PITTSBURGH - Randy Knorr sat a few rows back of home plate here Saturday, with the first pitch more than three hours away.
A baseball lifer, Knorr wore red shorts, a blue Nationals shirt, sunglasses, and track shoes with a few days of a beard on his sun-drenched cheeks. His days of intense running before games has been put on hold with surgery on his right foot, due to arthritis, a possibility after this season.
The first-base coach for the Nationals, former Major League catcher Knorr dealt with a breakthrough COVID-19 case earlier this season before his return to the Washington bench.
“I think if I didn’t get the [Johnson vaccine] shot I would have ended up in the hospital,” said Knorr, 52, who instead had to stay at his apartment for nearly two weeks.
“We tested positive in Philadelphia” in late July, Knorr added, noting other coaches were also involved. “The next day they put us on a bus and took us back to D.C. It was tough. I have the baseball package [on TV]. I watched every game that was on.”
Adding to the frustration: the Nationals dealt away several veterans in late July that Knorr had known for years.
“We were not even able to say goodbye,” Knorr said. “It is hard to watch somebody else do your job.”
Being back in The Show isn’t something he takes for granted.
“A lot of people say they don’t want to be in the big leagues; I don’t believe it when they say that,” Knorr added. “You work hard to get here. It is the best baseball you are going to watch every day.”
Knorr was drafted in the 10th round out of his California high school by Toronto in 1986 and he made it to the majors five years later.
The backup catcher ended his Major League career with Montreal in 2001 - beginning a long association with the Montreal/Washington franchise.
It was early in his career that he met Davey Martinez, who was also in the majors at the time.
The two would take batting practice in the off-season at the University of Tampa and other fields in the Tampa Bay area. Martinez is a former player and coach for Tampa Bay.
“We lived near each other and used to work out,” said Knorr, who lives in the Tampa area in the winter.
The families of the two took cruises together and spent a lot of time with each other.
“I try to keep them positive; we have such a great staff here,” Knorr said. “Everybody covers everything. I will control the running game, defensively and offensively. I just try to go round and stay positive with everybody.”
Knorr is a former bench coach for the Nationals under Davey Johnson and Matt Williams and by 2019 was the manager for Triple-A Fresno.
Before this season, he was added to the staff of Martinez. “He has been tremendous,” Martinez told reporters earlier this year.
Knorr has seen an influx of young talent to the system from other organizations as the team struggles to the finish.
“We don’t really want to say re-build,” said Knorr, with a smile. “We really don’t. I don’t think [GM] Mike [Rizzo] and Davey are thinking re-build. We have very good talent; it is exciting to watch them play. We want to be competitive and try to win the division next year.”
Knorr has a saying about umpires and catchers that applies to Ruiz.
“When you don’t notice them, they are really good,” he said. “I really think [Ruiz] is going to hit; he is not doing it now. He might be a little anxious; I really think he is going to hit.
“Riley is a big strong guy and he hits the ball a mile. I think it is important for Davey to see these guys. It seems like we are in every single game. We come up short most nights. It is not a lack of effort.”