyer, the former Herndon and UVA standout.

The White Sox were rumored to be in on the Bryce Sweepstakes (as well as Manny Machado), but by not landing him, Guyer’s chances of making the club improved after he was signed in early February to a minor league deal with an invite to camp. Guyer, the former Rays and Indians outfielder, is back in the lineup today as a DH after missing 10 days with right elbow soreness, and he is hoping to make Chicago’s roster in a platoon role against lefties.

Like many baseball fans in our area, I’ll miss Harp. But I’ve already moved on, and I’ve found a new guy that’ll motivate me to get to the ballpark on time. I’ve got my Juan Soto T-shirt on order.

Hopefully, I’ll also have my Snyder and Guyer T-shirts on order early next month.

Kamide’s Korner: College Coaches, Swept Up in Showcase Game, Forget an Important Call

December 4 - Several fractures exist in the current recruiting landscape. One that’s an easy fix is for college coaches to re-establish a dialogue with the baseball figure who spends the most time around their recruit … his high school coach.

I’ve heard of and been witness to several instances over the past few years of players making college commitments without their high school coach getting so much as a phone call or email from anyone from the coaching staff at the institution they’re committing to. What? Why? How can that be?

I should preface this column by stating that I’m a travel - or “showcase” - coach and generally work with sophomores, juniors and seniors. I enjoy and embrace the recruiting process, establishing a dialogue with college coaches who are interested in guys who play for me, but always make a point to suggest they also contact his high school coach. I’m around the recruit 2-3 days a week for 7-8 weeks in the summer and/or fall. His high school coach is with him six days a week for over three months each spring, and then a number of times during offseason workouts and practices.

Who is going to have the better perspective? The answer is easy.

A player’s high school coach is a resource that has, unfortunately, become under-utilized during the rise of the travel and showcase circuit. It’s great that college coaches lean on a player’s summer or fall coach - many are very qualified and can give great insight - but what’s the drawback in also involving his high school coach?

An incoming recruit is an investment a coach, program and an institution are making, potentially with a coach’s job security on the line. Would you buy a used car without running a CARFAX check and taking it for a test drive? Committing a player based on one outing or weekend at a showcase event is like backing the car out of the parking spot, then re-parking and signing the papers. If it’s been a couple years since you’ve purchased a new pair of jeans, would you buy them without trying them on, knowing you’ve added a few pounds to the waist line? If so, be sure to hold onto your receipt.

Speaking with a high school coach can calm any doubts you may have about him on the field, and can better answer any questions you may have about him off the field … especially if the high school coach works at his school and is around him in an academic and social environment.

I have coaching buddies who have been at it for decades - have won state championships - and yet don’t get a call during the recruiting process. I’ve heard of kids who hit under .250 over a 20-25 game high school season getting scholarships based on them getting hot for one game or weekend at a showcase event. And of pitchers who struggle to get through more than a couple innings against competition in the spring, then hit a certain velocity and strike a few guys out in a summer outing … and they get an offer based on that.

It hurts trust and relationships between high school and college coaches, yields incomplete assessments of players, and in general, simply isn’t a professional way of going about one’s business.

There needs to be some sweeping changes in the recruiting game - and some are on the way via the NCAA, from what I’ve been told - but this one is an easy fix that can be made by the college coaches themselves.

Make the call.

Kamide’s Korner: NOVA's MLB Front Office Presence Grows with Elias' Hiring

November 19 - Mike Elias was officially introduced today by the Baltimore Orioles, which means the baseball operations for three of the American League’s 15 clubs are now overseen by general managers with Northern Virginia roots.

Elias, a 2001 graduate of Alexandria’s Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, joins Minnesota’s Thad Levine and Kansas City’s Dayton Moore as general managers with local ties.

Levine, who was hired by the Twins in November 2016, is a 1990 graduate of T.C. Williams who went on to play at Division III Haverford College in Pennsylvania before getting his MBA at UCLA. And Moore, who played and coached at George Mason University, was hired by the Royals in June 2006 and oversaw the club as they advanced to back-to-back World Series and won a title in 2015.

Moore has a number of area natives on his operations and coaching staff, including: another former Mason player and coach in J.J. Picollo, the Royals’ assistant general manager for player personnel; Jin Wong, their assistant general manager for baseball administration, was a Division III All-American at Mary Washington; director of scouting Lonnie Goldberg, a Marshall High School and Mason alum; scout Ken Munoz, yet another former Mason player and coach and the former coach at West Springfield; and minor league hitting coach Brian Buchanan, a standout at Fairfax and the University of Virginia who later played for five seasons in the big leagues.

The presence of Northern Virginia natives in baseball operations doesn’t end there.

Ned Rice, a classmate of Elias’ at Jefferson, spent 11 years working for the Orioles before being hired as an assistant general manager with the Philadelphia Phillies in February 2016. And also like Elias, he was a candidate for the Orioles’ GM position.

Former Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Paul DePodesta, who is now in the front office with the Cleveland Browns and was one of the main character subjects in the popular book and movie Moneyball, is a 1991 graduate of Episcopal. Moneyball documented the Oakland A’s pioneering approach to the sophisticated sabermetrics that was initially embraced by Billy Beane and DePodesta and is now a common method used to scout and analyze players.

Former C.D. Hylton and George Mason star Mike Colangelo was a member of the A’s 2002 team that served as the inspiration for the book and movie. DePodesta was teammates with Levine while the two played in Alexandria youth soccer leagues in the late 1980s.

