“Oh! Oh! Oh!” Dan Kolko yelled as the ball flew.
“The Hawaiian surfer got him!” Bo Porter shouted.
Porter spread his arms, crouched and shuffled through the cubicles, feigning his own surfing motion. “Now we surf!” he said, eyes gleaming.
Kolko and Porter high-fived. Vigorously.
They are the hosts of the Nationals pre and postgame shows on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, the team’s regional broadcaster during the regular season. Porter, 47, is a former third-base coach for the Nationals and also a one-time manager of their World Series opponents, the Houston Astros. Kolko, 34, has worked at MASN for nearly a decade.
During the regular season, the pair is camped out in their Nationals Park studios for home games and in the studio here for away games, but during the playoffs they are relegated exclusively to the studio, 60 miles from Navy Yard, as the national networks take over.
“We got evicted,” Porter joked. “Couldn’t pay the rent.”
“It is what it is, you know?” Kolko said.
Despite losing their front row seat to baseball history this October, the pair has broadcast before and after each Nationals playoff game, with no dampening of enthusiasm. They air interviews with MASN announcers Bob Carpenter and F.P. Santangelo, who have been traveling with the team. During the wild-card game win over the Milwaukee Brewers, video of Kolko and Porter celebrating Juan Soto’s game-winning single was a hit on the Internet.
The cubicles where they watch the game separate two studios — the Nationals’ on one side of the building and the Orioles’ on the other. Posters of images of the Orioles and Camden Yards around the room are a reminder of the complicated relationship the network has had with the Nationals since its inception in 2005.
For those who need a quick refresher, MASN was created when the Expos moved to D.C. As payment to the Orioles for losing valuable geographic territory and fans to a new team, they maintain control of the network and over the last decade MASN and the Nationals have been embroiled in a vicious dispute over the amount of the rights fees the Nationals should receive.
The first suit was filed in 2012 and after years of legal wrangling, charges of bias against MLB by the Orioles and claims by the Nationals that MASN has curbed their ability to sign free agents, a New York court in August upheld an MLB decision that ordered the network to pay the Nationals tens of million of dollars. MASN has since appealed that ruling with no conclusion imminent. A separate lawsuit is under appeal over how the network’s profits should be disbursed to the two teams.
To plenty of Nationals fans, the network represents the control the Orioles and their owner Peter Angelos still exert over their team. “There are no real baseball fans in D.C.,” Angelos famously said in an effort to keep the Expos from moving to D.C. (To the Orioles, the MASN arrangement represents what the team was promised by Major League Baseball when it moved a team to Washington.)
“There’s anger, and there’s always been anger at the network — from not being able to find the games on cable when the team first got here to not being able to stream them without cable today,” said Chris Needham, a longtime Nationals fan, who used a run a fan blog called Capitol Punishment and has written about the team for local outlets, including The Post. “At times, they’ve made it impossible to watch games, and the Nationals say it’s made it harder to win. And as we’ve seen this month, it’s really fun to win.”
“I get asked about [the MASN situation] sometimes,” Kolko said. “But it really doesn’t affect us. The team has never once treated us differently or lesser. I tell the people the truth: I don’t know what’s going on. It’s above my pay grade and we just do the best broadcast we can."
On Wednesday night, as the Nationals took a 2-0 lead in the series with Game 3 scheduled for Friday night at Nationals Park, whatever enmity exists felt very far away. Kolko and Porter rooted their hearts out and practiced an array of superstitions.
The Nationals are 6-0 in the playoffs when Kolko wears his lucky burgundy pants on the air. Porter eats three Starbursts before every game. They pass out snacks — Welch’s Fruit Snacks and granola bars — whenever the Nationals need a rally.
“My stomach is getting destroyed,” Kolko said.
They banged on their desks when Anthony Rendon doubled home two runs in the first inning and cringed when Alex Bregman tied the game with a two-run homer in the bottom of the first — and every time Suzuki didn’t frame a Stephen Strasburg pitch for a strike.
Even as the Astros were installed as huge favorites in Las Vegas ahead of the Series, Porter was one of the very few pundits to pick the Nationals to win the series, and in five games no less. “The starting pitching doesn’t work for the Astros,” he said before Game 2.
And he had another prediction about the Astros starting pitcher in Game 3: “I think we’re going to pound [Zack] Greinke.”