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Thanks for joining us! We write about sports, food, life and anything else interesting here in Ashburn and Loudoun County, all while cramming as many features into the site as possible.

Our staff consists of one old man and a dog named Maggie The WonderBeagle. Want to know more? Click on the icon below:

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Nationals Start Season Tuesday, Doubleheader Wednesday

The Washington Nationals finally added some clarity to when their season would begin Sunday by announcing that Monday's game with the Atlanta Braves will be postponed, but barring any further developments, the Nationals will be starting their season Tuesday at home against the Braves.

The Nationals released an official statement Sunday night saying the most recent round of test results of Nationals personnel included no new positives, and that all of the club's eligible personnel will be able to participate in baseball activities at Nationals Park on Monday. 

UPDATE: Nats announced today that game time Tuesday would be 4:05 PM, and that they will play a doubleheader of 7-inning games on Wednesday starting at 12:05 PM. 

 

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On An Easter Sunday 46 Years Ago....

Since today is Easter, I find myself thinking of another Easter Sunday I experienced 46 years ago in the spring of 1975.

I honestly can’t remember a lot of the details to it. But I was a freshman at Virginia Tech and did not have a car. This meant on holidays if you wanted to go home, you needed to hitch a ride with someone, because there was no cost-effective way to go from Blacksburg to Norfolk. Easter fell outside the spring break that year, so it was really just a 3-day weekend, and I decided to remain on campus.

Whether it was Blacksburg, Norfolk or New York City didn’t really matter in terms of what to do that Sunday morning. It was still Easter, so I got up and went with a friend to a local church. Not surprisingly, it was crowded the way Christmas and Easter always are, and being college kids, we dutifully pursued and found seats just about as far in the back as possible. No need getting too far up front and risk having people you’d never met come up to you and try to start a conversation.

But as the service concluded, that strategy failed. A nice woman asked the two of us what we were doing for Easter lunch, and rather than say “going back to the dorm, eating mystery meat at the dining hall and then taking a 3-hour nap” I just said “I’m not sure.”

She, however, WAS sure about what we would be doing.

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Since Nats Fans Have Time On Hands, Try Making THIS

Since Nationals fans have some time on their hands waiting for the team to play their first game – and they’ve eaten all the hot dogs and snacks they had planned to use last Thursday – here’s a chance to go big while trying to create some ballpark food at home.

The last time I was at a game in person was the 2019 World Series, and while that first home World Series game – as well as the other two – were all losses, a dish my wife brought back from the concession stand was a win. As you see to the right, it was a basket of tater tots covered in pulled pork barbecue. The pic is of my wife’s meal, where she even added Mac ‘n’ Cheese. Being a purist, I just had the BBQ and tots.

I realize pairing meat and potatoes has been around since the beginning of civilization, but it never occurred to me to put these two together and it was outstanding. I’ve made it a few times at home, and I’ve discovered you can change the personality of the dish easily by just changing the sauce. One time I’ve done a sweet barbecue sauce, another time I’ve used buffalo wing sauce or Old Bay hot sauce, and there was a time I just ate it without sauce. Same texture, much different taste.

So since we can’t be at Nats Park to pay the concession stand $20 for this dish, here’s how to spend $10 and recreate the dish for yourself and about a dozen friends. I tried to take a picture of every step of the way, and it’s in the slide show below. What I’m explaining should match up to a slide, so if you’re a visual person who must see me stabbing the pork shoulder with my steely knife, the slideshow is for you.

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Avoid The Lines: Build A Concession Stand In Your Home

Thursday is opening day for the Washington Nationals, as well as just about every other team in Major League Baseball.

Because of this, I have some investment advice for you.

Let’s face it, going to a major league game and truly enjoying the experience involves a couple of factors. One is obviously good baseball.

But another is the food, as I cannot go to a baseball game without getting a hot dog at the stadium. A hot dog, a cold beverage and a bag of salted in the shell peanuts constitute the holy trinity in the cathedral of baseball, and it is a mandatory purchase, where you can expect to pay at least $20 for those materials at a concession stand at Nats Park.

