West Palm Beach – Last Day

Wednesday.

This is it. My last day in the West Palm Beach area. So many things had worked out in my favor. The weather had been perfect, I spent time with one of my favorite humans enjoying one of my favorite things, I ate very well, and it appeared I’d be heading back home with only TWO mosquito bites. How’s that for winning?!

My AirBnB host was super flexible on my check-out time, so I took my time packing. Recounting what I did in the days prior in a way to not only hold onto those memories but to also hold onto that feeling of peace and accomplishment.

Packing, I realized I brought way more stuff with me than I actually wore or needed. I’m not typically an over-packer (I don’t think) so I’ll chalk it up to just being excited for the trip. However, these are some of my favorite Nationals things.

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I eventually gathered all of my things, loaded up the Jeep, and headed 15 minutes south to Delray Beach to finally check out that one vegan spot before going to the airport.

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Don’t worry…I kept one hand on the wheel the entire time.


I arrived at The New Vegan to find it busy but without any wait and received a warm welcome and a glass of alkaline water. Having peeped the menu a number of times, I knew I was going straight for the kale burger. A kale patty served on millet and flaxseed bread with lettuce, tomato, and vegenaise. I added pickles and avocado and decided to add the side salad and rice for an extra $3. There were several OMG moments while eating. I’m not usually one to boast but I really did save the best for last.

Before leaving, I had a chance to chat with the owner and thank her for such a delicious meal. Come to find out, there are no soy or gluten products on the menu, and the restaurant serves and cooks in alkaline water. Also, they have a location in West Palm Beach that is open on Tuesday!

I ordered a green veggie smoothie for the road and made my way back up 95 N towards the airport. 


The rental pick-up at Budget was a cluster but I for certain thought returning the vehicle would be seamless. It was, actually. However, Budget had to get one more screw up in before sending me back home, and it came in the form of the USELESS airport shuttle driver. The man barely assisted me in lifting my ONE piece of luggage up the steps and onto the shuttle. He asked which airlines to where we would need drop offs (and there were many) however, when he made his one (and apparently only stop) at the airport, he failed to make any sort of announcement. The nail in the I’ll-never-patronize-Budget there-again coffin was when he stood by, carelessly, as a woman mistakenly carted off with my luggage, despite my yelling to get her attention. I literally had to run her down. You better believe I fired off my frustrations in a Google Review! He did get us to the airport safely, so I guess that’s what was most important.

Touchdown!


…until next Spring!

West Palm Beach – Day 3

Tuesday.

I woke up like a kid on Christmas morning or like adult me on Opening Day. It was too soon for either of those days. Instead, I was beyond hype because it was finally my day to take in a Nats spring training game and my sister Cassie was coming to join me!

img_2024She would be driving almost 3 hours from Longwood, Fl to my AirBnB in Boynton Beach, just to spend the day with me. Although we keep in touch via phone and of course Instagram, it had been far too long (October) since I actually saw her.

Needing to get in a workout before we started our day, I decided to take that energy to YouFit Health Club in located at Boynton Beach Mall. There I worked biceps/triceps/legs and spent a little time on the treadmill. 


Cassie arrived a little before 1p. After many hugs and a few approving looks, we hopped in the Jeep and decided on lunch. I had wanted to take her to a vegan spot in Delray Beach but when we realized they were closed on Tuesdays, we settled on pizza for lunch at Pizza Rox in Boynton. Another spot I had on my list of places to eat while here. Their website said that they had both vegan and gluten-free options but we remained skeptical…at first.

We both went for identical 12-inch pies with gluten-free crust. A crust which surprisingly didn’t taste as distinguishable from regular crust like most gluten-free crusts/breads or that imploded as soon as you touched it. I nixed the cheese (although they had various cheese options including vegan cheese) and loaded up my pie with BBQ sauce, vegan chicken breast, red onions, spinach, green peppers, and pineapple. Washing it down with a bottle of Acqua Panna spring water.

For a minute, and only half way through the pie, I thought about picking up another before my return flight home the next day.

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However, I erred on the other side of gluttony and instead saved the other half for later.


