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Nationals’ World Series parade: D.C. throws a ‘once in a lifetime’ baseball bash

Nats players Kurt Suzuki and Sean Doolittle talk about their favorite moments from their season as they ride through the 2019 World Series parade. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/The Washington Post)

Washington threw a party 95 years in the making Saturday afternoon, with baseball fans gleefully lining downtown streets for a World Series parade and rally that covered the Mall in a sea of red.

Throngs of fans turned out on a sunny, cool day as buses adorned with small baby sharks carried the Nationals and their families across Constitution and Pennsylvania Avenues for what was easily the city’s largest sports celebration since the Capitals won the Stanley Cup in June 2018. The Mystics, the WNBA champions, will celebrate their victory at a later date.

This celebration was perhaps a touch more sedate than that of the Capitals, and a little more emotional, too. Ryan Zimmerman, long the face of the franchise, teared up during his remarks at the rally. Ted Lerner, the 94-year-old patriarch of the team’s ownership group, joked that “they say good things come to those who wait, [but] 95 years is a pretty long wait.” Manager Dave Martinez got emotional, too.

Before hoisting World Series trophy, Nats had a tortured history. It looks different now.

“I got players telling me watch my heart,” said Martinez, who was hospitalized late in the season. “I got fans screaming at me 'Your heart, Davey, your heart, Davey.” I’m gonna tell you something. All this right here has cured this heart.”

Between the hugs and heartfelt speeches, there was plenty of champagne and beer, although far fewer curse words than the Capitals deployed. Infielder Brian Dozier captured the spirit of the day, and of this fun-loving team, stripping off his jersey several times, dancing his way across the stage, and telling the MASN broadcast that, on a scale of one to a million, he felt like “a million and one.”

He certainly wasn’t the only person on the Mall feeling it. D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser repeatedly described the city as “soon to be the 51st state” and “the District of Champions,” and euphoria flooded through the streets.

“Nats fans, can you believe it?” owner Mark Lerner asked the crowd, before leading players and fans in yet another rendition of “Baby Shark,” on a day when shark costumes seemed almost as popular as commemorative posters.

“For the first time since 1924,” Lerner crowed, “we brought the world championship back to Washington.”

Metro trains carried about 127,000 more riders than they had the week before, Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said. In less than 24 hours, Metro also sold 8,000 commemorative SmarTrip cards printed with a picture of the Nationals team after winning the World Series with the Commissioner’s trophy, Stessel said.

And those fans were largely gleeful. A couple from Harpers Ferry, Kathy Simpson and Dave Hoffman, didn’t decide to attend the parade until late Friday night.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Simpson said. “How many times do you get a chance to see something like this?”

At the rally, the team made frequent mention of its many skeptics after its miserable 19-31 start. General Manager Mike Rizzo said critics “were shoveling dirt” on Martinez, and that “they counted us out, they knocked us down.

“But not one person pointed a finger, no anonymous quotes, no clubhouse lawyers, no backbiting,” said Rizzo, who spent much of the day with a cigar in his mouth and a trophy in his arms. “Loyalty. And that’s why we’re here today.”

Juan Soto, the team’s breakout star, took the microphone as teammates joked about his nerves. Soto, whose rapid improvement in English has been rivaled only by his rapid improvement on the field, spoke without an interpreter.

“D. C., this is all for you guys, he told the crowd. “This group of guys has been amazing, all these veteran guys, all these news guys, the GM, all the owners, been amazing. All the Viejos,” he said, referring to the veterans. “The Viejos made it, too. But we couldn’t [have made] it without you guys. You guys have been amazing, you guys have been right there for us. … Amazing. I love you guys."

He wasn’t the only one talking about love on a day of strangers hugging strangers, in addition to climbing port-o-potties and bus shelters and trees and anything that would support them.

“It’s not often people look at Washington, D.C. and say those guys really love each other,” Ted Lerner said. “But this team, they love each other, and I love all of them.”

A teary Zimmerman called Washington the best place to play sports in the world, not long before all his teammates encircled him in one giant hug. The team’s first draft pick as a 20-year-old in 2005, he noted that this season was a wild ride, with every game feeling like an elimination contest for months.

