Washington Nationals fans lined the parade route down Constitution Ave. from 15th Street NW to Pennsylvania Ave. and 3rd St. NW, where the stage was set for a rally to finally bring the 2019 campaign to an end, with a celebration of the hard-fought World Series title the team captured this past Wednesday night.
There were plenty of comments about their 19-31 start to the season, the 74-38 finish, the Wild Card win, NLDS, NLCS, and the Fall Classic, the Parra Shark came up, Brian Dozier took his shirt off again for one more “Calma”, and the camels even got a mention.
“Can you believe this?” Managing Principal Owner Mark Lerner asked as he surveyed and spoke to the gathered crowd to kick off the festivities.
“For the first time since 1924 we brought the World Series championship back to our nation’s capital,” Mr. Lerner added, looking back to the last title won by a D.C-based ballclub.
“We’re all thrilled that my 94-year-old father, Ted Lerner, had his dream come true, to bring a World Series championship to his hometown,” he continued.
“It was a joy to watch you play and celebrate and support one another. The true definition of team.”
“Washington, D.C., we’re the World Champions, how about that? It’s got a good ring to it,” GM Mike Rizzo said at the start of his speech, before thanking the organization’s scouting and player development staff, which he always does.
“Davey Martinez,” Rizzo added, turning to the seventh full-time manager since 2006, who finally led the team to a title. “They were shoveling dirt on him in May, now he’s the World Champ. Congrats, Davey.”
“They counted us out, they knocked us down, we had injuries early, we didn’t perform like we wanted to, but not one person pointed a finger, no anonymous quotes, no clubhouse lawyers, no backbiting. Loyalty. And that’s why we’re here today.”
“The Washington Nationals fan base, again, you are the District of Champions,” Rizzo said.
“And I couldn’t be more humbled to be the President of Baseball Operations and General Manager for this franchise. Thank you.”
“Boom. Boom. Boom,” Davey Martinez said once he stepped to the podium.
Before he really got started, however, he called his team up to join him at the mic.
“First and foremost, I just want to say, everybody is talking about all this stuff, I love you guys,” Martinez told the fans who gathered to watch the show.
“You don’t have to tell me to stay in the fight, I’m going to fight,” the second-year skipper said, referring to his ejection in Game 6 of the World Series.
“I’m going to stick up for these boys, because they stuck up for me all year long.”
It was a long season for the manager, full, as he’d said after winning the NLCS, of bumpy roads which led to a beautiful place, and even a heart-related health scare that took him away from the team for a time late in the season, but that’s all in the past now.
“All this right here,” he said, “has cured this heart.”
“I believed since Day 1 that this thing would turn around, that we had the group of guys that had the strength and courage to make this thing turn around.”
“I think Anthony Rendon wants to say something right now,” Martinez said to conclude his time.
“First off, I want to say that I love baseball,” Rendon said, starting with a non-sequitur, “but you guys have just been nothing short of amazing out here.”
Rendon said the crowd in Nationals Park for the World Series was amazing, and added that he was thankful they won the final two games in Houston so he doesn’t have to hear it this winter, when he returns home there.
“D.C. this is all for you guys,” Juan Soto said when he stepped up.
“This group of guys has been amazing, all these veteran guys, all these new guys, the GM, all the owners have been amazing.”
“[Mayor Muriel Bowser] said, ‘Let’s go back-to-back,’” Martinez said as he stepped in to wrap up his portion of the celebration, referring to a comment by the Mayor in her own speech on Saturday afternoon.
“I’m all in, but let me enjoy this one first. I don’t know if my heart can take any more of this right now, so I need to just take a step back and enjoy this. Remember: ‘1-0.’ 1-0 is not over. 1-0 means waking up tomorrow and winning your day. Win your day, thank you.”
Then it was time for the 94-year-old patriarch of the ownership group to say a few words.
Theodore N. Lerner, who was born a year after the Washington Senators won it all in 1924, took the stage and thanked everyone involved for making his dream of bringing the World Series back to D.C. a reality.
“It’s been a very great day for the Washington Nationals,” Mr. Lerner said. “We thank you for everything you’ve done, and the Washington Nationals team and the fans, and we hope for a repetition some day.
“They say good things come to those who wait, 95 years is a pretty long wait,” Mr. Lerner joked, “but I’ll tell you, this is worth the wait.
“This is for the city that’s always believed, the players that always fought, and the fans who were with us every step of the way.”
“For a long time,” he continued, “... a lot of us believed in the words of former baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti, who said, ‘Baseball is designed to break your heart.’
“But this team believed the words of Bob Feller, who said, ‘Every day is a new opportunity.’ That’s the way life is, and that’s the way baseball is.
“That’s the way this team played every game, every pitch, every swing was a new opportunity to do something special, and that’s what everyone involved in this club did.”
“Finally I want to say a special word to the veterans on this team, ‘From now on you can call me, ‘Grandpa Shark.’”
Ryan Zimmerman, the 2005 1st Round pick, who stayed with the Nationals through it all, and says he isn’t done yet, talked as well, and got choked up as he discussed what it meant to him.
“What a special group of guys, man,” Zimmerman said of his teammates. “These guys, we fought all year long, we stayed together. We had such a cast of characters. Much has been made about the ‘Viejos’ and the young guys, and you know, we came from a dark place in June. We really were 1-0. We played playoff games from June 1st on and I think that really helped us.
“There’s not a team that I would have wanted to do this with more than these guys. Like Mr. Lerner said, it was worth the wait.”
“We’re 2019 World Series champs, and nobody can ever take that away from us.”
Stephen Strasburg, the World Series MVP, was led up to the podium, and was hugged by his Gerardo Parra and Aníbal Sánchez, recreating their post-start dugout celebration.
“This was quite a ride,” Strasburg said. “It’s something you dream about as a kid, I think we all did that.”
“Just such a special ride. The MVP trophy could have easily gone to any other guy here.”
“Right now,” Strasburg added, “I’m just going to soak in the moment and enjoy it with the rest of these fellas here.”
Before it was over, Adam Eaton invited everyone into a team tradition, ‘Going live,’ where he invited anyone who had an opinion to share it, calling up a number of players, hitting coach Kevin Long, and Sean Doolittle, who got off the passive-aggressive capper to the whole day.
“Hey do you guys remember when we brought camels to Spring Training?” Doolittle asked.
“And everybody laughed at us. Who’s laughing now?
“Also, we won the World Series on a Wednesday.”
One more thing. It was Trea Turner’s time to go live.
“Can we bring back Anthony Rendon?” Turner asked. He was not asking Rendon to return to say a few more words on the mic.
That pretty much summed up the feelings of all of the Nationals fans in attendance. So how many days until Spring Training?