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Gerardo Parra is gone, but will never be forgotten

Gerardo Parra is gone, but will never be forgotten

There was a down time for Gerardo Parra. His non-stop bubbliness lost some perk once he entered a month-long slump. Parra did not ride his scooter into the clubhouse with the same joy. His work in the dugout during games dialed back to enthusiastic, living below his usual level of a rocket being launched into a volcano. He wasn't himself. So, Davey Martinez called him into the manager’s office.

“I sat with him. I said, what's going on?’” Martinez said during the postseason. “He said, ‘I don't know, I'm not doing good.’ And I go, ‘And?’ And he looked at me and said, 'What do you mean?' I said, 'Your job is to bring the energy every day. I don't care if you're 2 for 100. Bring the energy. Play that music, get loud, and have fun. Have fun.'

“He said, you're right, and he went back and started playing music, having fun. Lo and behold, he went on a tear again, and he comes back in my office, and he said, you know, I kind of forgot what it was like to just be myself. And I said, exactly. So I don't ever want to see you do that again, you know? You're another heartbeat of this team. It's not just about you, it's about everybody else. Like I said, 2 for 100, you've got to be yourself.”

Parra being himself turned into one of the grand storylines of the Nationals’ 2019 World Series season. His daily arrival was stirring, like someone tossed a bag of sunshine into the clubhouse. His scooter-propelled entrances included horn-blowing and extra laps and what-the-hell-is-this-guy-doing smiles. Often, he wore blacked-out sunglasses when circling the clubhouse, darting right back to the training area, then pulling a u-turn to zip through the other side of the clubhouse and past the dining room before an abrupt halt at his locker.

Parra’s next stop -- scooter inclusion to be determined -- is Japan. He signed a one-year contract with the Yomiuri Giants late Tuesday, the team announced. His departure ends arguably the most memorable, non-quantifiable, pervasive bit player show in organization history. It’s 2020 on-field impact is nil.

“When Gerardo Parra joined the team, something happened,” managing principal owner Mark Lerner said during the postseason. “Whatever it was, it was magic.”

Parra caused Freddie Freeman’s bewilderment. His presence led to a stadium-full of adults -- by age -- clapping along to a child’s song which included lyrics and a beat never to be extracted from one’s skull once heard. His father sat at Parra’s locker on the red cushion of a folding chair in his “Papa Shark” T-shirt. Even founding principal owner Ted Lerner, a 94-year-old man of business and sternness, paused to mention the “Baby Shark” situation at the team’s parade. 

“I want to say a special word to the veterans on this team: from now on, you can call me, ‘Grandpa Shark.’”

Max Scherzer cackled.

Parra’s May 11 grand slam in Los Angeles was one of the few palatable points in the month and indicative of his ability in big spots. He finished the season with a 1.117 OPS with runners in scoring position. 

Late in the year, Scherzer said the team had an “it factor.” Asked how he knew, he couldn’t explain. “You just know it when you see it.” This stance applied to Parra because moments became his.

The pop culture surge of his song choice -- a result of his daughter’s relentless listening and an attempt at slump-breaking -- put Parra in front of cameras all season. A television hit on MLB Network’s “Intentional Talk” was part of his media rounds. Afterward, he beamed. 

Parra, born in Venezuela, went back to the clubhouse to describe his success. “I nailed it,” he said. He went on to tout the quality of his English during the segment. It was so good, he thought a name change was necessary.

“My name is no more Gerardo, it's Gerard,” Parra told Martinez.

Martinez’s reaction?

“You can't be serious. You've got to laugh at him, but he was dead serious. And he started going around the clubhouse saying, ‘You call me Gerard from now on.’ Whatever.”

Gerardo, Gerard, the song, the scooter, the smiles and rose-colored glasses are off to Japan. Staying is a legacy of fun, which won't go away.

 

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Here's how MLB will experiment with crowd noise at Nationals games

Here's how MLB will experiment with crowd noise at Nationals games

Crowd noise made its way into Nationals Park on Wednesday. It’s not the only place, and it will continue.

Major League Baseball teamed with the video-game maker MLB The Show to pull together audio which can be used during fan-less games across the league in 2020.

Its initial use received good reviews from Nationals players, according to Davey Martinez. All sides were also working to temper the volume in an empty, echoing stadium. Sounds on the field come across different than in the dugout. The Nationals players asked for the crowd noise to be turned down later in their intrasquad game on Wednesday. Everyone was pleased once that happened.

RELATED: CROWD NOISE MAKES ITS WAY TO NATS PARK

Martinez said they plan to use the fake noise throughout the season.

Here are the details from an MLB spokesperson of how the crowd-noise experiment will work:

  • All Clubs will use ambient and reactionary background audio to create crowd noise during the 2020 season.
  • MLB is providing each team with an array of crowd sounds and a touchpad device that can be integrated into their ballpark sound system to help manage the playing of these sounds. The crowd sounds will be audible to on-field personnel and during television and radio broadcasts.
  • Clubs will begin to use and test the sounds during Summer Camp workouts and exhibition games to be prepared for the start of the season.
  • The crowd backgrounds and reactions provided to the Clubs are all derived from exclusive, original source audio recorded by MLB The Show developers at MLB regular season games. The audio was meticulously edited into sound cues used in MLB The Show 20, with a focus on authentically replicating crowd sound and behavior. Selected content was then further refined for real-time playback over ballpark audio systems and allows for around 75 different effects/reactions to be used during a game.
  • The crowd sounds will work in conjunction with stadium announcers, walkup music and in-stadium video to replicate the in-game experience as closely as possible.
  • Clubs can use a different audio provider if they choose, but all will be provided the MLB system.
  • The Home team will operate and manage the playing of crowd sounds, as they do with other audio and video content. Clubs will be required to project the type and volume of audio in a way that otherwise mimics the sounds that would have been present in the park had fans been in attendance.
  • With the energy of fans in attendance being a key element missing from games right now, MLB developed these audio enhancements to help improve the in-game experience for both players and personnel at the ballpark as well as fans watching and listening at home. In the event fans are permitted in ballparks, we will revisit audio policies for those games.

 
Is it fans? No. Is there a, “Nats, Nats, Nats, Woooo!” chant when they score? No.

Is it an improvement over the silence pervading the park during prior workouts? It is.

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Juan Soto hints at returning to Nationals summer training on Instagram

Juan Soto hints at returning to Nationals summer training on Instagram

Ever since summer training started for the Nationals, one of the main questions surrounding the team revolved around their absent superstar left fielder. 

Along with Howie Kendrick and Victor Robles, Juan Soto has yet to report to summer training ahead of a 60-game sprint that will act as Washington's first World Series title defense. The 21-year-old went into isolation on July 7 after coming in contact with a teammate who tested positive for coronavirus. The team revealed two unnamed players tested positive on July 5.

Now, it appears Soto's return is approaching, as he hinted Wednesday night on Instagram that he's "coming tomorrow."

Soto's return will surely be a welcomed sight by his teammates. With Anthony Rendon gone via free agency, Soto is now the lineup's centerpiece. He'll need to produce at the level he did last year, if not better, to give the Nats' stellar pitching staff the run support they need. 

RELATED: NATS KNOW THEY CAN'T DO THE '19-31' THING IN 2020

In 2019, Soto posted a .282/.401/.548 slash line with 34 home runs, 110 RBI and 32 doubles. He came in ninth in the MVP vote and on top of it all, delivered a number of clutch hits in the postseason to help deliver his team a championship. 

Now that he's back, let's hope he can no further complications arise and he can remain with the team all season long, no matter how short it may be. 

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