“Like Mr. Lerner said, it was worth the wait,” Zimmerman said.

The festivities ended with a shirtless Dozier, who had starred in many of the team’s most viral moments, telling fans, “My wife’s gonna kill me” before getting a staggering piggyback ride around the stage.

And, with that, the Nationals’ season ended. At least until a planned appearance at Sunday’s Capitals game.

Nationals players celebrated with fans during the World Series victory parade in Northwest Washington on Nov. 2. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

We asked Nats fans how it feels to win the World Series: ‘There is magic in the world’

Recapping the day

5:25 p.m.: “My wife’s gonna kill me”

After Scherzer’s speech, the PA system played “Calma,” one of the team’s many lucky charms, with a shirtless Brian Dozier picking up teammates and dancing with some degree of abandon.

“My wife’s gonna kill me,” he said into the microphone, before getting a piggyback ride around the stage.

5:22 p.m.: We’ll never forget the camels

As Adam Eaton was doing a live video. reliever Sean Doolittle put down his light saber long enough to crack about a spring training stunt from long ago.

“Remember when we brought camels to spring training and everybody laughed at us?” Doolittle asked. “Well, who’s laughing now?”

5:20 p.m.: Mad Max

Max Scherzer, who seemed like he had enjoyed himself, said the celebration was “about all these guys grinding their hearts out for freaking four straight months … fighting through everything. That was Stay in the Fight. And we got [Gerardo] Parra, we started dancing, we started hitting solo shots, whether that was important or not.”

(At this point, teammates approached to give him water.)

“We started partying and we started having fun,” Scherzer went on. “And you saw a group of guys come together like you’ve never seen before. Never in this town have you ever seen a team compete with so much heart and so much fight … That’s why you have seen a World Series champion, because of the heart and fight that this team has.”

5:12 p.m.: Rare remarks from Ted Lerner

Nationals owner Ted Lerner, making rare public remarks, elicited laughter several times.

“They say good things come to those who wait. 95 years is a pretty long wait,” he said. “But I’ll tell you, this is worth the wait.

“Later, he offered “a special word to the veterans on this team,” telling them “from now on, you can call me grandpa shark.” But he turned serious toward the end." It’s not often people look at Washington, D.C. and say those guys really love each other,” Lerner said. “But this team, they love each other, and I love all of them.”

5:10 p.m.: MVP talk

Nursing a cold, a hoarse Stephen Strasburg rasped: “This was quite a ride, something you dream about as a kid. It took all 25 of us, every single day we were pulling for each other. It was a special ride. The MVP trophy could easily have gone to any guy here.”

5:09 p.m.: Zimmerman gets emotional

A teary Ryan Zimmerman called Washington “the greatest city to play sports in the world.”

The team’s first draft pick as a 20-year-old in 2005, he noted that this season was a wild ride, “We came from a dark place. We played playoff games from June 1. Like Mr. Lerner said, it was worth the wait.”

5:02 p.m.: Soto speaks

Juan Soto, the team’s breakout star, took the microphone as teammates joked about his nerves. Soto, whose rapid improvement in English is rivaled only by his rapid improvement on the field, spoke without an interpreter.

“D. C., this is all for you guys, he said. “This group of guys has been amazing, all these veteran guys, all these news guys, the GM, all the owners, been amazing. All the Viejos,” he said, referring to the veterans. “The Viejos made it too. But we couldn’t [have made] it without you guys. You guys have been amazing, you guys have been right there for us … Amazing. I love you guys.”

4:59 p.m.: Howie loves it here

Howie Kendrick was the next player to speak, after a break for Ryan Zimmerman to take selfies. Kendrick said he had considered retirement before arriving in Washington.

“They taught me to love the game again,” he said of the Nationals. “The city taught me to love baseball again.”

He also praised the team’s resilience." We’ve got a lot of bulldogs in this locker room,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of puppies in this locker room too. But they’re all welcome.”

4:55 p.m.: Rendon loves baseball!

Anthony Rendon was the first player to speak, following an emotional Dave Martinez. His teammates chanted MVP and catcalled him in the background." First off I want to say I love baseball,” he said to laughter.

