Nationals fans rejoice in red as hometown heroes are honored
The song “Baby Shark” blared over loudspeakers and a wave of red washed across this politically blue capital Saturday as Nationals fans lined the city’s version of the Canyon of Heroes to rejoice in Washington’s first World Series victory since 1924.
“We just felt it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Bridget Chapin, who came from Burke, Virginia, with her husband, Mark, for the parade along Constitution Avenue and a rally a few blocks from the Capitol.
Nick Hashimoto of Dulles, Virginia, was among those who arrived at 5 a.m. to snag a front-row spot. He brought his own baby shark toy in honor of backup outfielder Gerardo Parra’s walk-up song, which began as a parental tribute to the musical taste of his 2-year-old daughter and ended up as a rallying cry that united fans at Nationals Park and his teammates.
As “Baby Shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo” played on a crisp morning, early risers joined in with the trademark response — arms extended in a chomping motion. Chants of “Let’s go Nats!” resonated from the crowd hours before they were to hear from the team.
“I’ve met all these people today. I’ve got new friends,” said Kimberly Ballou of Silver Spring, Maryland.
The Nationals got a hero’s welcome home from tens of thousands of people in a city that had thirsted for a baseball champion for nearly a century. The Nationals gave them that by winning in seven games over the Houston Astros; the clincher came on the road Wednesday night.
At a rally after the parade, team officials, Nationals manager Dave Martinez and several players talked to the cheering fans about what their support and the great season meant to them.
Nationals veteran slugger Howie Kendrick, 36, told the crowd that when he came to the Nationals in 2017 “I was thinking about retiring. This city taught me to love baseball again.”
“I just wish they could have won in DC,” said Ronald Saunders of Washington, who came with a Little League team that was marching in the parade.
The crowd along the route was deeply packed. Cheers went up and fans waved red streamers, hand towels and signs that said “Fight Finished” as the players rode by on the open top of double-decker buses. General Manager Mike Rizzo, a cigar in his mouth, jumped off with the World Series trophy to show the fans lining the barricades and slap high-fives. Manager Martinez also got in on the fun.
“We know what this title means to DC, a true baseball town, from the Senators to the Grays and now the Nationals,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said at the rally. “By finishing the fight you have brought a tremendous amount of joy to our town and inspired a new generation of players and Nationals fans.”
Bowser added: “We are deeply proud of you and I think we should do it again next year. What do you think?” Then she started a chant of “Back to back! Back to back!”
Martinez said he liked to hear the mayor pushing for back-to-back championships, and said: “I get it. I’m all in. But let me enjoy this one first. I don’t know if my heart can take any more of this right now. I need to just step back and enjoy this.”
Martinez, who had a heart procedure recently, said that during the Series, fans were shouting at him: “Your heart, your heart…. All this has cured my heart.”
Nationals owner Ted Lerner told the crowd that even though it took 95 years, “this was worth the wait.”
And he played off the “Baby Shark” theme once more, saying “From now on, you can call me ‘Grandpa Shark.'”
President Donald Trump has invited the Nationals to the White House on Monday, though relief pitcher Sean Doolittle doesn’t plan to attend.
“There’s a lot of things, policies that I disagree with, but at the end of the day, it has more to do with the divisive rhetoric and the enabling of conspiracy theories and widening the divide in this country,” Doolittle told The Washington Post.
Doolittle found support from Larry Stokes of Boyds, Maryland, citing Trump’s stand on immigrants. “They’re playing this game, but he doesn’t like immigrants,” Stokes said.
But to fan Bridget Chapin, “Regardless of how you feel, you go to the Oval Office. I’m really weary of athletes making political statements. I watch sports to get away from all that.”
The president attended Game 5 in Washington and was greeted with loud boos when he was shown on the giant video screen during a tribute to veterans. The boos more than overwhelmed a scattering of cheers.
Delores Smith of Washington, a longtime baseball fan who said she had an uncle who pitched in the Negro Leagues, said the World Series was “a big win” for the city. “This is the first time in a long time that I’ve seen the whole city come together. There’s no fussing about Trump.”
In a city divided by politics, race and economics, the Nats were something of a unifier — at least for the time being — as partisans and nonpartisans alike openly congratulated one another on their team’s win.
Even with the threat of stars leaving for free agency — as outfielder Bryce Harper did after 2018 — fans hoped the Nationals’ success would continue.
“I don’t think it’s going to be our last time. This team, even when our last superstar left, this team rallied around, they played as a team,” Stokes said.