Kate Abbott had envisioned this moment since August, when she studied the World Series schedules from the past five postseasons and determined that Oct. 27, Patrick’s redeployment date, would probably coincide with a potential Game 5 in D.C. A playoff berth was still far from guaranteed at that point, but after the World Series schedule was announced and the Nationals began their remarkable postseason run in early October, Washington hosting Game 5 of the Fall Classic became a distinct possibility.
“He said, ‘I’m rooting for a sweep, so I can be there for the parade,’” Kate said Sunday, about an hour before first pitch. “He does not deal well with the uncertainty of postseason games.”
“I’ve been to too many Game 5s,” Patrick said, referencing the Nationals’ bleak playoff history before this year.
Patrick has been following the Nationals since an internship brought him to D.C. during the team’s inaugural 2005 season. He met Kate at a church function the following year, and one of their first dates was to a Nationals game. They were married in 2010, played key roles in starting the “Nats Mass” at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic church in Navy Yard in 2014 and have been half-season plan holders for the past two years.
The Abbotts went to four or five games together at the beginning of this season, including Opening Day, though Patrick missed the first few innings while completing a weapons qualifying exercise. He was there to see Max Scherzer strike out Bryce Harper in his first appearance at Nationals Park as a member of the Phillies.
“Memories live a lifetime,” Patrick said with a smile.
After her husband’s deployment, Kate began asking friends to come to games in his place. During the seventh-inning stretch, she would explain the ritual that enabled her to feel a little bit closer to Patrick despite the physical distance between them.
“I would turn to the person I was with and say, ‘Now is the time when I request, and it’s never required, that we shoot a small video that we’re going to send to Patrick,’” she said. “You can talk about anything you want. You can say hi, you can share a story about your day, about your life, about the game.’ It was always interesting to see what people would say to him. For games where I couldn’t find a friend to go, I would stand outside and just offer my free ticket to somebody. I would never ask them to record a video, but I would record one myself.”
“It was always great, not only to see friends having a good time with my wife, but also to know that they were looking out for her,” said Patrick, who was usually 8½ hours ahead. “That’s a huge concern for anyone who’s deployed that’s married; is your spouse okay? Because maybe they’re having a bad day, you never know. But seeing all my friends there and then some of her friends, too, I knew she was okay.”
During the longest deployment of his career, Abbott watched as many Nationals games as he could on the Armed Forces Network. One of his favorite memories was from the National League wild-card game, when Juan Soto hit a bases-clearing single in the eighth inning with Washington trailing 3-1. An error by Brewers outfielder Trent Grisham on the play allowed the go-ahead run to score. Soto’s clutch hit came about half an hour before Abbott and his colleagues, including several fellow Nationals fans, were due in a meeting.
“We were saying that if this goes into extra innings, we need to call the general and tell him this meeting needs to be rolled,” Abbott said. “When Soto got the hit, I was yelling two, two, two. When the ball went past [Grisham], we were all yelling three, three, three and giving each other high-fives.”
Despite the best efforts of the Nationals’ offense to put him to sleep during Washington’s 7-1 loss to the Astros, Kate said Patrick’s energy level actually increased as Game 5 wore on. In the sixth inning, he experienced his first ballpark-wide “Baby Shark” singalong when Gerardo Parra was announced as a pinch-hitter. During the seventh-inning stretch, Kate, who has attended every home game this postseason, wrapped her arms around Patrick’s waist, letting go only to count the strikes during the singing of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
As fans began filing out after the final home game of the season, the Abbotts took a photo with their ballpark family, the fans and fellow plan holders they’ve gotten to know over the years. Despite Sunday’s outcome, which gave Houston a 3-2 series lead, their optimism remained high. They talked about a possible World Series parade, or reuniting at spring training.
“A bad day at the ballpark beats a good day over there,” Patrick said.
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