Despite it now being six days since Daniel Hudson struck out Michael Brantley for the final out of the baseball season, we don’t blame you if the Washington Nationals winning the World Series still all feels a bit surreal.
Yes, it really did happen. Against all the odds that faced them all season, it happened.
Saturday’s parade has come and gone. The commissioner’s trophy has started making the rounds in the city, with Monday night’s appearance at the Washington Capitals game likely to be the first of many stops for the team and trophy.
Maybe after one of them, reality will set in that this miraculous team climbed the mountain.
Right now though, it’s all about soaking in the moment for the Nationals players, coaches, front office, ownership, and the fans. It’s long overdue whichever way you look at it.
It’s the first World Series crown that the franchise has won in its 50-year history that began in Montreal as the Expos and it’s the first World Series title that the city of Washington has celebrated since the Senators won it all almost 100 years ago in 1924.
“They say good things come to those who wait,“ Ted Lerner told the hundreds of thousands of fans at the parade. “95 years is a pretty long wait, but I’ll tell you, this is worth the wait.
“This is for the city that has always believed. The players that always fought and the fans who were with us every step of the way.”
Born in 1925, the elder Lerner just missed the last time a DC team won a World Series. The room definitely got a bit dusty as he brought up a pair of old baseball quotes.
“For a long time, a lot of us believed in the words of former baseball commissioner, Bart Giamatti, who said ‘baseball is designed to break your heart,’” Lerner said. “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 with this club did.”
While Lerner has lived through every year of the World Series drought in the nation’s capital, there’s one man who has been so ingrained in the DNA of the latest iteration of the franchise with the Nationals over the past 15 seasons.
Ryan Zimmerman, the team’s first-ever draft pick since the move to Washington, has played in every single Nationals season. He’s lived and breathed the Nats more than anyone else.
The now-first baseman has not only been an integral part of the team’s culture every season, but also the city as a whole, devoting his time to the community when not on the diamond.
After the crowd chanted his name, demanding a speech, Zimmerman stepped to the podium to describe what it felt like finally bringing a title back to DC after all those years.
“Like Mr. Lerner said it was worth the wait,” Zimmerman said. “The fans, we grew up together. I came here when I was 20-years-old, right out of college. You guys hadn’t had baseball in a long time. You were learning how to be baseball fans again.
“I got guys that come up to me now that are 30 years old and say I’ve been their favorite player since they were a kid — which is disturbing.”
Despite the sarcastic realization of how long he’s been here, Zimmerman is eternally grateful to the city for embracing him and his family.
“Thank you to the city of DC, you guys have been great,” Zimmerman told the crowd with tears in his eyes. “You guys are behind us all the time. Any time we go out to dinner, any time we’re walking on the streets, you guys have always been so supportive and so nice to us.
“I truly believe this is the greatest city to play sports in the world. Thank you.”
But winning the World Series was not just special because of the fans that he and the team were able to win it for. It was even more special being able to do it with such a tight-knit group.
Perhaps more than any of the other teams before them since the franchise moved, the 2019 version of the Washington Nationals had fun and genuinely enjoyed being in each other’s company.
The combinations of older veterans, or viejos as they like to be called, and younger players made for a perfect storm of personalities, flamboyance, and determination to reach their goal.
“There’s not a team that I would’ve wanted to do this with more than these guys,” Zimmerman said. “What a group of guys. We’re 2019 World Series champs and nobody can ever take that away from us.”
Over the coming weeks and months, this team may slowly break apart, with free agents heading to new homes, or players potentially being traded away. That’s the business of the sport.
But this group of players, together as one unit instead of a bunch of individuals, has provided the city of DC with so many unforgettable memories over the past 12 months. As Zimmerman says, they can never take away this championship season away from them.
So before the business side of the game kicks in, everyone should remember to soak everything in. Feel the goosebumps when watching back the highlights of this special run. For some, this has been a once in a lifetime moment. It’s time to enjoy it.