Victor Robles got the key on a shoestring, which is apparently the key to the batter’s box, after he homered for the first time this season on Tuesday night in the nation’s capital, to drive in what ended up being the winning for the Washington Nationals in a 4-3 win over Tampa Bay’s Rays. Robles was excited enough that he held it up as he ran the gauntlet of high fives and attaboys in the Nats’ dugout, and the MASN cameras caught it.
“Yeah, it’s something that, the last two or three weeks [manager] Davey [Martinez] carries it around,” Robles told reporters in his post game Zoom call after the win, “and he hands it to the home run of the game, kind of like the key of the game with a home run, and he handed it to me today.”
Kyle Schwarber, who’d hit his 16th home run in 18 games to lead off the bottom of the first, had the key at some point, but it was Juan Soto who’d hit a two-run home run in the home-half of the first as well, who handed it off to Robles in the bottom of the second.
“Hey, I’m happy to pass that thing off, whenever I can,” Schwarber told reporters when he was asked about the key. “And obviously I love to have it, but I’m looking forward to most — just passing that thing off to the next person.”
Robles said he was thrilled that he, “was finally able to get,” the key, but also probably that he hit first home run.
“I waited a long time to get it put on me, and I was able to do it tonight,” Robles added.
Ok, so he was talking mainly about the key.
So, what is the deal with this key, really?
“I was wondering when you guys were going to ask me that,” Martinez said in his pregame Zoom call on Wednesday, with what might be called a devious chuckle.
“It’s so funny, because I think it was during a doubleheader, where I told [Bench Coach Tim Bogar], I said, ‘Go get me a key,’ and he said, he goes, ‘What?’”
[ed. note- “You’re right, Tim. Uh, Mr. Bogar. Sorry. But what? Because it’s apparently a bench coach’s job to find random keys that don’t have to be used open something? C’mon.”]
“And I said, ‘I need a key,” Martinez continued, “and he said, ‘For what?’ I said, ‘Just go get me a key,’ so he got me a key, and I put it on a lanyard, which is actually a shoestring, and I just grabbed the boys in the dugout, and I said, “Hey, here’s the key!’
“And they said, ‘The key for what?’
“And I said, ‘The key to the batter’s box. Open up the batter’s box, and start swinging the bat.’
[ed. note - “Here Martinez laughed again.”].
“And it’s taken off, and now every time somebody hits a home run they pass the key along, and it’s been great, they’ve had a lot of fun with it.
“It’s just something to kind of loosen them up a little bit, not think so much up there, and they’re enjoying it, so it’s been good.
“As long as they keep passing that key along, I’m happy.”
So this started in a doubleheader with ... ?
“Giants,” Martinez said.
And ... does ... damn it, someone had to ask: Does the key have a name?
“We just call it the key. It’s just the key.”
[ed. note - “That reminds me of a scene from Twin Peaks, which, since we’ve decided to be as annoying as possible here, I’ll include below.”]:
Dale Cooper [looking at woman with a log in her arms in town hall meeting]: Who’s the lady with the log?
Sheriff Truman: We call her the Log Lady.
Log Lady: Shhhhhhh!
Okay, so back to the key. Uh, why? Exactly?
“When we had new bats boys,” Martinez explained, “we always said, ‘Hey,’ — we used to have a joke, ‘Hey, we need to get the key to the batter’s box, go upstairs and ask Wally [Nats’ clubhouse/equipment manager Mike Wallace] for the key to the batter’s box.’ So they’d come back and they said, ‘He didn’t have the key.’ And we said, ‘We need to find the key. So who has it?’ So we’d have the bat boy running all over the place looking for a key to the batter’s box, and we’d start laughing, and they’d come back and finally realize, ‘There is no key to the batter’s box.’ So I thought, ‘Hey, there is a key to the batter’s box,’ I said, ‘We’re going to get a key, and we’re going to start opening up that box, and let these guys loosen up a little bit and swing the bats.’
“It’s been something fun for the guys, and like I said, yesterday when Robles hit his home run, he started screaming out, ‘I got the key, I got the key.’”
The Nationals split that doubleheader with the Giants, by the way, back on Saturday, June 12th, and since then the club was 13-3 in the sixteen games that followed before Tuesday afternoon’s series finale with the Rays, which they won, so, 14-3 since that day, and 19-9 in the month of June.
So, the key is like a metaphor though, right? And for what exactly?
“For me, it’s just give them something else to think about besides going up there,” Martinez said, “just staying loose and just having some fun. For me, that’s what it was meant to be.
“It’s just I want them not to think so much when they go up to hit, just see the ball and hit it, so I thought, ‘Hey, just go up there and open up that batter’s box, and go to hitting.”
And does Robles keep the key after the game until it’s handed off the next day?
“The key comes back to me after every game and then I hold the key until something good happens,” Martinez said.
“And then I pass it along and then they hold that key until somebody else hits a home run and they pass it along.”