Nats, Astros share spring site, meet in Series


October 23, 2019 - 10:49 AM

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Asked how his Washington Nationals figured out Gerrit Cole in the World Series opener, Juan Soto didn’t have to look far for an answer.

“I’m glad I face him in spring training,” Soto said.

In fact, all of the Houston Astros and Nationals see a lot of each other starting every February — they share the complex at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

More than 200 days after breaking camp, they’ve ended the year on the same field with much more at stake.

“Pretty crazy, I never even thought about it,” said Ryan Zimmerman, who also homered off Cole in a 5-4 win Tuesday night. “Must be something in West Palm. West Palm is good for us.”

Meanwhile, forgive local fans coming to a World Series watch party this week at the park for feeling a bit conflicted. Major League Baseball has given permission to let them onto the field for free Friday night to see Game 3 on the video board.

There’s even been some talk around the diamonds of splitting Houston and Washington jerseys down the middle, then sewing the opposing halves together to create a hybrid NatRos shirt for employees to wear while watching the game.

“We work 50/50 for each team so we root for both equally,” grounds crew chief Matt Eggerman said. “In my book, we’ve already reached our goal.”

The Astros and Nationals began the year with workouts as neighbors, and met in the exhibition opener. Jake Marisnick was the first batter of the game and homered off Nationals ace Max Scherzer, the winning pitcher Tuesday night.

The clubs played six times last spring, with Washington going 5-1.

“We see them in spring training so much,” Astros star Alex Bregman said.

This World Series matchup is the first in the modern era to feature teams that share a common spring training site.

In 1942, the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees met after playing their spring games in the same park in St. Petersburg, but they worked out at different sites.

Seven spring training sites currently host two teams, including Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona, home of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox.

That complex was one of Matt Slatus’ stops during an 18-year career in baseball that brought him a few weeks ago to the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches as its new general manager.

Moving purposely from one spot to another, Slatus paused to reassure a flustered new staffer that Monday wasn’t indicative of a normal offseason day.

Never before has a complex been guaranteed to be the spring home of baseball’s champion even before the World Series’ ceremonial first pitch, and that has the Ballpark buzzing with energy.

“It’s a cool time,” Slatus said. “It’s an exciting time. It’s a pinch-me time. It’s kind of, Oh my goodness, how did this happen?”

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