After taking two of three from a free-falling Atlanta Braves team in the nation's capital late last season Nats' skipper Davey Johnson told reporters that he was proud of what the Washington Nationals accomplished in 2011 and the way they had played when the games meant something toward the end of the year. "Any time you play teams in your division, I don't care when it is, April, May, September, there's a pride factor going out there," Johnson said, "and especially this homestand against Atlanta, they're playing for all the marbles. Even though we weren't in the race, I can sense the feeling that we were and we played like we were fighting for a playoff spot, and that's a great sign."
Johnson saw a change in his ballclub and saw they were moving in a positive direction that would start to attract attention in the nation's capital. "I think, through the whole year," the 69-year-old manager who was a twelve months away from guiding a fourth MLB franchise to the postseason said, "there's been a gradual kind of settling here and growing up here. There's a lot of pride on this ballclub. I mean there's a lot of guys who really are not satisfied with this year. You can probably ask everybody in that room, and everyone wishes the season started tomorrow, again. That's the sense I get from this ballclub."
When the Nationals started to win under their new manager, Johnson thought things might change in the pecking order of D.C. sports. "I know it’s a football town," the manager told reporters, "I follow the Redskins too and my son-in-law has been a Redskins fan his whole life, but I know there are a lot of good baseball people here looking for high caliber baseball and I think if we keep performing like we’re performing we’ll get more of them to come out. I’m excited and I know a lot of fans around Baltimore and Washington are excited."
More people (2,370,794 according to baseball-reference.com) turned out at Nationals Park this year than in any previous season since baseball returned to the nation's capital in 2005. The average attendance per game was more than any season since then as well (29,269). Davey Johnson's noticed the change in a fanbase that's embraced the NL East winner and the National League's best team this year, as he told reporters this afternoon when talking about playing the first postseason game in the nation's capital since October of 1933.
"I think it's going to be great," Johnson said, "I mean our fanbase all year long has been outstanding. They've been into the game as good as any fans I've ever been around. You know, we got rid of the Phillies fans and we started taking up more space ourselves so it's been great. The guys really enjoy playing here. We love the city. We love the ballpark. We love the fans." The fans love Davey Johnson and they've embraced the 2012 Nationals who will bring postseason baseball back to the nation's capital for the first time since the '33 Senators played the fifth and final game of the World Series that year in Griffith Stadium.
It's been 79 years since postseason baseball was played in Washington, D.C. Tomorrow Davey Johnson and the Nats bring it back. Surely some of the Nationals fans and baseball fans in D.C. have watched the playoffs after Washington's been eliminated in each of the first eight years since the Montreal Expos moved to the D.C. Davey Johnson spent previous seasons watching the postseason on t.v. when he was out of the majors from 2000-mid-2011 as he told reporters on Tuesday. "I always liked to watch the postseason," Davey Johnson said, "But I like it much more when I'm in it. It's a lot more fun seeing it firsthand and seeing these guys go out there and perform." Get your tickets now if you don't have them. Postseason baseball is back in D.C. on Wednesday.