Then he praised the Washington fans and their performance in the playoffs." We felt it, and that’s going to go a long way, don’t worry,” he said.

4:53 p.m.: Davey’s turn

Dave Martinez called up his players and talked about being ejected from a game, how the team fought back, growing emotion as he talked about the heart procedure he had.

“I was getting all these tweets and things before Game 6 … we’re in Houston and we’re still down, but the people are coming out. You know what that means to us as we’re trying to stay in the fight … As you know things got a little heated up. You don’t have to tell me to stay in the fight. I’m going to stick up for these guys because they stuck up for me all season long. I’ve got players telling me to watch out for my heart and fan saying, ‘Watch out for your heart.’ I’ll tell you, right here, you cured my heart.”

“I wasn’t supposed to bring these guys up here,” Martinez admitted.

4:44 p.m.: Rizzo rocks the mic

GM Mike Rizzo made frequent mention to the team’s poor start and the doomsday predictions.

“They were shoveling dirt on him in May; now he’s a world champ,” he said of Manager Dave Martinez. “Congrats, Davey.”

Then he saluted his players.” What a group of players we have right here,” Rizzo said. “They counted us out, they knocked us down, we had injuries early, we didn’t perform like we wanted to, but not one person pointed a finger, no anonymous quotes, no clubhouse lawyers, no backbiting. Loyalty. And that’s why we’re here today.”

4:30 p.m.: Let the speeches begin

Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner saluted his players, general manager and perhaps especially Manager Dave Martinez.

“Davey Martinez, what a job you did this season,” Lerner said. “Leading this amazing group of players, coaches and staff, you all fought your hearts out to get here and you played the game the right way. Thank you for your dedication and your passion and for never giving up. 1-0 every day, right Davey? Your passion was contagious; there were moments where I didn’t know if you were going to call for a reliever or a defibrillator.”

After Lerner finished his speech, the rally segued into a planned “Baby Shark” singalong, in tribute to the team’s famous anthem. Players sheepishly joined along, with Gerardo Parra gripping a blue stuffed shark and thanking the crowd.

Lerner shouted out Stephen Strasburg and Howie Kendrick, but did not mention Anthony Rendon, who will be entering free agency. And when the crowd chanted “MVP,” Rendon gave a thumbs down, not because of free agency but because he hates being singled out for honors.

4:15 p.m.: Starting to wind down, but it’s rally time

The crowd thinned out after the parade portion of Saturday’s festivities concluded and the stage presentation began just before 4:00. Fans who had watched from other points along the route filled in the area near 3rd St. with the clearest view of the stage, while others were content watching on one of the video boards erected for the event. Crushed beer cans and “Fight Finished” signs littered the street.

As the Nationals finally took the stage, hundreds of fans gathered at the corner of 6th Street NW and Pennsylvania Avenue, some raising their plastic cups in the air as a video of the team’s playoff run aired on the big screens.

“Holy cow! That’s all I can say!” a vendor said as he stopped selling merchandise to watch. Scores of fans lined up on the balcony of the Newseum to cheer. And before the players began to speak, much of crowd sang “Take me out to the ballgame” one last time this fall.

3:52 p.m.: A disturbance

As the parade got underway, at least two police officers took action to subdue a naked man near the intersection of 15th Street and Constitution Avenue — at one point grasping his arms as he lay prostrate on the street, according to a post on social media. Officers transported the man — whose name has not been released — to a nearby hospital, said D.C. police spokeswoman Kristen Metzger.

“Possibly drug-related,” Metzger said. “No arrests have been made at this time.”

3:46 p.m.: Naturally

3:41 p.m.: Archives Metro back open

3:39 p.m.: Nats fans stay on their toes

Nothing stood in the way of Nats’ revelry Saturday, not even the handful of men carrying signs that read “Jesus or Hellfire” walking up and down the sidewalk of the parade route preaching into portable microphones. Every time one of the men tried to speak, the crowd erupted in a new “Let’s Go Nats!” cheer to drown him out.

Meanwhile, at least a dozen people at the intersection of 4th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue climbed on top of the port-o-potties next to the parade route, looking for a better view.

