“We got there early to watch batting practice the following day, and Werth comes over to her and says, ‘Hey, I saw you in the parking lot last night, waving at the bus,’ ” Chris said. ” ‘We were all waving back at you.’ That’s what really hooked her. I’m a [Bryce] Harper superfan, and I tried turning her on to Harper, but she was like, ‘I’m taking this guy. I like him.’ I wasn’t going to steer her away. She fell in love with him, and it just kind of snowballed from there.”
Jude’s affection for Werth was evident on her face when Rockies pitcher Matt Carasiti drilled the Nationals outfielder in the triceps with a seventh-inning pitch that day. Jude put her hands on her head in abject horror as Werth stood up, dusted himself off and jogged to first base.
“We thought he got hit in the head,” said Chris, who had a screen shot of Jude’s shocked reaction to the hit-by pitch framed and put in her room after he got word that MASN’s cameras caught the entire thing during the broadcast.
When Rockies tickets went on sale for the 2017 season, the Ozaluks secured seats along the left field line for all four games of the Nationals’ only trip to Denver, which concluded Thursday. About a month ago, Jude approached her parents with an idea. Instead of asking Werth for an autograph when the Nationals came to town, she would give him an autograph.
Jude was among the first fans through the gates when Coors Field opened Monday, and she made a beeline for where Werth was warming up.
“Right when I got down there, I didn’t even yell anything. He just turned around and came over,” Jude said.
“He actually remembered her,” Chris said. “He knew exactly who she was, and it was like they were old friends who hadn’t seen each other in a year.”
Jude handed Werth the framed photo that had been sitting on her dresser, which she inscribed with “Jayson Werth #1 Fan Jude Oz” in silver Sharpie. Jude included her address on the back of the frame because her third-grade class has a pen pal writing assignment and, well, it would be pretty neat to be pen pals with a major league baseball player.
“The look on his face, man, was priceless,” Chris said.
“He’s just really great to her, and she just loves it,” Jude’s mom, Danielle, said. “She’s a softball player herself, so she’ll stand out there while she’s waiting for the players after the game and she’ll practice their stretches and their moves that she saw that night at the game. She signed a couple of things for some players because she swears that she’s going to be that girl that is in the MLB one day, and with her generation, you never know.”
Werth was so impressed by Jude’s gift that he mentioned it to MASN reporter Dan Kolko before the game.
“I was standing in the Nats’ dugout right as BP starts today, and Jayson walks by and taps me on the shoulder,” Kolko reported during the second inning of Monday’s broadcast. “The girl had presented Jayson just minutes ago with a framed picture of herself with that shot that we showed, hands on her head, just in shock. She signed it for Jayson.”
After Werth made the catch for the final out of the sixth inning, he ran toward the left field foul line and flipped the ball to a Rockies usher, who handed it to Jude. She turned and held the souvenir in the air as she ran back up the aisle, tongue out, to show her parents her own gift from Werth.
Jude, who plays third base, said she talked to Werth in the players’ parking lot after every game this week. Kolko and MASN analyst F.P. Santangelo said hello during batting practice before Tuesday’s game, and after Wednesday’s Nationals win, Werth introduced her to Max Scherzer. Jude recognized everyone immediately because she watches every Nationals game on MLB.com.
“What’s amazing to me is he will tell people, ‘Here’s my friend, Jude,’ ” Chris said of Werth. “It’s not, ‘Here’s so and so,’ or, ‘Here’s that girl from TV.’ ”
“She’s had such a good time this series,” Danielle said. “I’m just really appreciative to him for being so great with his fans, because it really goes such a long way. It’s been a lot of fun to watch her.”
Jude, who said she likes Werth because he’s “clutch and really nice,” won’t have the same flowing locks as her favorite player for long. On Saturday, she has pledged to shave her head to benefit the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and raise money for childhood cancer research. As of Thursday afternoon, she had received more than $2,000 in donations, some of which came from Nationals fans who got word of her pledge on social media. Werth told Jude before Wednesday’s game that he heard Jude was shaving her head and thought what she was doing was cool.
“The fans have been overwhelming with their support,” Chris said. “The best fans in baseball by far, hands down. I grew up in Philadelphia, and I always thought the Phillies fans were great, but the Washington fans, their outreach and their support has been just amazing.”