The hot dog, to truly be a baseball hot dog, has to be cooked a certain way to create its unique taste. At home, you’re probably going to fry it in a pan, boil it if you’re not all that serious about hot dog taste, or microwave it if you’ve given up on life in general. But a true baseball hot dog is cooked on steel rollers, constantly cooking it to maximize the melting of all that fat and other ingredients in there that will probably shorten your life.

You probably see these machines on the counter behind the staff taking your order without ever giving thought to “hey, I should get one of those.”

The other part of the ballpark experience is a steamed bun. Properly stationed in a contraption allowing a low level of steam to soften the bun into a heavenly pillow sliced in the middle to allow this juicy all-beef concoction to rest comfortably, and you have the food of kings.

I invested in these two devices years ago, and it may have been a better investment than Microsoft, Apple or Amazon when it comes to living life to its fullest. When the Nats or Hokies play, I put a few Nathan’s natural casing Coney Island style hot dogs on the rollers, some buns in the steamer, a little chili and sauerkraut in two small crock pots I set on low, then chop up some onions and leave out some condiments. It’s an all-day concession stand in my kitchen without having to pay $8 a hot dog.

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This Is One Opening Day I'll Never Be Able To Forget...

Since it is a dark, gray day, and Opening Day is later this week, allow me to share a memory.

It is of an Opening Day 9 years ago that had me filled with excitement. It later turned to one of my darkest memories, and something I think about every year. In light of what’s been going on with younger people during this year-plus of being out of school and staying at home due to COVID, I think about it even more this year.

I’ve been blessed with friends who are baseball fanatics. I like baseball, don’t get me wrong, but these friends absolutely love it. One friend, whose name was Paul, insisted that I always go with him to Opening Day. From the first year the Nationals came to DC until 2012, he never asked whether I wanted to go. He just said he’d gotten the tickets and what time he was coming by the house.

He was that way with the last game of the season, too. Missing either in a season was like a religious person missing church on Easter Sunday. It was important to him, and you had to be there.

Every year on the drive to at first RFK, then Nats Park, the conversation was the same. We’d ask each other if this year would be the season the Nationals finally broke through and made the playoffs, and despite evidence to the contrary, would convince ourselves the answer was “yes.”. We’d endured the beginning of some bad 100-loss seasons in the past, but we always rationalized about the next season and how changes made in the offseason would somehow mean this coming season was OUR year.

Thursday, April 12, 2012 was no different. We convinced ourselves this would be the year the Nats made the postseason, and like every year, we believed it. Because of traffic that day, we’d spend 7 hours together between riding in the car to the stadium and watching the game while debating all this.

It ended up being a very good game. Paul was not a fan of Jayson Werth, and after riding him all day every time he came to the plate, Werth repaid the criticism with a single in the bottom of the 10th to move Ryan Zimmerman to second. A ground out moved both over a base, and with two outs, Zimmerman would then score the winning run on a wild pitch.

We all went home happy.

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Rest In Peace, Coach Schnellenberger

If you follow sports for a long enough time, you end up with 4 or 5 moments that seem to stay permanently etched in your memory. Some are due to last-second heroics, while others are just the confluence of several interesting people at a particular point in time.

The passing this morning of legendary football coach Howard Schnellenberger brought back one of those for me. At the time, Schnellenberger was at the University of Miami before it was “The U”, and he was in the process of creating that transition for the Hurricanes.

He took over Miami in 1979, and in year 2 got his team to a bowl game, beating this group of upstarts from Virginia Tech in the Peach Bowl to finish 9-3. Three years later, “The U” was born, as Miami and Schnellenberger went 11-1 and won a national title by beating Nebraska.

The year before winning the national title, Miami faced Virginia Tech for the second time in three years in Blacksburg. It was a warm September afternoon, and Miami was favored due to a high-powered offense led by quarterback Jim Kelly. The Hokies were a typical Bill Dooley team, with a strong running attack led by players like Tony Paige and Cyrus Lawrence, and a stout defense with the likes of Bruce Smith and Padro Phillips.

