Low bar, maybe, but I don’t think there’s any question that the two most memorable hits in Nationals franchise history are the Jayson Werth game-winning home run in Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS and the Michael A. Taylor game-sealing grand slam in Game 4 of the 2017 NLDS — five years later, to the day.
Also, there’s a limited universe of people who were in the building for both home runs. Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper and some of their teammates would make that list. So would Post columnists Thomas Boswell and Barry Svrluga. So would Mark Zuckerman. So would Mike Rizzo. There are probably a few dozen more, but almost all of them were being paid for being there.
Not Raj Sethi. The 33-year-old from McLean joined what I assume is a pretty small contingent of Nats fans who managed to be inside Nats Park when Werth struck in 2012 and also inside Wrigley Field when Taylor did the same Wednesday. I asked him a few questions about this via email.
How did you happen to be at Wednesday’s game?
It’s funny, after all the Nats’ choke jobs in the NLDS over the years, I told myself I’d never attend an NLDS game again. They’d have to at least win one [dang] round before I spent my money on a playoff ticket.
I happened to be flying into Chicago for work Tuesday afternoon, at which time I planned on heading to the nearest bar to catch the game. But when it rained out, the temptation was too great to ignore. I mean, this is Wrigley we’re talking about, and the defending champs. I actually wasn’t sure if my boss would let me skip out of work early since I literally flew out here to work with her on some stuff … but it turns out that she was going to the game, too, and she even encouraged me to go!
So yeah, after that, I was sold. I hopped on StubHub late Tuesday night and bought a ticket. Best decision I’ve made in a while.
Was it weird to just be sitting there by yourself in the wrong team’s stadium?
It wasn’t weird. The great thing about sports is how it connects people. Random story: I accidentally sat down in the wrong section (412 instead of 413) and didn’t realize it. I sat next to two Cubs fans who were great guys. Even though I was openly rooting for the Nats, they were super friendly and we spent the whole game talking about the teams, game, our fandom, etc. It also probably helps that Cubs fans have years and years of baggage, pessimism and depression that they still probably hold on to, even after last year.
But I’ve gone into the lion’s den in the past and never had a negative experience. It’s always nicer to have other people to celebrate with, no doubt. But if I’m choosing between being there by myself or not at all, I’m going every time.
Did last night feel similar to the Werth game at all?
Interesting question. They felt more different than similar at first, because the Cubs were a win away from advancing, while the Nats had to win. The atmosphere at the Nats Park game was filled with nervousness. I didn’t sense any of that at Wrigley yesterday — at least at first. Cubs fans were confident. I think everyone expected that they’d close it out.
That feeling changed slightly after we went up 1-0. My most nervous moment was actually after Lester picked off Zimmerman. During and after the challenge, that was the loudest the crowd got. It was deafening. I thought Lester would retire Murphy, the fans would still be super-hyped, and we’d blow it. Glad I was wrong about that. And you could feel the air being sucked out of the place when Taylor went yard. I’ve never heard a stadium that quiet. I’ll never forget how quiet it got. I hate to use a cliche, but you could hear a pin drop in that moment.
What did it feel like to be inside of that, but not to be sharing in it?
At first, I was so damned excited. It was pure joy for me in that moment. I can’t explain to you how happy I was. But when I finally sat down and soaked in just how quiet it was, a part of me sympathized. I’ve been there before. It’s the worst feeling. I didn’t feel as bad because they’re still alive, they’ve got Game 5, they’ve got hope. Anyhow, Cubs fans experienced the pinnacle of sports happiness last year, so they can feel miserable this year. Fine by me. Hopefully it’s our turn to reach the summit.
Did you make a scene?
When I attend road games for any of my teams, I try not to be an obnoxious fan. I don’t talk smack or anything. But I clap and yell. So I had been doing that throughout the game, but not to the point of pissing anyone off (I hope). I’m also a bearded brown guy in Trump’s America, so yeah.
But when Taylor first made contact and Happ started going back, I jumped outta my seat and was yelling for it to get over HIS HEAD. I never thought it was going to clear the fence. I can’t explain to you how hard the wind was blowing in yesterday. I think that’s why everyone was so stunned in that moment. Anyway, once it went over, I went ape. Everyone was quiet except me, yelling like an idiot. And I think I drew even more attention to myself because I didn’t see or hear a single other Nats fan at the game, at least near me. I was surprised, to be honest.
How many people do you think saw both of those homers in person?
You never know … but maybe I’m the only one, outside of the organization, reporters, broadcast team, etc. I’d be surprised if another fan did only because of what I mentioned earlier: I didn’t see another Nats fan in the place. I’m sure there were some there, but I guess the odds of one of them being there and being at the 2012 game are pretty low.
Either way, I’m very, very fortunate. And will be heartbroken when the Nats inevitably lose tonight. One of my close friends is a Cubs fan and I texted him last night re: Game 5, “History is on Cubs’ side. For the first time ever.” His response? “Believe me, it’s the weirdest thing ever … I expect our guys to rise to the occasion and the other team is expected to choke.”
Yup. But maybe this is the year. I just want one damned playoff series win. If we lose to the Dodgers, so be it.
Why are you so pessimistic?
I’m pessimistic because a) it’s the Nationals, and b) it’s a D.C sports team. With apologies to D.C. United, losing in big games is what we do over the past 20+ years. And you don’t even have to go back very far for evidence (though you easily can): The Nats’ recent history goes without saying. The Redskins choking at home last season against the Giants with a playoff berth on the line (in a meaningless game for them, no less). The Caps underachieving in the playoffs and choking.
Funny story: I was at both Game 7 of the Caps-Pens series in 2009 (lost 6-2 at home) and Caps-Rangers in 2013 (lost 5-0). Maybe the two worst Game 7 performances in history. So it’s probably a good thing for the Nats that I’m in Chicago and not D.C tonight.
Do you think your memories of last night will be less positive if the Nats don’t win tonight?
No, I don’t feel that way. Werth’s walk-off, last night; I’ve been in the building for some awesome Wizards playoff performances, too. And they all will be cherished moments for me forever. Hell, some of my all-time memories are from games I attended where my team lost: Notre Dame losing to USC in the “Bush Push” game and a few years ago at Florida State on the last play of the game, and VCU losing to Butler in the Final Four stand out. But the feeling of being there, the excitement, the electricity in the air: I live for that. And I’ll always fondly remember and talk about those games and feelings.
Having said all that … the Nats need a freakin’ W tonight. Enough is enough. Let’s go.
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