Jayson Werth entered through the doors at the back of Citizens Bank
Ballpark and strolled through the gray-cement corridor, the same walk he made hundreds of times over the past four years. This walk was different, of course. The walk to the visitors clubhouse required him to pass to the Phillies clubhouse.
The circumstances of a baseball road trip allow for little reflection – you play a game, hop on a bus, board a plane, find your hotel room, sleep late, wake up and grab a cab or another bus and walk into another park. When Werth saw his old clubhouse, it struck him.
“I definitely walked through that door a few times,” he said.
Werth will play his first game as National in Philadelphia tonight, and in all likelihood the fans here are going to boo the living heck out of him. Maybe not the ones behind the Nationals dugout before the game, the ones who yelled “We miss you, Jayson!” and “Good luck this year!” Werth is typically oblivious during his pregame routine. When he saw them, he smiled and waved.
Werth knew that those fans were not likely representative of what he would find once the game starts. A few Nationals joked they should send Andrew Melnick, a clubhouse attendant who bears a striking resemblance to Werth, to right field dressed in Werth’s uniform, just for one inning.
“I really am looking forward to playing here, for better or for worse,” Werth said. “You can’t take away from me - you can’t take away from us, what we had. It was a special time in sports history, let alone Philadelphia sports history. Hopefully I’ll be remembered for the good times, and after that, I understand. I understand all bets are off. Where this team is, and where their fans are at, I mean, I get it. I’m only one man.”
Werth cherished his time with the Phillies, where he became a start and won the 2008 World Series. When asked he wanted to happen tonight, Werth made it pretty clear that he cares about the reception the Philadelphia fans give him, even if he expects the worst.
“That’s a good question,” Werth said. “Obviously, I know a little bit about Philly fans and their makeup. There’s a little bit of history there. There’s some good times. You look back, I’m very proud to be a member of the 2008 World Series champions. That will never be taken away from me. I’m a proud member. I’ll relish that for the rest of my life. My days in Philly are over, and I’m starting something new here in Washington. Hopefully, there’ll be a mutual respect.”
Before the game, Werth visited with members of the grounds crew and chatted with security guards, people once saw every day. He talked about he’ll always want to keep playing here – previously, Werth has expressed satisfaction the signing with the Nationals kept him in the National League East.
There are certainly things he misses about this place. What does he miss the most? “That’s a good question,” Werth said. “Ask me tomorrow.”