Also of note: Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion manager with the San Francisco, played youth ball in Falls Church’s Bailey’s Crossroads Little League (now Mason District LL) while his father was stationed in the area by the Army. And just beyond Northern Virginia, three additional current GMs attended college: the New York Yankees’ Brian Cashman played at Catholic University, the Seattle Mariners’ Jerry Dipoto played at Virginia Commonwealth, and the Tampa Bay Rays’ Eric Neander went to Virginia Tech.

Baltimore’s hiring of the 35-year-old Elias - who set a TJ program record with 18 career wins and went on to pitch at Yale - signals a shift in in the organization’s approach to player scouting and development. Gone are old-school manager Buck Showalter and general manager Dan Duquette, who are both in their 60s. Enter a rising front office star in Elias, who has spent his 13 years in professional baseball in scouting and helped build the roster of the 2017 World Series champion Houston Astros.

Further indication that Baltimore will be embracing the analytics that now drive baseball is Elias bringing along Sig Mejdal, a former NASA engineer who worked for him in Houston.

Mejdal’s resume is impressive, he earned multiple degrees in engineering, another in cognitive psychology, and while at NASA figured out ways for astronauts on the International Space Station to sleep better. Those smarts have transferred to baseball, which he got involved in after gaining inspiration from Moneyball. His analytical work with the Astros proved integral in the club building one of baseball’s best teams.

Even with the Nationals becoming the overwhelming team supported by Northern Virginia baseball fans, many area Orioles fans still exist due to the 34-year gap that Washington, D.C. endured without a Major League team.

Those fans - who didn’t have much to cheer about during a 115-loss season in 2018 - now have new life with one of baseball’s top young minds shaping Baltimore’s future.

Photos of Dayton Moore, Thad Levine and Mike Elias courtesy

Kamide’s Korner: Latest Mass Shooting Hits Home For Everyone in Baseball Community

November 10 - There was nobody that represented what America should be more than Cody Coffman. And yet, it is today’s America that has taken him from us.

Only 22, Cody was one of the 12 victims of the mass shooting at a bar in Thousand Oaks, CA on Wednesday night. He was a USSSA umpire and the chief umpire for the Camarillo Pony Baseball youth league, wore cowboy boots and a cowboy hat around town, and planned to enlist in the Army. He had three young brothers that looked up to him, and a little sister on the way, due to be born at the end of the month.

She will never get to meet him.

Blake Dingman was 21 years old, a former baseball player at nearby Hillcrest Christian School. He was also one of the victims killed on Wednesday night.

This column isn’t directly related to Northern Virginia, which is what I generally write about. I don’t care. This latest shooting, which occurred some 2,700 miles away on the other side of the country, should hit home for anyone involved in the game of baseball. Mass shootings have become the norm in our country, they represent what apparently is the new America.

Coffman was a leader who "loved working with the kids,” commented an umpiring colleague. He died while attempting to protect others, according to several reports. By all accounts, and I’ve read and watched several online these past two days, he had a tremendous future ahead of him. Dingman was described by his high school coach in a story in the Thousand Oaks Acorn as someone with a “magnetic personality,” adding that, “He loved the game of baseball but he loved his friends and family even more.”

It’s got to stop. For parents in our area, simply go online and watch the video of Coffman’s father, who was donning a Los Angeles Dodgers hat in front of reporters when he revealed that his son was one of the victims. The man had just had his life ripped to shreds, and watching him is heartbreaking. That could be any of you. Cody and Blake could be any of us.

Just a few days before Veterans Day Weekend, two military veterans - a former Navy SEAL and former Marine - were among those killed in the shooting. The shooter was also a military veteran, reportedly suffering from PTSD. Since the shooting at the Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27, 90 people have been shot in 12 mass shootings in the United States - and 36 died. One of the shootings occurred in Watertown, N.Y., where my cousin is a police officer. A police officer at the Thousand Oaks shooting was also one of the victims after reporting to the scene and entering the bar in attempt to halt the shooter. That sure gives me pause.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I am pro guns, and that I’m a republican who voted for Donald Trump. And while our President does, says or tweets something each day to make me question that ballot, my ability to defend our laws regarding firearms also wanes.

It’s one of the biggest issues facing our country today, and something needs to change.

We had two taken from our extended baseball family on Wednesday night. Our military, celebrating their brothers this weekend, now mourns additional unnecessary losses. This morning, the league that Coffman umpired for will be holding a moment of silence at 7:50 a.m. their time - 10:50 a.m. EST - at Veterans Field in Camarillo, CA’s Freedom Park. I challenge everyone reading this column to take that moment to reflect on what’s important in your life, and what it would be like to have that taken away in an instant.

I know I will be.

Rest in peace, Cody and Blake. Many of our readers are thousands of miles away, but very much present with your loved ones and with heavy hearts this morning.

Photos of Blake Dingman, left, and Cody Coffman, right, courtesy of their respective families

Kamide’s Korner: The Evolution of Josh Gjormand, College Ballplayer

November 6 - When I first met Josh Gjormand, he was 3 years old. It was 2005, and I was in my first season coaching as an assistant under his father, Pudge, at Madison High School.

It didn’t take me long to realize that Josh was going to have a long relationship with the game of baseball. He was the son of a coach w