Miami did win that day, 14-8. But some things also happened I doubt anyone expected.

The moment I remember took place shortly after the game. Back then, there were no formal press conferences or restrictions on who you could talk with after a game. If you wanted to ask a question of a player, you went in the locker room and asked.

For Miami, the visitor’s locker room was just under the East stands down near the corner of the South end zone. The question of the day regarded an injury to Kelly, who was sacked midway through the game by the Virginia Tech defense and had to leave the game. Since he didn’t return, we all wanted to know how bad the injury was.

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Jalen Cone Latest Player To Enter The Transfer Portal

When I heard the news Monday that Joe Bamisile had entered the transfer portal, my first thought was “I’m surprised it wasn’t Jalen Cone.”

Today, it was.

Cone tweeted that he was leaving, saying “I don’t even know where to begin…Virginia Tech has become my second home. I have built relationships that will last a lifetime and learned so many things here. I’ve gained new family and made memories that will never fade. There is no place like Blacksburg and nothing can replace it.

“I want to thank the staff for giving me tremendous opportunities and helping me through this journey. I want to thank my teammates for always pushing me, the great memories, and becoming my brothers for life. To the basketball program as a whole, y’all can never be replaced. To the students and people of Blacksburg, thank you for believing in me and being the best fans ever.

“After prayer, giving it long thought and conversation with my loved ones, I’ve decided to reopen my recruitment and enter the transfer portal.”

It would appear Cone looked at the same stats Bamisile did when looking at potential minutes he might get next season. A week ago, Virginia Tech had 9 guards on its roster when including transfers and signees, and assuming Wabissa Bede doesn’t come back and Bamisile leaving, the number was still 7. Cone’s departure moves it down to 6, assuming the Hokies don’t acquire anybody else from the transfer portal.

Cone played in 15 games this season and started four before missing the final four games of the season due to an ankle injury. The handwriting was on the wall for him, however, in watching the NCAA Tournament game against Florida, just as it was for Bamisile. In that overtime game, 95 percent of the minutes played went to just six players for Virginia Tech, and four of them were guards:  Bede, Hunter Cattoor, Tyrece Radford and Nahiem Alleyne.

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If Fans Could Choose, They'd Sign 50 Players From Portal

At some point, the whole deal with the transfer portal in college athletics is about to turn comical.

Originally created as a clearinghouse to help graduate transfers with a single year of eligibility left find another school to team up with, the effects of COVID have now given college sports true free agency. Everybody got an extra year of eligibility, and everybody got the opportunity to go somewhere else without having to sit out a year.

It has created a combination of Sam’s Club, Costco and Amazon for college football and basketball programs: A one-stop shopping place for everything a coach could possibly want.

Which could be both good and bad.

I have no issue with everyone moving about. My first year at Virginia Tech, I majored in engineering, and while it was a fine endeavor that taught me how to drink so much coffee I could study until 3 AM, I decided after that year it wasn’t for me. I tried business for a quarter (this is why fellow Hokies call engineering “pre-business”) and then found what I enjoyed and was good at: Communications.

Back then, the program was in its infancy, so had I possessed the money or wherewithal, I could have chosen a school like Syracuse or Northwestern to further learn my craft, and no one would have cared. I wouldn’t have had to sit out anything, or be lectured on commitment, etc. I’d have just gone on and lived my life.

Being a relatively poor guy from an Italian family who was told “you can go anywhere you want, but if it costs more than $3,000 for all four years, that’s all we’ve got and the rest is on you,” I stayed in Blacksburg. I’m glad I did, but I had that option, and I think everyone should have it.

Athletes now do. That’s the good news. They have options.

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Bamisile Becomes First Offseason Transfer For Hokies

It wasn’t 24 hours after Virginia Tech lost to Florida Friday that I found myself thinking about what next year’s Hokie team would look like, and immediately thought the team sure had a lot of guards coming back next season.

Too many, in fact.

But rather than write something about who would probably be leaving, I thought “it’s too soon. Let me wait a few days.”

Turns out it wasn’t too soon after all.

