“Mr. Lerner was an irreplaceable presence whose passing leaves a profound void in the Washington Nationals family,” Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo said in a statement following the news on the late Managing Principal Owner of the club, Theodore N. “Ted” Lerner, passing away days before the start of Spring Training 2023 last month.
“He was truly one of a kind,” Rizzo added.
“Those of us who had the privilege of working for Mr. Lerner observed a brilliant business mind and a uniquely thoughtful form of analysis. His confident, systematic approach to challenges provided me a life-long lesson in persistence and perseverance. His influence on me was immeasurable and I will always be grateful for the opportunities he afforded the entire Nationals’ organization.
“I send my sincere condolences to the entire Lerner family.”
Those comments came in a press release from the GM in D.C., but when he spoke with the members of the press gathered in West Palm Beach, FL a few days later, Rizzo shared some more personal thoughts on what Mr. Lerner meant to him personally.
“Ted was huge in my career,” the former scout, Scouting Director, Assistant GM, and General Manager said of the man he worked for from 2006 until Mr. Lerner passed away, years after stepping away from his active role atop the organization.
“Maybe the biggest individual to impact my career,” Rizzo continued. “He was a man that commanded, did not demand, but commanded great respect, and he had it from me on day one. There was an aura about him when you met with him. I think that the dynamic that he and I had, which was unique, was we spoke very freely to each other, especially in private. We fought when we needed to fight, we agreed when we needed to agree, but the one thing we all had in common, was that my job is to be the caretaker of the franchise, and to respect and keep the Lerners’ name as pristine as it is in the DMV.”
Rizzo wasn’t the only one to discuss the impact Mr. Lerner had on their career.
Nationals’ Manager Davey Martinez too talked about the opportunity he received from the Lerner family, and told reporters about his personal interactions with Mr. Lerner, which he said began before he was hired on in D.C., when he interviewed for the job on the bench a few years earlier and didn’t get it.
“He was an incredible man,” Martinez began. “He gave me an opportunity to do something that I really love, and he accepted me here. So it’s been awesome.”
“I’ll never forget what he’s done for me and my family,” the skipper added.
“I can remember, going way back — I interviewed for the job in 2013 — obviously I didn’t get the job [at that point], but he’s the only owner that’s ever called me, and that meant a lot to me.”
As Martinez explained, Mr. Lerner called after the club went with Matt Williams as their new manager that year, but the owner made sure to let the current manager know he’d impressed while he went through the process of interviewing for the gig.
“He called me and he told me, he said, ‘Hey, look, whatever you do, you’re going to be successful.’
“He said, ‘Your interview was great. I wish you all the best. And who knows what will happen in the future, and I thought that was pretty awesome.”
To honor the legacy of Mr. Lerner in the nation’s capital, the club announced this past weekend they will induct him into the Ring of Honor which wraps around the facade below the upper deck in the Nationals’ home.
Mr. Lerner’s name will be the 24th added to the Ring of Honor, and it will be put behind home plate, under the owner’s box.
In addition, the club will wear a TNL patch which features three stars (representing the DMV) above the late owner’s initials for home and away games this season.