After lunch, we made our way up 95 North to FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches to watch batting practice before the 6:35p game against the Astros. It was the first time I would be attempting to catch spring training BP and boy did I get it wrong. I assumed BP would actually be in the ballpark. Instead, it appeared to happen in one of the practice fields to which we really didn’t have access to or visibility of. We arrived around 3 and found the gates wouldn’t open until 4:30p. So we chatted about everything under the sun, took some pics, and did a lap or two along the walking trail.

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We also managed to spot Justin Verlander (‘Stros starting pitcher that night) arriving on campus in a sort of grey muscle car with Virginia license plates. Full disclosure, it was only after Googling rosters did I realize that’s exactly who that was. You know what they say about hindsight.

They opened the gates promptly at 4:30p and we went straight for the giveaway table to collect our Nationals hoodie, a freebie we weren’t even aware we were getting until we were standing in line. Interesting how the Universe works in your favor.

To my surprise, a familiar face was at the table: It’s Mike! Mike was at the table doing Mike things…handing out hoodies and later tossing t-shirts into the stands. Quick intro: Mike (Ploger) is the in-game host of Inside Pitch Live and in-game promotions at Nationals Park. I asked him if he’d take a selfie with me and he jumped right in!

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I later posted this pic to Instagram to which he commented, “Your energy is contagious!” Oh Mike.

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I hit the team store next, determined to stick to my budget by sticking to the plan of picking up my must-haves: a Sprint Training-themed magnet for my fridge (I guess that’s becoming a thing) and this year’s Spring Training hat. Have you seen it?!

You’re welcome.

After making our way around the concourse a couple of times to kill time, grab some water, and snacks…we made our way to our seats. Well the section our seats were in. We chose to sit 10 or so rows back (out of the sun) from where we were supposed to sit and remained there until we left.

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I ended up walking over by the bullpen to take a couple of pics and vids of Strasburg and Gomes warming up before first pitch. This would be my first time watching Gomes catch since the Nats acquired him back in November. I was excited about that but mostly just excited to finally see some baseball!

Astros were the first to go out in front. Until 21-year-old Carter Kieboom launched a 2-run home run in the 2nd putting us in the lead. Carter is our No. 2 prospect and while he struggled a bit at second base, he killed his at-bats. Going 2-for-2 and hitting another home run in the 4th…scoring both those home runs off the Astros’ ace pitcher, Mr. Muscle Car himself, Justin Verlander. 

We would eventually remain in the lead, beating the ‘Stros 5-3 in 9 innings.

Stephen Strasburg pitched 4.67 innings, striking out six and allowing two runs, five hits and four walks.

Our No. 1 prospect, center fielder Victor Robles went 1-for-2 with 2 walks, 2 stolen bases,  and a run scored.

 

 

West Palm Beach – Day 2

Monday.

Yesterday was my first full day in the West Palm Beach/Boynton area. Although I’m actually staying in Boynton Beach, WPB is just a 10-15 min ride on 95 North from Boynton.

One of my goals for the 3-ish days I’d be visiting, was to workout at least 2 of those 3 days. And I knew I wanted to get those workouts in and out of the way before I truly started my day. I dropped in at Fitness Hub Studios in WPB after finding them on

ClassPass. There, I took a 45-min virtual cycle class. It was my first time taking a virtual class and I must say, it was great! Now I was the only person in the class, but it didn’t stop me from challenging myself or from having a good time.

*UPDATE* How could I forget that I paid TEN DOLLARS to park for 45 minutes near Fitness Hub?! However, they do validate parking if you park in the parking garage behind Duffy’s (Olive and Banyan Streets) and in the City Center garage (Banyan and Dixie Streets).

Knowing that Tuesday would mostly be spent at the ballpark and I would be heading back home on Wednesday, I wanted to make sure I also got in some time at the beach to read and recharge. So after a much needed shower and change of clothes, I headed straight to Oceanfront Park. Last year, I spent a few hours at Oceanfront Park and really enjoyed the amenities and cleanliness of the beach. There, I laid out a towel, spread across it, and dug further into Becoming. I occasionally looked up to see and listen to the sounds of the other beachgoers, and let my mind wander at the meditative sounds of the waves crashing ashore.

