Next week, a phenomenon will occur that has not happened in Washington since the Franklin Roosevelt administration. For the first time in several generations, baseball fans from the District, Maryland, and Virginia finally will get to experience watching their hometown team play in the Fall Classic. The Washington Nationals are going to the World Series!
Other baseball teams, like the Yankees or the Cardinals, have a long history of success, as their fans will certainly be happy to tell you. For Washingtonians, our modern baseball history dates back only 14 years ago, when when the Montreal Expos relocated to Washington in 2005. We are the first generation of Washington Nationals fans, and this is the first time that we can say that our team is in the World Series.
For the younger generation of fans, like myself, this win is a coming of age experience. I literally grew up with the team. I was born in the summer of 2004, as the Expos were finishing up their final season north of the border. The first full baseball season I was alive for was the Nats’ inaugural season. My elementary years coincided with the team’s development years.
I went to my first baseball game as a five-year old in 2009. I will always remember that day. It was a game against the New York Mets. Our seats were so high up in the upper deck of Nationals Park you could feel the breeze coming from the Anacostia River. We complacently watched as the Mets scored five runs in the first inning against the Nationals’ starting pitcher, and the game ended in a usual rout for the lowly Washington team. But even on that day, I became a baseball fan for life.
The story of the Nationals franchise is the story of growth and maturation. I was in the ballpark in 2010, when
center fielder Nyjer Morgan had a temper tantrum in the outfield and threw his glove at a missed fly ball, which led to an inside-the-park home run. That was the same year Jason Marquis gave up 10 runs in the first inning without recording an out. I was despondent when closer Drew Storen gave up two go-ahead runs with 2 outs and 2 strikes in the 9th inning of the Nationals’ first playoff series. I remember pitcher Henry Rodriguez throw a 100 mph fastball so wide of the catcher’s glove that it ricocheted off of the backstop and nearly hit Rodriguez, who was standing on the mound, in the head. The Nationals’ 2014 season ended in the playoffs with a wild pitch on an intentional walk, followed by another bases-loaded wild pitch. The Nationals’ 2015 season ended with the closer putting a chokehold on the MVP outfielder in the dugout during a game.
That’s not to say it has all been bad as a Nats fan. We’ve seen more no-hitters thrown in our team’s short history than the New York Mets organization. We even saw Max Scherzer throw a near-perfect game! We had 8 years of Bryce Harper: MLB Rookie of the Year, National League MVP, Home Run Derby Champion. We had Jayson Werth’s 2012 Game 4 walk-off home run. We have seen Hall of Fame caliber play in our ballpark.
But we never made it past the first round of the playoffs.
Expectations were low this season. I remember walking home from school this February when I learned of the news that Bryce Harper had signed with the Phillies. I was crushed. Even though I came to expect Harper to sign elsewhere, the fact he was going to one of our biggest rivals was absolutely devastating. I had lost hope in this team early in the season when they had a 19-31 record through the first 50 games. I thought the team needed new management and would re-enter its building phase. I convinced myself that they were going to focus on developing their young talent like Juan Soto and Victor Robles, but we would not see this team playing in October.
But, they stayed in the fight. They persevered. Now, they are headed to the World Series.
Win or lose, I’m proud of this team for the way they inspired their fans. They showed grit and determination. There is a lesson in showing that hard work and drive pays off even when the odds are stacked against you. Eight year-old “Matt’s Bats” who started this blog would be bouncing off the walls with excitement if he knew that the Nationals would someday, somehow make the World Series and he would be there to see it happen. In truth, 2019 Matt’s Bats is bouncing off the walls with excitement, too. Literal tears of joy and relief were shed on October 5, when the Nationals punched their ticket with a 7-4 win over the Cardinals. (The Cardinals!).
Next week, I will take my seat at Nationals Park to see my favorite team playing in the World Series in Washington.
Before we embark on this journey together, which could bring back the first baseball title to Washington since the invention of sliced bread, I can only think of one thing to say to our new Texas foe:
“Houston, y’all have a problem.”