The energetic outfielder brought life to a clubhouse that was flailing in the early part of the season.
He taught the Nationals how to have fun playing baseball again after their awful start had gotten spirits down in the dugout.
Because of his character, when he started using Baby Shark as his walk-up song, it became infectious. The team began using Baby Shark themed gestures after base hits, there were the real-time t-shirts, shark bandannas and more. It was a city-wide craze.
If for some reason you need more evidence, there’s a shark on the damn World Series ring.
However, this offseason, Parra took Baby Shark with him to Japan after signing with the Yomiuri Giants for $2 million, leaving a huge void in the clubhouse that needed to be filled.
So, how are the Nats planning to replace the legacy of Baby Shark this year?
Well, you may have noticed during some of the team’s televised exhibition games and the series against the New York Yankees that Nationals players who reached second base did some kind of trumpet gesture back to the dugout.
Starlin Castro and Juan Soto were spotted doing it in the team’s exhibition games with the Baltimore Orioles, while Victor Robles and Adam Eaton were both seen doing it during the series against the Yankees.
Is this gesture the replacement for the Baby Shark signs from last year?
“That’s just our new little sign that we use as a team,” Robles said via the team’s interpreter, Octavio Martinez, on Saturday.
“Last year we had the Baby Shark little hand gestures with Gerardo Parra, and this year it was Emilio Bonifácio who created that sign of the flute, just to make it fun and get some energy going.
“We all want to get to second base and play that flute amongst each other, so it’s definitely fun.”
The trumpet, or flute, is catching on quickly enough that the team is already sporting shirts with a trumpet on them.
The team’s young center fielder had one on full display when he spoke to the media following Saturday’s game with the Yankees.
“Yes, [Bonifácio]'s the one that created the shirt actually,” Robles said via Martinez. “He brought it in and now we have the shirt and that’s where the sign comes from and he actually said, Emilio said that he was going to bring his trumpet.
“After the game we celebrated like we usually do, amongst ourselves in the clubhouse, and enjoying ourselves and having fun, and he said he felt a little like he was missing something, which he didn’t bring his trumpet today, but he said he’ll definitely have it for tomorrow.”
True to his word, Bonifácio brought the trumpet to the ballpark on Sunday and it was even in the dugout during the game, though it like didn’t get played after the team lost the game, 3-2.
But where did Bonifácio’s trumpet obsession come from?
While playing for the Tigres del Licey in the Dominican Winter League, Bonifácio brought a song called Mueve la Cadera into the clubhouse.
The song in question just so happens to have a very catchy trumpet chorus which spread like wildfire among the players.
Funny how this all sounds a lot like the Nationals and Baby Shark last year, right?
The trumpet phenomenon grew with the instrument becoming a lucky charm for the Tigres as they finished runners up in the LIDOM and led to celebration videos with Bonifácio as the star.
His energy in the clubhouse was evident for the Tigres, helping to keep the team loose and having fun playing baseball, just as Parra did for the 2019 version of the Nationals.
His clubhouse presence is one of the main reason that the Nationals decided to take a chance on him this winter with a minor league deal and invitation to Spring Training. They value intangibles and in their eyes, Bonifácio had plenty of them.
His new manager has already noticed his energy and influence on the Nats’ clubhouse.
“He’s one of those guys that brings energy every day,” manager Dave Martinez said before Sunday’s game. “Obviously he’s a pretty good trumpet player. [Sunday] we’re going to have him play hopefully after the game, but these guys were telling me how the trumpet thing is real.
“So, we got these t-shirts made up. We’ve got these trumpet t-shirts for everybody, but he keeps everything fun. Him, Sánchez, Cabrera, Robles, all — they make our clubhouse a lot of fun.”
Once the Nats started having fun again last season, they took off. As we all know by now, it helped them leave behind their dismal 19-31 start to become World Series champions.
It’s impossible to know right now whether Bonifácio’s trumpet antics will have quite the same effect on the 2020 Nationals. But it does at least seem as though the team learned from last year’s recipe for success and is trying to replicate it this season in wind instrument form.