3:28 p.m.: Beerfest

Jeff Adams, the Nats fan who took a home run ball to the chest while double-fisting cans of Bud Light during Game 5 of the World Series, and was featured in a commercial for the beer during Game 6, rode atop the second bus and was cheered almost as loudly as the lead bus carrying Gerardo Parra.

“Dilly Dilly!” a young fan standing on the base of a light pole shouted at Adams, who was naturally holding two Bud Lights. There were chants of MVP for both Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon, and Brian Dozier had removed his shirt by the time his bus reached 4th St., though “Calma” couldn’t be heard. Max Scherzer, WWE championship belt in hand, leaned over and let out a lengthy roar before pounding his chest and dodging more beer cans.

Beer tossing and consumption wasn’t all in fun though. Trea Turner should’ve worn the N.C. State football helmet he sported for each of the Nationals’ clubhouse clinching celebrations, and his teammates could’ve use head protection, too. At the turn before 3rd St., beer cans tossed from the crowd flew over, against and onto the buses. A woman in the back of Turner’s bus appeared to get drilled in the back of her head, prompting a collective groan from those in the crowd who witnessed it. There was a loud cheer when Matt Adams caught one of the few beers actually thrown on target.

3:22 p.m.: The Mayor speaks

“It’s an amazing day in Washington, D.C., a beautiful parade for our world champions …,” D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser told Fox 5. “You have red as far as the eyes can see. … It makes my heart proud. … D.C. is the District of Champions.”

3:17 p.m.: Men of the people

At one point, General Manager Mike Rizzo brought the Commissioner’s Trophy to fans behind the barricades, a cigar dangling from his mouth, slapping high fives with one hand while holding the trophy aloft with another. Manager Dave Martinez also joined the fans, slapping every hand raised in his direction.

“We couldn’t be happier bringing that trophy home to this fan base. They stuck with us through thick and thin,” Rizzo said in an interview on MASN. “We talk about a lot of things, chemistry and this and that, but this group, it’s as good as it gets.”

3:05 p.m.: Max has the belt

A championship parade wouldn’t be complete without a WWE championship belt and, in a smart marketing move by the WWE’s chief operating officer Triple H, the Nats have been passing it around, with Scherzer standing atop of bus and raising the belt over his head. Of late, the belt has become a tradition, evidently, with Triple H belt making an appearance at the Caps’ parade, as well as those featuring the Toronto Raptors, New England Patriots, and St. Louis Blues.

3:02 p.m.: You never forget the jets

As a pair of fighter planes roared overhead just before 2 p.m., Tony Evans didn’t even look up from his favorite parade-watching spot.

Evans, an 84-year-old Marine veteran said he recognized the sound of the F-16s.

The 55-year DC area resident had seen many parades — from Obama’s inauguration to the Capitals victory —- and many F-16s. But this one was unexpected.

“It was unbelievable how they came back,” Evans, who lives in Clinton, Md., said of the Nats. “I had to be here.”

2:51 p.m.: Presidents … not running?

2:45 p.m.: It’s still sinking in

“It’s unbelievable,” Patrick Corbin said of the turnout, telling MASN before the buses rolled that he’d heard the crowd could number 1 million. “This many people showing up for this is special. … It’s still crazy to think we’re world champions.”

2:39 p.m.: Bus-jumpin’

2:26 p.m.: Max Scherzer shows his shark teeth

Scherzer and his daughter, Brooke, grooved (if that’s what one does) to “Baby Shark” and he told Channel 4″s Sherree Burruss that there’d be no long-tern problems with the neck issues he battled through during the Series.

2:18 p.m.: Rendon feeling the love

“MVP” chants for Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon started at the beginning of the parade route and continued as his bus rolled down Constitution Avenue. Fans wore T-shirts or carried signs urging the Nationals to sign Rendon to a long-term deal.

1:55 p.m.: Poppin’ corks

1:52 p.m.: The car lover has logged on

1:42 p.m.: A welcoming place

There was no shame for some new Nats fans.

Tamara Cole, 53, sat proudly at the front of the parade route, blaring oldies from a bright red speaker plugged into her electric wheelchair.

She used to live in San Francisco, where she said her spine was damaged in an assault four years ago. She was looking for a new place to live this year when she heard President Trump, who she supports, invite people to the capital for the Fourth of July.

