Before the afternoon half of a split doubleheader with the Miami Marlins in Nationals Park on September 22nd which ended the Washington Nationals' home schedule for the 2013 season, the Nats honored outgoing manager Davey Johnson with an onfield presentation and video tribute which played on the enormous scoreboard in right field in the nation's capital. The journey through the 70-year-old manager's life in baseball ended with a series of recorded messages from former teammates and players he managed in a career that started in 1962 when he signed with Baltimore as an amateur free agent. D.C. GM Mike Rizzo was the last person to address the manager who moved from an advisor's role in the organinzation to the Nationals' bench after Jim Riggleman abruptly resigned in the middle of the 2011 season.
"I want to take this opportunity to publicly extend my deepest and most sincere appreciation to you," the general manager said. "When you took the helm in July of 2011 we were a team in distress. For a variety of reasons, our young team, while talented, was suffering a crisis of confidence and needed a steady hand. You were that steady hand.
"I'll never forget how you, our newly-appointed skipper, waited to join us on the tarmac at O'Hare. As the players and coaches boarded the plane, you greeted each one with a handshake and words of encouragement and by doing so, began to truly impact each of their baseball lives. Now, two and a half years later, we have a team of believers who build their day around hard work, dedication and a tenacious on-field attitude. They support each other because you taught them that their skipper always has their backs. Their loyalty to this city and to this team is a reflection of you and I count myself amongst the believers."
"You have transformed the Washington Nationals and we will never forget that gift," Rizzo concluded.
"I was really moved by everything. It was really nicely done. Brought back a lot of old memories," Davey Johnson told reporters. After the video played, every last person in uniform for the Nationals that day lined up on the field to hug the manager and thank him personally. "The players coming out and the guys talking to me. That was moving, very moving," Johnson said. "I feel for them greatly and to get something like that coming back, is, you know, makes you happy and sad at the same time."
The melancholy that comes with the end of an era and a season lingered over the last week of Johnson's tenure as the Nationals played out the remaining games of an ultimately disappointing campaign. They went down fighting though, trying until the end to insert themselves into the Wild Card picture before falling mathematically out of contention with only a few games left. Johnson managed the Nationals for the last time on September 29th in Arizona.
"It was a fun ride, and a great group of guys," Johnson said after a season-ending loss to the D-Backs. "It's time to go home. Put me out to pasture."
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