Today freshman guard Joe Bamisile announced he is entering the transfer portal, and I seriously doubt it has anything to do with any other factor than Joe doing the same math I did Saturday. There’s a lot of players on the bench fighting for minutes, and there are some who just aren’t going to see as many minutes as they'd hoped to.

The Tech roster right now lists at guard Hunter Cattoor, Bamisile, Wabissa Bede, Nahiem Alleyne, Jalen Cone, Darrius Maddox and Tyrece Radford, which is 7 guards. Storm Murphy will be transferring from Wofford, and the Hokies have signed Sean Pedulla from Edmond, OK. That makes 9.

Bede is probably not coming back, but he can still play another year under the COVID eligibility rules if he wants to. But with him gone, that’s still 8 guards, and Coach Mike Young tends to play a tight rotation where he plays the same 6 players, then works in 2 or 3 more who get 5 minutes or less. Against Florida, 8 players saw action, but two players combined for 11 minutes in an overtime game. The other six saw all the action.

Of those six, four were Bede, Alleyne, Cattoor and Radford. Three of the four are definitely back, and Bede’s minutes will probably be assumed in large part by Murphy, who knows Young’s system and is a much more dynamic scorer. That would leave Bamisile, Cone, Maddox and Pedulla to all fight for whatever minutes remain.

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One Small Step For Man, One Giant Leap For Cutout Maggie

If you've been following the continuing adventures of Maggie The Wonderbeagle as chronicled earlier in the week in this story, I just got a few pics in my email showing her cutout is one step closer to home.

My friend Bonnie (on the left) graciously went over to Cassell Coliseum Friday to rescue cutout Maggie from the shredder due to my own forgetfulness. She then met my old broadcast partner and good friend Tim (on the right) this morning in Blacksburg and the swap was made.

So when Tim gets home, cutout Maggie will be in Northern Virginia. Which beats the heck out of a closet in Blacksburg awaiting a shredder. 😊

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Since It's The First Day Of Spring...

Since today is the first day of spring, I find myself thinking about one year ago.

There was no NCAA Tournament – or live sports for that matter – so we all watched in huge numbers a 10-part Michael Jordan ego-enhancing series on an NBA season not even in this century…just to get our sports fix. Last night, partly because of disappointment over Virginia Tech losing to Florida and partly because of college basketball overload, I didn’t even have the television on.

There was no Major League Baseball season and traditional opening day about to occur in a week. Perhaps it’s the lingering effects of that which make me think when they talk about a minimum number of fans being able to attend, they’re talking about some date way off in the future instead of only 10 days from now.

You couldn’t buy what you wanted when you wanted to, particularly paper products. I handle all the buying of groceries and consumables in my house, and I used to have a pretty easy system. When somebody said we were down to the last three rolls of toilet paper or paper towels, I scanned the grocery ads to see if anyone had them on sale, then went and replenished our stock.

Now, when my wife mentioned the other day that we were down to only two 12-packs of both products and she was opening one of them, I felt like I had to replenish the supply. I did, and there’s an entire corner of the guest room filled with toilet paper, papers towels and tissues. There’s no issue now, as Amazon regularly contacts me asking if I want to buy more and it can be here in two days.

But I was in a warehouse club earlier this week, and I just couldn’t resist all those big 12 big rolls = 137 regular rolls of Bounty just sitting there, secretly whispering to me “one day you’ll wish you had bought one more pack.”

A year ago I actually ran out of the type of coffee filters you use in a device called a Chemex. They were a little difficult to find any way, but when it comes to coffee, I don’t mess around. I discovered that if you were a regular Joe, everyone was sold out, but if you subscribed to the product through a place like Peet’s, they’d find some for you. So I’ve been getting a box of 100 every 8 weeks, even though I only use maybe 50 every 8 weeks.

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They Finally Did It...

They Did It

After a long and bumpy road, The Washington Nationals finally won the World Series. And made an old man in Ashburn cry...

Never Grow Old...

Never Grow Old

A trip to Spring Training reminded me we're all still kids at heart, and no matter how old, you keep playing until they get you out.

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