“I haven’t left,” she said. “I feel comfortable here. I don’t feel unsafe.” She said she had thrown away her Giants gear and embraced the Nats, reinventing herself in her newly adopted city.

“I tried to leave everything behind and start anew,” she said.

1:34 p.m.: It’s getting crowded

Forty-five minutes before the parade was set to begin, the block between the main stage and 4th Street was a mass of red-clad fans. The two video boards flanking the stage were displaying player interviews and highlight packages.

“I can’t see anything!” a kid shouted from atop his dad’s shoulders. In fairness, there wasn’t much to see. The crowd, which smelled of cigar smoke and marijuana and anticipation, cheered as two Budweiser trucks rolled past.

1:31 p.m.: Challenge time?

Another Capital who has some experience on days like these, was taking in the scene and liked what he saw.

1:19 p.m.: Trophy time

The Commissioner’s Trophy, which lost a few of its pennants in the celebration Wednesday night, arrived along with players who were preparing to board buses about 40 minutes before the parade was to begin.

1:11 p.m.: The ultimate Nats playlist

Players and team officials are expected to be introduced with individualized walk-up songs at the rally following the parade. A sample of the music expected to be used:

Ted Lerner: “You’ve Gotta Have Heart,” Damn Yankees

Dave Martinez: “Dancing in the Moonlight,” King Harvest

Stephen Strasburg: “Seven Nation Army,” The White Stripes

Howie Kendrick: “Dey Know,” Shawty Lo

Adam Eaton: “No Diggity,” Blackstreet

Max Scherzer “Still D.R.E.,” Dr. Dre

Trea Turner: “Look Ahead,” Future

Anthony Rendon: “Water,” TedashiiJ

Juan Soto: “Esa Muchacha,” Los Hermanos Rosario

Sean Doolittle: “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” Metallica

Gerado Parra: “Baby Shark”

Ryan Zimmerman: “Whatever You Like,” T.I.

1:09 p.m.: “A once-in-a-lifetime experience”

A couple from Harpers Ferry, Kathy Simpson and Dave Hoffman, didn’t decide to attend the parade until late Friday night. They were planning to visit family in West Virginia, but couldn’t pass up on making the trip to Washington.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Simpson said. “How many times do you get a chance to see something like this?”

So Simpson and Hoffman woke early Saturday morning and drove to Shady Grove metro station and trained into the city. They have not been able to attend very many games recently, but they spent the last few days reminiscing about their experiences as Nationals fans. Hoffman remembered his first game at RFK Stadium.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “[Owner Ted] Lerner did exactly what he said he was going to do when he brought the team here, to build the team from the ground up.”

On the night the Nationals clinched the World Series, the couple celebrated and hopped online and bought more than $300 worth of championship merchandise.

“Christmas gifts,” said Simpson, who was ready to wave her championship pennant on Constitution Avenue on Saturday.

“I was shocked,” she said of the World Series won. “I was hoping it was going to happen.”

1:03 p.m.: After years of waiting, relief

Jihad Abdus-Salaam, 71, said he’d been waiting almost 50 years to see the World Series trophy come down Constitution Avenue.

He’d grown up playing everything from Little League to semipro in Martinsville, Va. before moving to DC in 1970. He only had time to catch a few Senators games before the team left.

“Oh man, we hated it,” he said of losing the team. “That was real funky.”

Abdus-Salaam said he attended as many as 25 Nats games per year, rarely missing an Opening Day. The bike he stood astride was festooned with a Nats pennant on the back, like a child’s three-wheeler. His red Nats jacket was self-patched with tape.

He shook off questions about the depth of DC sports fandom.

“DC has always been a great sports town,” he said. “We just didn’t have any winners. Now ‘DC’ stands for ‘District of Champs.’”

“We’ve got the Nats, the Caps, The Mystics,” he continued. “Maybe our soccer team will come through, because the ‘skins aren’t going nowhere.”

12:57 p.m.: Age is just a number

For those who think the franchise is too young to have true die-hards: meet Jake Erskin.

The 27-year-old insurance salesman grew up in Germantown, Md. reluctantly rooting for the Orioles. He was thrilled when baseball arrived in the District.

