NBC Sports Washington is rolling out the 20 biggest stories in DMV sports in the past 20 years. Here is No. 2.
When it was over, when they screamed and gawked and wondered how to act after a childhood dream came to exist in real life, they searched for family.
Daniel Hudson scanned a swirling group of teammates and stage constructors for his wife and daughters. October changed his life beyond just throwing the slider to end the World Series. He became a father for the third time, a national storyline for the first time and a tired man by the end. Fatigue be damned, Hudson hoisted his two young daughters while his wife blinked at tears.
Max Scherzer looked lost. He wandered like someone simultaneously present and elsewhere. Scherzer made it to the World Series before, back in 2012, when he and the Detroit Tigers failed. In 2019, he clenched his fists and teeth when walking around the infield of Minute Maid Park. During an earlier hug with former Detroit teammate Aníbal Sánchez, Scherzer said, "We finally got one." Eventually, he found his wife, Erica, posed for multiple group pictures, then made for the clubhouse to kick off the debauchery.
Ryan Zimmerman threw aside his stoicism. Enduring the growing pains, injuries, playoff failures, and angst from being in Washington from the beginning, all came up through his chest and out of his mouth as he screamed. Zimmerman headed toward the batch of Nationals fans behind the visiting dugout waving a "Nationals World Series Champion" flag while in a sleeveless red undershirt. His red wristbands were still on. His reality was one so hard to fathom after 100-loss seasons. Yet, there he was in Houston, mouth agape as the flag lurched from side to side.
Washington went from 19-31 to the best team in baseball in 2019, leaving a legacy marked by rallying, a crowd clapping to a child's song, dugout dancing and dominant starting pitchers. The combination produced Washington's first baseball championship since 1924.
The euphoria of a championship is hard to understand. At times, it's hard to express after the fact, but becomes more clear as time moves. Everything changes. Everyone is affected. People in the moment emerge to mingle with others riding along. Claiming seismic effects is not an exaggeration.
Closer Sean Doolittle went to Virginia to visit his grandfather, John, after spending the season thinking about his grandmother, Jan, who died in February. Doolittle quietly changed his number to 63 before the season to honor how long the couple had been together. Now, he was able to share his championship glow with John and the residents in his new living community.
Coach Bob Henley went back to Alabama, where he ran into people who told him how nervous they were while watching. Some had to stop and just wait to hear the next day what happened. They grabbed his neck for hugs and hand for congratulations.
Juan Soto graduated from good young player to star. A year prior, he returned to the Dominican Republic where someone came up to him in a grocery store and said, "You know you look like Juan Soto?" His aunt laughed at his side. This winter, he's stopped for photos, admiration and to be embraced.
Davey Martinez evolved from chopping block to revered. He hugged fans along the parade route then spent the winter working on a book, speaking to various groups and gallivanting. Investment firms reached out for advice on how to apply analytics to people. Martinez and his girlfriend took a trip to Bali, came back to Washington for a sit-down event with SiriusXM Radio, then hopped back on a jet for another brief warm-climate vacation. Working out in public gyms in the District became so onerous in the offseason because of the demand brought on by winning the World Series, Martinez felt the need for a home gym solution. The price of fame was extracted even when trying to bench press.
A patch to remind who the 2019 champions are will be worn on the right sleeve of Washington's 2020 jerseys. Two new logos exist for various marketing endeavors. A large sign at the team's spring training facility in West Palm Beach is being erected. The "division winner" placards in the bottom of the stadium near the clubhouse entrance will be butted aside for World Series-winning signage. April 2 at Nationals Park, the banner will be raised. There was a parade. There was Winterfest. But the title was won down in Texas. The seventh game of the 2020 season will be the first time the team is on the field at home as champions. The title will stick no matter where they go from there.
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