I also wanted to catch the sunset. However, Oceanfront Park is East facing so I hopped in the Jeep to travel just a mile down N Ocean Blvd to Ocean Inlet Park. I don’t know why, but I am rarely aware of the sun as it sets back home. Maybe it’s because I’m too busy trying to meet a deadline or run from one place to the other (geez I should really should do better). But watching the sunset on the water was something  I did every evening while here last year and it’s become a must-do. It’s almost as if my body needs it by the time it happens. SOLITUDE and PEACE To sit peacefully with nothing but my own thoughts. To reflect on the day’s events, the year-to-date, life so far, as the day ends with hope to live another one.

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FEED ME!

I scoped out a few places I wanted to try before arriving to WPB. One of those places was Prime Catch right here in Boynton, to where I headed just after the sun set. However, please DO NOT confuse Prime Catch with Prime – Delray Beach, which in full disclosure, is exactly where I made my reservations. The hostess was cool though…apparently I wasn’t the only one that’d made that mistake before and after about a 10 minute wait…I was seated.

I was greeted and taken care of by Andrew. Because I’m fancy, I ordered a glass of Malbec and an order of Veggie Fries for starters. Man those veggies were delicious! Tempura-fried asparagus, eggplant, and zucchini, drizzled with honey, and a lemon garlic aioli for dipping. It was like a dance party on my taste buds.

I went all in on the seafood for my main course, opting for the Prime Mixed Grill of lobster tail, scallops, jumbo shrimp, in a garlic herb butter. For sides, I chose the mashed potatoes and substituted the grilled asparagus it came with for sautéed garlic spinach.

I also didn’t skip dessert. My eyes zoomed in on the menu at the Flourless Swiss Chocolate Tort and it did not disappoint.

I didn’t eat all of my dinner or dessert but I wasn’t left feeling hungry or miserably full. The meal truly hit the sweet spot. Signaling the end of my meal, I was offered a slice of lemon and warm towel to rid my hands of the seafood smell. 

I’ll definitely be back and I would highly recommend Prime Catch…in Boynton…not Prime – Delray, to anyone looking for good seafood, welcoming environment, and outdoor seating.

West Palm Beach: Day 1-ish

Sunday.

You guys…

I MADE IT!

After a delayed flight, an inflight holding pattern so the President could depart the area, and an hour wait to pick up my rental at Budget, I finally got settled in somewhere after 7p last night.

My AirBnB host is a sweet Jamaican lady that lives not far from the airport in Boynton Beach. She’s already made me feel at home ensuring I have everything I need and things I didn’t even know I needed, including her homemade stove-top hot chocolate.

After grabbing a few things I needed from Target like OFF! Wait. Let’s pause here for a moment. I’ve been to Florida enough times to know that mosquito repellant is E-SSEN-TIAL. Those little bloodsuckers can’t wait for you to slip. Buzzing around, buzzing passed my ear, making buzzy noises. If OFF! isn’t my selected scent for the day, I’m screwed and itchy.

As has been a tradition for the past 2 years, obligatory stop for dinner on my first night in WPB was the Havana restaurant for some good ass Cuban food.

Table for one please!

Speaking of, my favorite things about traveling alone are that: 1) you’re on your time and can navigate the day however you please, and 2) no one’s eyeing your plate leading to the obligatory offer to share.

So I sat back, took in the sights of other diners, eavesdropped a little on their conversations, and enjoyed my own intermittent conversations with the host and wait staff.img_1932

I indulged on a glass of Tempranillo and ordered the camarones al ajillo (shrimp in a super garlicky garlic sauce), with a side of arroz amarillo (Cuban-style yellow rice), frijoles (black beans), and maduros (sweet plantains).

The combination of good food, welcoming staff, and a “when you’re here, you’re family”-like environment makes for a great dining experience. I highly recommend you make it a necessary stop as well. While the restaurant closes at 10p, Havana’s carry out window is open 24/7….even on Christmas people.

