Before Katie Ledecky threw the ceremonial first pitch at Nationals Park on Wednesday, she turned Bryce Harper into her personal Olympic medal display rack. It’s apparently easier to throw a strike without 5.5 pounds of hardware hanging from one’s neck.
“We kind of planned that when I got to the park today,” Ledecky, who won four gold medals and one silver in Rio, told Bob Carpenter and F.P. Santangelo during a third-inning visit to the MASN broadcast booth. “I proposed that idea and I guess Bryce wanted to be the one that held them, so, it was pretty fun to get out there and have that moment and throw a strike.”
— Katie Ledecky (@katieledecky) August 25, 2016
Ledecky had thrown a ceremonial first pitch at Nationals Park before — in 2012 and 2014 — but she said Wednesday’s experience was “a little different.”
“The players wanted pictures with me and it was kind of awkward for me because I’m such a big fan of theirs,” said the 19-year-old Bethesda native, who visited the Nationals’ clubhouse before the game. “I don’t really see me in that position yet, so it was fun to get some pictures and meet them all.”
Nationals Manager Dusty Baker greeted Ledecky in the Nationals dugout.
“You’re a baaaad girl,” he said. “I’m proud of you, big time.”
— Carol Maloney (@carolmaloney4) August 24, 2016
— Heather Zimmerman (@HeatherZiMS) August 25, 2016
Ledecky was asked about the Nats showing her 800-meter freestyle race on the scoreboard during the seventh inning stretch two weeks ago.
“It was really cool,” said Ledecky, who broke her own world record in the event to win one of her four golds. “Someone in the mixed zone in the media right after my race told me [about it]. I guess they had seen on Twitter or somewhere that they showed it at Nats Park and they told me that. I thought it was so awesome. I got back to the village after my race and, sure enough, there was a video somewhere and I saw it. It meant a lot to me to see that.”
“I love the support from this area,” Ledecky said later. “I really feel it every time I compete internationally. Just all the messages, all the good lucks I receive. We all really feel it, and we know we’re swimming for more than ourselves, we’re swimming for our country and everyone back home cheering us on.”
After the game, Harper, Ledecky’s Most Valuable Medal-Holder, wrote on Instagram that “it was a pleasure holding something so valuable and important to this great country.” The reigning National League MVP also expressed hope that he will have the opportunity to win his own medal at the 2020 Games in Tokyo, where baseball will return to the Olympic program. (MLB’s best players didn’t participate when baseball was an official Olympic sport from 1992 to 2008, but Harper would like to see that change.)
Growing up you dream to play in the show, you dream to play everyday no matter what trying to win and be the best you can for your team and city! With that being said nothing is like playing for your country representing the red white and blue…standing on the baseline listening to the National Anthem and just knowing you represent something way bigger than yourself! Nothing in that moment or time means more than THE USA on your chest..I really hope we as a group have a huge opportunity to play in the @olympics in 2020! #USA #MLB