“It may sound a little cheesy, but the whole ‘Go 1-0 every day’ and ‘Stay in the fight’ — it really did resonate with us, especially with what the Nationals were able to accomplish,” Tom Sileo, who grew up in Northern Virginia and now lives in Florida, said in a phone interview. “Remembering how special that time was and how it lifted us up, we just thought what a fitting tribute, in a way, naming her Natalie would be, and using the ‘Nat’ nickname and saying ‘Go Nat.' ”
Natalie’s prenatal diagnosis initially left the Sileos shaken.
“As any parent with a special-needs child can tell you, it’s a really tough thing,” Tom Sileo said. “It’s really hard to hear that. You need some time to adjust, and it doesn’t feel real at first. There’s just kind of a fog there for a good month or so after. You’re scared. We’re still scared now.”
As the couple began to come to terms with the news, the Nationals provided a respite. Tom stayed up for every playoff game and woke Lisa with his screaming after Howie Kendrick’s grand slam in Game 5 of the National League Division Series propelled Washington to its first postseason series win in team history.
Before going to bed, he left a note on the counter for their 9-year-old daughter, Reagan, whose favorite player is Ryan Zimmerman and who, upon learning that her future sibling would be different, vowed that “Nobody’s going to mess with my little sister.”
“The Nats won on a grand slam!!!" the note read. “We are playing the Cardinals next. I love you! Dad”
Tom and Lisa, who moved to Delray Beach, Fla., in 2016 and have had Nationals spring training season tickets since the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches opened in nearby West Palm Beach the following year, watched every World Series game together. They woke Reagan up for the final out of Game 7 and allowed her to stay home from school the next day.
“For die-hard Nats fans, that’s a month none of us will ever forget,” Tom Sileo said. “You’re watching and you just can’t believe what you’re seeing. From the wild-card game to the comeback in L.A., it was just truly a miracle what they were able to pull off.”
When he announced Natalie’s birth on Twitter, Sileo echoed part of what Nationals Manager Dave Martinez told fans in a nationally televised interview after Washington completed a sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series: Bumpy roads lead to beautiful places.
While the couple was still in the hospital, a Nationals representative sent Sileo a direct message on Twitter and asked for an address to send a congratulatory gift. The family was surprised by the contents of the box that arrived a few days later, including a Stephen Strasburg autographed jersey, World Series champions T-shirts and a bat engraved with Natalie’s name, date of birth and the #StayInTheFight hashtag. (“We look forward to seeing you all at the ballpark soon — we love your #NATITUDE,” the accompanying card read. “P.S. She has an amazing name!!”)
“We were not expecting it, and we couldn’t be more grateful,” Sileo said. “It really picked us up big time.”
Ahead of his first trip to see the Nationals at spring training this week, Sileo, an author who writes primarily about fallen heroes, said he has been overwhelmed by all of the support from friends, family and “perfect strangers who only know me for a few tweets about the Nats” since Natalie’s birth.
“It’s just really amazing the way people come out of the woodwork and just want to support you when something like this happens,” he said. “We just appreciate it so much. … As we’ve started to integrate ourselves into this Down syndrome and special-needs community, that’s what we found. Time and time again, people just want to share their experiences with you and help you in any way they can. After we’ve been doing this for a few years, I hope we can do this for other families.”
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