“It’s an incredible piece of storytelling due to the fact that there is yellow paint residue on the ball,” Jon Shestakofsky, the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s vice president of communications and education, said in a phone interview. “It tells the story of an unforgettable moment in Nationals history in an extra way, which makes it even more special.”
Kendrick previously donated the bat he used to hit the 10th-inning grand slam that propelled the Nationals to a Game 5 win over the Dodgers in the National League Division Series.
After a brief run-in with the foul pole last night, this baseball is on its way to Cooperstown! Thank you to Howie Kendrick for generously donating his Game 7 home run ball to the HOF. That homer gave the @nationals the lead in the 7th inning, and the rest is baseball history. pic.twitter.com/wGGtJiUvfh— National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum ⚾ (@baseballhall) October 31, 2019
During the World Series, Shestakofsky and Tim Mead, the Hall of Fame’s president, kept a running list of items from both teams to potentially request for the museum.
“We’re thinking about it in terms of finding the most important moments and most important accomplishments,” Shestakofsky said. “Our perspective is, 20, 50, 100 years from now, what story lines are going to be the most important to be remembered when people want to think back about this moment in baseball history?”
Most of the requests were made in the Nationals’ victorious clubhouse after Game 7, but one item, the ball that Juan Soto hit onto the train tracks at Minute Maid Park in Game 1, already had been procured.
This baseball has had quite an adventure, traveling 417 feet when Juan Soto homered in Game 1 of the World Series, and later being rescued from the Minute Maid Park train tracks. But its journey isn’t over yet: It’s now headed to Cooperstown! 📸: Cooper Neill/MLB Photos pic.twitter.com/CcRgKHSZcU— National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum ⚾ (@baseballhall) October 24, 2019
“There are a few moments that you just know are special,” Shestakofsky said of Soto’s blast, which made him the fourth player in World Series history to hit a home run before his 21st birthday. “We knew that was a magic moment that would be important to document, so that was one of the rare cases where we made a request before the series ended.”
Other items that will be displayed alongside Kendrick’s and Soto’s historic home run balls include Manager Dave Martinez’s “Finish the Fight” hoodie; the jersey Stephen Strasburg wore in Game 6, during which he became the first pitcher in baseball history to go 5-0 in a single postseason; and the cap Max Scherzer wore in Game 7.
The bat that Anthony Rendon used in Games 1, 2 and 3 and the spikes that catcher Kurt Suzuki wore in Games 1 and 2 also will be featured. Suzuki missed the last three games while dealing with a hip flexor strain but played a key role as Washington won the first two games in Houston.
“Suzuki was on our list of important participants in the earlier part of the series,” Shestakofsky said. “He caught those first two games that were wins and in the second game hit a very important home run. His status with the club as one of its leaders and one of the rocks of that team and the pitching staff became evident through the postseason.”
Perhaps the most surprising item that will be included in the Nationals’ exhibit is Fernando Rodney’s glove. While Rodney walked six batters and allowed a grand slam in three appearances against the Astros, the 42-year-old also became the oldest reliever to appear in the World Series since Joe Niekro in 1987.
“The way the game is skewing younger and younger, the thought is this would be an important moment to document,” Shestakofsky said. “It may be a while before we see a pitcher of that age appear on a World Series mound.”
Shestakofsky flew back to New York with the artifacts Thursday. Media members had an opportunity to view them in the baggage claim area of the Albany International Airport. Sometime around Thanksgiving, they will go on display in Cooperstown.
“We’re just incredibly thankful to the Nationals and all these guys for allowing us to collect these artifacts,” Shestakofsky said. “They were all thrilled to be a part of it. Once they’re donated to us, we’ve made a promise to preserve them, and they’re in the collection forever.”
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