The NASA scientist and the Nats anthem

While he was driving his then-grade-school-aged son to their first opening day together a quarter-century ago, Dr. Barry Geldzahler asked the lad whether he knew the national anthem.

“Take Me Out to the Ballgame?” the boy asked.

“Close enough,” Geldzahler remembered responding.

The story occurred to NASA’s chief scientist for space communications and navigation while explaining why he composed a song about baseball, and specifically, an anthem for his favorite team, the Nats.

“I thought, this should make people happy,” Geldzahler told me this week. “We didn’t want it real complicated. We wanted something simple, a melody that people could remember four, five, six beers down….Something that people can carry with them when they leave the stadium or on the way there, just something to get people going.”

The result was “Let’s Go Nats,” a ditty that variously references the Racing Presidents, Half Street and, of course, Natitude. Geldzahler, 64, played music in high school before getting more serious about it in recent years; his biggest musical inspiration remains the Beatles, whom he saw twice in concert. That’s why he helped NASA beam the band’s “Across the Universe” into deep space, aimed at Polaris, traveling 186,000 miles per second, a few years back.

“I’ve been a Beatles fan for 45 years – as long as the Deep Space Network has been around,” he said at the time. “What a joy, especially considering that ‘Across the Universe’ is my personal favorite Beatles song.”

(As an aside, a senior NASA scientist and SABR member who beams Beatles tunes into deep space is such a perfect representation of the Nats fanbase. “I can get you to Mars, but I can’t get you from Point A to Point B on Earth without a GPS system,” he joked. Love this town.)

Anyhow, he hoped to eventually get the Nats interested in playing the song, at least on NASA Night in July. His son — who this season accompanied Geldzahler to their 25th opening day together — is lukewarm on the tune; “some people will like it, but it’s more of an ’80s-type style,” he told his father. No matter. The composer listens to the song in his car on gamedays, and does some chair dancing, and thinks he can hear some of the joy he was trying to create.

“I mean, finally we’ve got a real winner here,” he said. “That’s sort of what we wanted for ‘Let’s Go Nats,’ just something people could be happy about.”

Dan Steinberg writes about all things DC sports at the DC Sports Bog.
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