The place kinda gives me vibes like the Columbia Restaurant located in the Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa. Also highly recommended if you’re ever in Tampa.

After a longer than planned (or necessary) travel day, I took my leftovers and called it a night not long after dinner.

-Nika

Things Are Finally Heating Up

Literally!

Also, it has taken me quite a while to finally get this post…well…posted. You can blame the delay on everything from writer’s block, to living my best life, work, and travel.

A lot of this is old news at this point so I’ll simply summarize what I initially planned to talk about in this post.

Quite a few changes have taken place the last few weeks including…what feels like (and I’ve got my fingers crossed) an actual season: Spring! Or is it Summer? Nonetheless, the weather in the DC-area had been consistently warmer.


Fck Pittsburgh

There had also been recent line up changes that set Bryce as our lead off which brought him more home runs and bats alive at Nationals Park in the series against the Pittsburgh Pirates Did you know? The last time Bryce Harper batted lead off was in 2013. Also during this time the Capitals were in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs playing against the Pittsburgh Penguins. And as you can imagine, there was a full blown campaign against everything Pittsburgh. We swept the Pirates and the Capitals eventually beat the Penguins 4-2. Caps are currently leading the series 2-1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Full disclosure…I’ve never actually been to a Capitals game in DC. However, I did see the Capitals play against the Lightning in Tampa on an impromptu trip to Tampa a few years back. Action-packed is an understatement. 

Bryce Harper Field Dedication 

On Saturday, May 5th, the Nationals Dream Foundation along with Bryce Harper, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, and DC Department of Recreation and Parks dedicated Bryce Harper field at the Takoma Park Recreation Center.

However, that day was also the 6th Annual Johns Hopkins in Action Day. On this day alumni, students, faculty/staff, and friends volunteer at sites in Baltimore and DC. I’ve committed to this event every year since graduating, as a way to give back to the school and the community. I definitely experienced slight FOMO (fear of missing out). But I knew my time was spent where it was most needed. That day we wrapped over 3,500 diapers and sorted and counted over 800 articles of clothing at ShareBaby to be distributed to undeserved babies and families throughout Baltimore City.


Fast Forward…

We took the series against the Phillies (2-1),  the Padres (2-1), and SWEPT the Diamondbacks in a 4 game series. Wins that would bring us to a 24-18 record, 3rd in the NL East, and just 2 games behind the 1st place Braves.

It’s been raining a lot this week. On Tuesday we were supposed to start a 2 game series against the Yankees. However, that game got suspended in the middle of the 6th inning with the score tied 3-3. The plan then was to finish the remaining innings of that game on Wednesday about 30 minutes before playing Wednesday’s regularly scheduled game. But that sucker got postponed due to the rain…to June 18th. Despite how silly it sounds for the Yankees to make a one-day trip to DC in between their own home series to make up this game, our bullpen at least gets a much needed rest.

Now the Dodgers are in town but tonight’s game has been postponed…yep it’s raining…and I just got an email that tomorrow’s game (to which I have tickets) has been pushed back to 8:05p to accommodate the doubleheader.


I Had a Birthday!

Oh and last but not least…I just returned from a solo trip to Providenciales (Provo), Turks & Caicos to celebrate my birthday!!

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Grace Bay, Providenciales, Turks & Caicos

Have you ever seen the colors azure and cerulean in real life?! This trip was too amazing not to write about it so I will under a separate post.

There! I think we’re all caught up!

-Nika

Spring Training was EVERYTHING!

The last few days here in Palm Beach County, Florida have been absolutely AMAZING! I had every intention to blog real-time or at the conclusion of everyday but I doubted how much justice my words at the time would give my experience.

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We flew into Palm Beach International Airport (PBI) late Sunday night after a couple of flight delays. But we got our rental car and got settled in. Staying in this cute apartment in Lake Worth we found on AirBnB.

Each morning,  I went for a walk/run (ok…mostly walk in my running shoes) before we started the day to make sure I got in as much activity as possible. And every evening, I made sure I was by the water to watch the sunset. The weather ranged from 76° – 89° with occasional winds. I never saw a single raindrop the entire trip. I know…I was surprised too.


Monday, 3/20 | Indian Breakfast and Hiking

When she first suggested an Indian restaurant for breakfast, admittedly, I turned my nose up. “Indian…it’s too early for that.” But Reesie has yet to be wrong when suggesting places to eat, so I went with it and let me tell you… this place DID NOT DISAPPOINT.

I browsed the menu. Still a little skeptical, I went back and forth on whether to get something typical (American) for breakfast or try something different. I finally decided on the Spinach Keema Omelette. Reesie, the Eggs Nissa. OMG!!! I don’t think I’ve ever had a breakfast so full-body flavorful! I ate it so fast I forgot to take a picture.

After breakfast, we laced up our hiking boots laced up our hiking boots and trekked about 6 miles through the Apoxee Wilderness Preserve.


Tuesday, 3/21 | Miami Marlins vs. Nats @ FITTEAM Ballpark

On Tuesday, my sorority sister Cassie drove from Longwood (about 20 minutes outside of Orlando) to hang out with Reesie and I in Lake Worth and to take in the Marlins vs. Nats game. I was so excited to see her. We had been talking about her possibly joining me for a Spring Training game since December. She’s got that kind of spirit you just want to be around and always finds the good in everything. She simply made a day I already knew was going to be great…greater.  I couldn’t wait to get the day started!

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3/20 | Starting Lineup

Strasburg (#37) was the starting pitcher that day. We arrived after first pitch and by that time the Marlins had already scored one home run. Strasburg (*ahem* who only allowed 13 home runs over 175+ innings pitched last year), would give up 2 more runs, 8 hits, and 3 walks, throwing 81 pitches over 4 1/3 innings. We were down 3-0  in the 5th, when the most handsomest manager (Martinez) came out to excuse Stras.

However, we rallied. We took the lead, 4-3, with an RBI single from Difo (#1) that brought in two runs and a two-run blast by Harper (#34, and his 2nd of the Spring). We’d score 4 more runs via Moises Sierra, Brignac, a sac fly by Dominguez and an error on the Marlins.

Moises Sierra indirectly provided us a laugh when I asked Reesie to Google his stats. She starts telling us about where he’s from, what team(s) he came from, how tall he is. When she said 5’3″, we looked toward the outfield and scratched our heads.

Cassie and I: “Moises Sierra? Right there…number 49? Are you sure?!”

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3/20: Reesie, Cassie, and I

Reesie: “Oh, I thought ya’ll were talking about Wilmer Difo!”

Cassie and I: “Huh?! But…LOL!”

Wilmer Difo is 5’11” by the way.

Nats won! 8 – 3

#kidgoals

There was a kid (now affectionately called “The Kid”) and his dad that sat behind us at the game on Tuesday. I loved the way they talked about the game as the day unfolded. They were fun. Both providing commentary, chiming into our conversation, often offering answers to questions I’d ask or joining in to banter. I remember asking a question, to which the dad answers then adds, “I’m here for you.”

At some point, the dad gets up to run to the bathroom or the concession stand and leaves the kid. The Kid, having already caught one, gets offered a dead/throw away ball by another kid. I’m completely shocked. Kids don’t like to share but I thought, “Oh, how sweet.” But then I get a tap on the shoulder. It’s The Kid…yes my kid. He says, “Here…you keep it.”

Wait…what?!

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Official Game ball from 3/20/18

He said, “Yeah. I already have one. Do you know how many of these things I have at home?!” I go on and on about how kind and thoughtful the gesture was to which he replies, “I have good parents.”

It absolutely warmed my heart. Not only because this little guy offered up an OFFICIAL Spring Training game ball to me after acknowledging his excess, but that he recognized the actions and values his parents taught and gave him, respectively. And then gave his parents the credit in their absence. He was truly #kidgoals.

Shout out to The Kid and his dad (and mom)!

 

My girls and I ended the day at Lake Worth Beach, enjoying happy hour at Mulligan’s, taking in the sunset along the fishing pier, and eating ice cream and sorbetto from Kilwins.

 


Wednesday, 3/22 | Houston Astros vs. Nats @ FITTEAM Ballpark

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3/21 | Houston Astros vs. Washington Nationals

GIO! GIO! GIO! Gio was the starting pitcher for the game against the World Series Champions. I was hype! He’s one of my favorites, Eaton was in the line up, and come on…who didn’t watch the crazy match up between the Dodgers and Astros?! Again, I was hype! Ready for a win. I thought the guys knew that!

During that game, Gio would allow 8 runs…EIGHT…4 of them unearned; give up 6 hits, 2 walks, with 95 pitches over just 4 2/3 innings.

We would finally get on the board with a two-run home run by Matt Reynolds and then a home run by Andrew Stevenson in the bottom of the 9th.

Nats fell. 8-3


Where to Eat

The Pelican Restaurant (Lake Worth) – Indian and American. This unassuming yet fun restaurant is located in downtown Lake Worth. Take a chance, order your eggs Indian style. It’s cash only though, so come prepared.

Havana Cuban Food (West Palm Beach) – This could be THE best Cuban spot in the state of Florida. My sample size is small to jump to such a conclusion but if you try it and don’t agree…let me know! I recommend the fricasé de pollo or the masitas de puerco fritas. Oh and they are open 24 hours. OPEN 24 HOURS!

Mulligan’s Beach House (Lake Worth) – Located at the Lake Worth Casino Building and Beach Complex. American food, on the water, and drinks are 1/2 off during Happy Hour

Places to Go

John Prince Memorial Park (Lake Worth) – This was my go-to place to get in some activity each day. This park is centered around Lake Osborne and full of options: camping, playgrounds, fishing, picnic pavilions, bike trail, fitness course…you name it!  There are also a variety of birds around so just look out for bird poo. Sadly and despite my best efforts, I never made it all the way around on my feet.

Latana Public Beach (Latana) – On the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, this was the first beach I visited on this trip. There’s ample metered parking.

Apoxee Wilderness Trail (West Palm Beach) – Pronounced “Ah-po-ee”, meaning “beyond tomorrow”, is a 2.5 mile (or 4 mile round trip when also taking the Owahee Trail) hike through Florida’s grassy water everglades. Hiking boots optional.

Lake Worth Casino Building and Beach Complex (Lake Worth) – Also along the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. Mulligan’s Beach House is located here. There’s ample metered parking.  There’s also a fishing pier that extends to what feels like oblivion on which you can walk as a spectator for $1. Then reward yourself for walking out on the pier by making a stop at Kilwins Chocolates and Ice Cream for some raspberry or lemon sorbetto. I had them both. #cosign #nom

Ocean Inlet Park (Boynton Beach) – I visited this spot last year and I don’t know what was more breathtaking: the drive to Ocean Inlet or the inlet itself. The park is situated intercoastal but with easy access to the beach. After our loss to the Astros on Wednesday, this was the right place to collect, watch the sunset, and connect with the beauty around me. Actually, it was the perfect way to end this trip.


I’m back in the DC. While away, friends and family back home returned my pics of sunny Florida days with pics of snow so I knew what to expect. I should be used to this weather by now. But it was still a shock after being in shorts and tank top weather the past few days. However, real Spring and baseball, soon come.

-Nika

Days until Opening Day: 7

Wheels up! West Palm Beach Here I Come!

Reesie, my good friend and colleague, and I are headed to West Palm Beach, FL for a quick getaway from the erratic DC weather and of course…Nationals Spring Training games!!!

With NATS Plus, 4 tickets to a single Spring Training game are included in the membership. So of course we pooled resources to get the best experience. We’ll have a chance to catch some batting practice (BP) and the games against the Marlins and Astros home at the FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

Ironically, it’s a pretty mild day here in the District, but winter weather is headed this way, so this trip couldn’t be more timely.

I’m excited to see Adam Eaton and the rest of the guys back in action, as well as the new additions to the team!

See you in WPB!

-Nika

Days until Opening Day: 11