Gerardo Parra had an emotional reaction to his first plate appearance in Nationals Park since back in 2019, when he was part of the Washington’s World Series winning roster.
It was very 2019 in the nation’s capital on Sunday, with Parra’s “Baby Shark” walk-up song, shark movements from fans in the stands again, and a big win for the home team.
“To be honest, I almost cried. I almost cried,” Parra said in a post game Zoom call following his return to the majors, after a year in Japan, and a few months of rehabbing from surgery on his right knee this season at Triple-A Rochester.
“If I compare my first at bat in the big leagues and that one, I feel more like nervous right now. So my leg shaked a little bit, and happy, happy to see all the fans stand up and play, dance Baby Shark, so I feel like I returned to 2019 again. So happy for that.”
They were, of course, tears of joy for the 34-year-old outfielder, who was playing in the first game of his 12th big league campaign.
“Yes, for sure. But like I said,” Parra explained, “it’s hard, because when I go to home plate I try to see everybody and wait to take the at bat, because there’s a lot of emotion in that moment.”
He did, of course, double, and then score on Kyle Schwarber’s third home run in that game, which gave the Nationals a little breathing room in what was a 3-2 affair before the homer.
“It’s a great moment for me,” Parra said, “... because the game is almost tied, and just try to do my best and bring an energy to the team, to the guys again, and we tried to deliver, because the guys are playing good right now, have a good team right now.”
“Let’s play every day hard,” he added. “Don’t think of nothing that happens outside the field, just do what you do like we do every time, and right now, just try emotion every day when I have the opportunity to do it.”
Schwarber, who hit three dingers in the series finale with the New York Mets, and nine total on the Nationals’ 11-game homestand, talked to reporters about his first experience seeing the Parra Shark phenomenon up close.
“I was on the other side of it, I think,” he said. “I’m pretty sure GP got a couple at bats in ‘19 against us when I was on the other side, and the song was playing, and the fans were loving it, or it was — I saw it on Twitter, and I was like, ‘Man, this is awesome.’ And to see the way that the fans get behind it and the way that we’re going to get behind it, and things like that and get these fans rolling, it’s a great feeling.”
It’s all a bit silly, sure, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an impact on the players, and on the fans in the stands.
”100%,” Schwarber said. “I mean, when you got fans up on their feet, cheering, roaring, and it makes a difference on the opposing team first off, and it just gives you kind of that extra boost, that extra energy to keep pushing forward. And you want to keep the excitement level up.
“Driving in a run, whatever it is, keeping that excitement up and great at bat by GP there, shooting the curve ball down the left field line, getting a double.
“I was happy to get him in and the crowd was still going, and they were still going the whole game, so it was awesome.”
“That’s playoff atmosphere when Baby Shark comes on,” Patrick Corbin, a former teammate of Parra’s when both were with the D-backs, said after starting in last Sunday’s game.
“Which is a little crazy when you’ve got a bunch of adults out there doing shark movements.
“But I mean, that’s been Parra ever since I’ve known him in Arizona. He brings energy, I mean, you knew he was going to do something there when he got up there. And just what a great teammate.”
The left-hander said there was a bit of a 2019 vibe in the ballpark.
Gerardo Parra last played for us in Game 5 of the 2019 World Series.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) June 20, 2021
602 days later, he doubled in his 1st AB back.
BASEBALL. IS. BEAUTIFUL.@88_gparra // #NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/dybKEEcSQn
“It kind of seemed like that when that song came back on. I mean, pretty electric in there.
“I think this was our biggest crowd of the season, so to see that was awesome. But, we love the fans, we love when they’re out there cheering for us.
“You play better when the stadium is packed, when these guys are behind you, even sometimes on the road when they’re against you. You love that energy, and that was definitely something that we missed last season.
“And can’t wait, hopefully sometime soon we sell out this place.”
Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez said you could definitely tell the players were feeding off of the energy in the ballpark.
“100%,” Martinez said. “I kid you not. Our fans, when they get loud and they get into the game, our players get that extra momentum on our side and you can see it.”
“I see it especially. So thank you,” he said to the fans in D.C., “and keep on coming, the boys are starting to play well, they’re starting to swing the bats well, we’re getting some consistency now in everything, it’s been a lot fun, this week has been a lot of fun. So let’s keep it going.”
With fans in the stands, ‘Baby Shark’ on the stadium speakers, and Parra back up is it a real 2019 feel for the manager of the ‘19 World Series champs?
“I honestly think that this team has their own identity and they understand what they need to do daily,” Martinez explained, after an 8-3 homestand, on which the Nationals won 7 of their last 8 games.
“Like I said, it’s really clicking and every guy is doing their part. I sit back and it’s really fun to watch.
“Our starting pitching is giving us the innings we need, and our bullpen is coming in and pitching well. The guys are starting to swing the bats.
“[Victor] Robles today swung the bat well, Starlin [Castro] got a hit today.
“I can’t say enough about Starlin’s defense. He’s been unbelievable playing defense.
“Everybody is doing their part, and it’s really fun to watch, and I’m excited about where we go from here.”
Especially with Parra around to raise everyone’s spirits.
One thing he’s less excited about? Upon arriving in Citizens Bank Park for the first of two with the Philadelphia Phillies, Martinez had Parra coming into his office, which is, he told reporters, something that the veteran outfielder has done and still plans to do a lot.
“Parra is Parra,” the manager said. “He came in today, he got his work in early today, I saw him earlier, as you know, he came in messing around with me in my office already, and I asked him again, ‘Is this going to be an everyday thing with you again? Or can I just have a moment for myself?’ And he said, ‘No, I’m back. So be ready.’
“But it’s good to have him around.”
Sounds like it. And “messing around with” the manager? What’s that look like?
“He just comes in and starts yip-yapping about who knows what, and always very handsy, and I’m like, ‘Hey, leave me alone right now.”
“Just having him in the clubhouse and for morale and whatnot I think is always good,” Trea Turner said on Tuesday night. “We got a pretty good group here. Each and every year we’ve had — I say it all the time that [GM Mike Rizzo] and the front office are great at signing guys and signing good people, so we have a lot of fun, we try to enjoy it, but he’s a special character and he’s had some good at bats already for us. The double the other day and the walk tonight, so he’s going to be a good veteran presence, and a fun teammate to be with.”