Dec 11, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT
I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: Nats Insider was never intended to be permanent. The purpose of this site when it launched Feb. 1, 2010 was purely selfish. I had been unemployed for a month after the Washington Times eliminated its entire sports department, and figuring it might help my pursuit of another job I decided to start blogging, showing any potential employers out there I was still in the game, still trying to stay on top of Nationals news.
Only one week later, the purpose of Nats Insider completely changed. Based on the surprisingly strong interest in the site right from the get-go, I decided to go out on a limb and see if I could somehow make this my actual job. And thanks to the overwhelming support of readers who decided to make financial contributions — a development that still to this day leaves me welling up with emotion — it worked. I packed up my Honda CR-V, left two feet of snow, my wife and my dog behind in Northern Virginia and declared “Viera or Bust!”
Nearly six years have since passed, during which time the site underwent several design overhauls, was purchased by Comcast SportsNet (which later became part of the NBC Sports Group), switched over from Google’s Blogger platform to WordPress and grew into something far beyond anything I ever imagined it could be. Throughout it all, though, I knew in the back of my mind that some day it would have to come to an end.
That day is today, my last day working at CSN.
It was a business decision, and I leave on good terms with the good people at CSN. They gave me opportunities I might otherwise never have had. They gave me the opportunity to continue covering the Nationals professionally and expand my role via regular on-air appearances. And they gave me the opportunity to work alongside some really talented reporters, producers, analysts, photographers and technicians who were so gracious in accepting this career-long print guy who didn’t know an IFB from a VOSOT into their broadcasting world.
I’ve covered the Nationals for 11 seasons now, and good lord how fascinating have these 11 seasons been? From those early days at decaying-yet-oddly-charming RFK Stadium to the opening of Nationals Park to a pair of dreadful 100-loss seasons to the drafting of perhaps the two most-hyped prospects in history to the ascension of the franchise into a 2-time division winner to a couple of heartbreaking postseason losses to the witnessing of D.C.’s first MVP in nine decades to a bizarre and surreal ending to the most-recent season … whew. Maybe it feels this way because we’ve experienced it up close, but it sure seems like this franchise has been through more highs and lows than most.
Every moment along the way, big or small, truly has been a pleasure to cover. Obviously, I’ll remember major events like Max Scherzer’s two no-hitters, the 2012 and 2014 playoffs, Jim Riggleman’s resignation, Davey Johnson’s hiring, Matt Williams’ Manager of the Year performance and then disappointing follow-up, Stephen Strasburg’s debut and Bryce Harper’s debut.
But I’ll also remember the minor events that far outnumbered the major ones. The February mornings spent watching pitchers’ fielding practice on the back fields in Viera, the random Tuesday night games played in front of 15,000 fans, the long and fascinating and hilarious conversations with Frank Robinson and Davey Johnson and Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth and Ivan Rodriguez and Drew Storen and Ian Desmond and Adam Dunn and Denard Span and Adam LaRoche and Tyler Clippard and Dmitri Young and Robert Fick and Livan Hernandez. Especially Livan Hernandez.
I’ll remember an otherwise insignificant ballgame at Citi Field on April 10, 2010 that ended on a spectacular catch by Willie Harris and prompted me to write my favorite game story in 11 years on the Nationals beat.
I’ll remember all the colleagues and friends I worked with in the press box: James Wagner and Chelsea Janes and Adam Kilgore and Chico Harlan and Barry Svrluga and Dave Sheinen and Tom Boswell and Bill Ladson and Andrew Simon and Chris Johnson and Dan Kolko and Ben Goessling and Thom Loverro and Tom Schad and Brian McNally and Ken Wright and Howard Fendrich and Joe White and Craig Heist and Amanda Comak and Kyle Brostowitz and John Dever and Mike Gazda and Mark Rogoff and so many others.
I’ll remember Chase Hughes, who has worked tirelessly alongside me at CSN these last six years and has come so far as a writer and will continue to have a bright future in this business.
I’ll remember the person who really was the driving force behind the creation of this site and who has stood by my side every single day since (even when I was 3,000 miles away covering a West Coast ballgame until 3 a.m.) and who I will continue to stand beside forever. Rachel: You’re everything to me, and I could not do anything without you. And Brian: Get ready to see a whole lot more of Daddy around the house and get to work on that still-erratic pitching form of yours.
But most of all, I’ll remember the people without whom Nats Insider never would have been possible: You. You found this site, funded this site, spread the word about this site and established an online community of readers whose insight and civility (most of the time) rivaled any I’ve ever found on the internet. I’ve been so fortunate to meet so many of you in person over these six years and communicate with others who in many cases don’t live in the D.C. area. You want the final tally? Just shy of 2 million unique visitors and more than 23 million pageviews that came from 215 different countries. (Alas, we never did record a visit from French Guyana, Western Sahara or North Korea.)
What’s next? I don’t know. I’m going to take a little time off so I can finally devote 100 percent of myself to my family for the first time in a really long time. But I don’t expect this to be goodbye. I’m hoping to find another outlet that will give me the opportunity to continue writing and talking about baseball in Washington. And if that opportunity doesn’t come … well, we’ll just have to wait and see. As I’ve learned, the future holds many surprises.
Nats Insider was testament to just that. If you told me on Feb. 1, 2010 what was in store for this site, that there would be 7,243 articles and 447,563 comments posted here over the next 2,139 days, I never would have believed it.
All I was trying to do was help myself find a new job. In the end, you helped me find something far more meaningful.
And for that, I will forever thank you.
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ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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