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Nationals’ Gerardo Parra brings more than the Parra Shark phenomenon...

“The guy is an above-average defensive outfielder, he’s got a cannon for a throwing arm, he’s a good, intelligent baserunner, and can hit off the bench.” - Mike Rizzo on Gerardo Parra on The Sports Junkies

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

As Gerardo Parra explained it back in mid-June, he chose that “Baby Shark” song as his walk-up music for a change of pace and because his daughter liked it.

“I wanted to put up something different,” Parra said after going 2 for 4 with a double, home run, and outfield assist on a play at the plate in a June 19th game against the Phillies in D.C.

“My daughter loves that song, so before the game I tried to put in merengue, reggaeton, hip-hop, I said, you know what I want to put in ‘Baby Shark’.”

It took a little while for it to become a thing, but within a month, (with Parra getting sporadic at bats and the Nationals on the road for 15 games over that stretch), it had become a full-on phenomenon, with crowd participation in Nationals Park and even a t-shirt:

“It’s pretty cool,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said after the first time the whole park really did the Parra Shark clap together.

“I guess they got t-shirts now. I wish I could get one. But we don’t get them.”

Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo, who knew Parra from their time together in Arizona, signing the outfielder in his role as the D-backs’ scouting director in 2004, said he wasn’t aware of the “Baby Shark” song until it started playing in Nationals Park when Parra walked to the plate.

“No, I wasn’t really in-tune to it. I knew about the song, because I heard the song, but, yeah, it’s a phenomenon. Parra, typical Parra, is the one who instigated the whole thing and I think it’s pretty cool,” Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies last month.

Rizzo was sure to note, of course, that there’s more to Parra than the kitsch factor of his walk-up song.

“First and foremost,” Rizzo explained, “the guy is an above-average defensive outfielder, he’s got a cannon for a throwing arm. He’s a good, intelligent baserunner, and can hit off the bench. We knew that going into the fact when we acquired him. I have a personal history with him. I signed him as a 16-year-old, so I’ve known him since he’s 15 years old, so I knew what the kid was all about. I knew the energy he brought to the Diamondbacks when we had him there and eventually to the Rockies and then with us.

“He’s got an infectious personality. He’s got a motor that never stops. He’s got a great energy and people just want to be around him. It was really good for the clubhouse, but again, he brings a lot of things to the table. His makeup is certainly a big part of it, but he’s still a good little player that can do a lot of stuff for us. As a bench player and as a leader, he’s taken up both of those roles and excelled at both of them.”

Parra has a .272/.318/.456 line, seven doubles, four home runs, and 23 RBIs in 52 games and 111 plate appearances since he joined the Nationals, and overall on the season, the now-32-year-old, 11-year veteran has a .318/.436/.636 line, with five of his 10 doubles, three of five home runs, and 26 of 29 RBIs in at bats with runners in scoring position.

Parra joined the Nationals two weeks before they went on the run that’s put them back into the postseason race. Is he the spark that started the turnaround? It’s kind of a coincidence, and the Nats did get a bunch of injured players back over that period as well, which clearly had an impact on the results since then, but things have definitely changed in the dugout, and in the clubhouse, and he’s played a part in those changes.

“It’s a feel-good clubhouse,” Rizzo said during his visit with the Sports Junkies this week, when he was asked about the Parra Shark thing and the dynamics in the clubhouse.

“You’ve got a bunch of veterans in there that are great people,” he added. “It’s anchored by Howie Kendrick and Brian Dozier, kind of the new guys that are here. Then you get the Rendons and the Scherzers and the Turners that have become leaders and you’ve got the stalwart in [Ryan Zimmerman], who’s always a presence. So yeah, it’s a good mix of youthful exuberance with [Victor] Robles and [Juan] Soto and those guys, and the grizzled veterans, and you’ve got Fernando Rodney really working hard with those bullpen guys, and I think you’ve seen an uptick in [Wander] Suero’s play since Rodney’s been here and that’s no coincidence. It’s a good match, it’s a good mixture, and I don’t know — the chicken or the egg — if good chemistry comes when you win or winning comes with good chemistry, but whatever it is for the last 60 or so games we’ve been better than anybody in the league and we hope to continue that run and take this thing into playing meaningful games in September and October.”