“I can tell you the whole starting lineup from that year,” said Erskin, who now lives in Dupont Circle.

A superstitious fan, he has a carefully curated set of routines that he’s choreographed to boost the team’s chances of winning. During one game he attended earlier this season, he had Whiteclaw, the spiked seltzer that’s popular with the younger set, before the first pitch. And when the Nationals won the Wild Card game, he had Sea Quench Ale during the game. So for every playoff game it was the same: unwashed Juan Soto jersey, White Claw before the game, and Sea Quench during the game, listen to “Calma,” the Pedro Capò song that became part of the soundtrack for the series when a locker room video of players dancing to the song went viral. He’s played the music video so many times on YouTube that the website has begun suggested Spanish-language videos.

Also, the drawers in his dresser must be closed.

Saturday, he arrived at the steps of the National Archives to take in the parade. In his hand: a White Claw.

To those who write off all Nats fans, Erskin says: “They’re just jealous. People need to hate on something.”

12:40 p.m.: On Instagram, everyone can hear “Baby Shark”

12:37 p.m.: Taking stock on a lifetime of fandom

Joe Shifflett, 63, said he attended his first game when he was about 3 years old, back when the Senators played at Griffith Park.

“I’m about as longtime as you can get,” he said as he waited for his family on a wooden bench outside the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

His outfit, like his memory, was layered with DC baseball. Beneath his Senators cap, he wore a blue Senators jacket over the white, pinstriped jersey his childhood team wore in the musical “Damn Yankees.”

“His only regret about this historic season was that the Nats didn’t get a chance to make the musical come true.

Shifflett, a renovation contractor, now lives in north Philadelphia but came down this morning on Amtrak. He catches the team when he can, including Game 3 of the World Series. He said his baseball-crazed father would drop him and some of 11 siblings off at DC Stadium — now RFK — when he had to work Saturdays at the Post Office.

His father was a D-Day veteran who, Shifflett would later come to understand, was badly shellshocked from the war.

“One of the few times he seemed happy was at a baseball game,” he said.

12:12 p.m.: A championship proposal

A huge cheer went up on Pennsylvania Ave. in front of the East building of the National Gallery of Art shortly after 11:30, as Jefferson Payne got down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend, Alyssa Hannah. Hannah’s mom, who learned of Payne’s intentions on Friday night, held a shark balloon with the inscription “Finished the Fight.” Another fan led a cheer of “N-A-T-S Nats! Nats! Nats!” as the couple, season-ticket holders from Herndon, shared an embrace even more tender than the one Gerardo Parra and Aníbal Sánchez gave Stephen Strasburg in the dugout after Game 6 of the World Series.

“Don’t post it anywhere yet,” Hannah told her family and friends who took video of the moment before making a call to share the news.

“We’ve been dating for four years and she’s probably been waiting for me to propose for three-and-a-half of those years,” said Payne, who said he was shaking during the entire Metro ride downtown. Payne initially planned to propose in front of the Washington Monument en route to the parade route, but Hannah wanted to make sure they got a good spot in front of the main stage. “Had I known,” she said with a laugh, admiring her new ring. “I’m just so excited and happy. I can’t believe it.”

Two Nationals fans got engaged at the World Series parade

12:07 p.m.: Snowplows on a beautiful November day?

Two D.C. snowplows with Nationals banners draped over their beds blocked access to 3rd St. at Independence Ave. as a stream of fans arriving from the Federal Center SW Metro station, on rental scooters and via Uber made their way past the Capitol and tourists toward the main stage off Pennsylvania Ave., where the parade is scheduled to end. Bailey Wood of Manassas Park, who rode Metro in with his family, purchased a couple of World Series champion pennants from a vendor hawking gear from a bench on Madison Dr. Wood, 17, sported a doctored Bryce Harper jersey that, with a little duct tape and black marker, now read CHAMPS! “I needed to do something a little different for the parade,” he said. “Not that there’s any ill will or anything.”

Ava Wallace, Michael Miller, Roman Stubbs, Moriah Balingit, Meryl Kornfield, Hannah Natanson and Scott Allen contributed to this report.

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