|(D.Nichols/Caps News Network)|
Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson threw out the honorary first pitch before the first game of a doubleheader between the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers Thursday afternoon. Luckily for all, there was a long enough break in the rain, at least downtown, for the event to not get washed out.
Carlson spoke to a few reporters from the press box high atop Nationals Park after the ceremony about his experience, the upcoming NHL season, and recent tragedies that have affected the hockey community.
Asked if he'd ever done anything like that, Carlson replied, "No. I've played baseball but never at that length, from the mound. It was interesting. It was fun."
Joking on if his pitch was a strike, Carlson laughed. "It was inside, right on the plate. It was looking pretty daunting once I got up there [on the pitching mound], but once I threw it I was decently happy with it."
"I was most happy when it was over with," he kidded about the pressure of being on a Major League pitcher's mound, "But it was fun."
|(C.Nichols/Caps News Network)|
On trying his hand in a sport without skates on his feet, Carlson responded, "It's different. I played soccer this summer too [in Mia Hamm's charity event] and that's a change of pace for me. I'd never played soccer. That's what everyone says about something like that, but what if they get on the ice? It's a different story then."
Nats relief pitcher Collin Balester, a southern California native, was Carlson's catcher, and made a point to mention to him that he was a big Anaheim Ducks fan as they made their way off the field. Nats relief pitcher Tyler Clippard is also a big hockey fan and roots for the Tampa Bay Lightning. "They're big hockey fans. You can't expect everyone to be from Washington," Carlson rationalized.
The Caps and Nats have done quite a bit of cross-promotion over the years, and Carlson thinks it's good that the D.C. teams support each other. "It's great. It's great to meet them, it's great that all the D.C. sports [athletes] intermingle and I think that I've seen them all at our games now and I love coming out to [Nats] games, I love going to Redskins games and D.C. United. It's great to see all different types of sports and all these elite athletes."
With training camp a little over a week away, Carlson's excited to get back with his teammates -- returning ones and the new additions. "It's gonna be exciting. It's gonna be different. I'm looking forward to a new season and a new team, too."
"Our mindset right now is first off getting to camp, working our hardest as a team, to get to where we need to be for the first game of the season."
The Caps have added several new players to their mix, so this year's training camp is going to have a little bit different feel to it. "It's gonna take a while for us all to get used to each other," Carlson said. "They're all great players -- all of the new guys. I'm really excited to have them on the team and it's gonna be fun."
The mood turned serious for a few moments when Carlson reflected on Wednesday's tragedy in Russia, as a plane carrying the team of KHL's Lokomotiv Yaroslavl to their season-opening game crashed just after take-off, killing all but two passengers. "The hockey world is fairly small, I think, and instances like this, people are affected. It was kind of a gloomy day outside too and [the weather] seemed like it just fit right in with the mood. You never want to hear about something like that and when you talk about it being the whole team, it's just terrible news. Everybody around was affected by it."
The event in Russia adds to a particularly sad off-season in the hockey world, with three NHL players and a minor league player all passing this summer. Carlson tried to accentuate the positive as the hockey world, a tight-knit community to begin with, has become even closer under the trying circumstances. "You see all the support from everyone which is good. Everyone's kind of rallying around each other to stay with it and try to figure some of these things out, and also to mourn the loss of people, and now [Lokomotiv]... It's devastating. But you have to look at is and see what the problem is and go from there."
Updated with Video of First Pitch: