Nats' spectator a fowl, but still a hit

Nats' spectator a fowl, but still a hit

VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals weren't the only ones who had a good time in their 9-0 victory at Space Coast Stadium on Sunday afternoon. A sandhill crane landed on the field and made its presence felt in front of the 5,278 in attendance.

In the top of the first inning, just as Indians center fielder Franklin Gutierrez doubled off the glove of center fielder Lastings Milledge, the bird flew in and landed behind second baseman Ronnie Belliard.

Belliard tried to scare the bird away, but it wouldn't budge. Belliard is usually on the outfield grass when he plays second base, but this time, he was playing on the infield dirt because of the bird.

"He didn't even move. He didn't even blink," Belliard said. "I'm like, 'All right, I'll leave it alone and go back to the game.' I think the fans enjoyed it and we all enjoyed it."

Said third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, "It's a big bird. It's as big as Ronnie. It wasn't afraid of anything. It was walking around and hanging out. I've never seen anything like that."

After the top of the first inning ended, the crane went near the Nationals' dugout. Jose Rijo, the special assistant to the general manager, tried to give the bird Gatorade and some food, while some of the players were tipping their caps to the animal.

The crane wasn't hungry and then slowly walked near the end of the dugout where manager Manny Acta and bench coach Pat Corrales were sitting. The players were worried about Corrales, because he is still recovering from knee surgery. A few minutes later, the crane went on the third-base side of the field and flew away by the fifth inning.

"I thought it was funny," Acta said. "He brought all the offense for us, so we'll take him anytime and hope he shows up tomorrow, too."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.