The Nationals will host at least two World Series games next week. That is a wild feat for a franchise that suffered through a string of 100-loss seasons after baseball came back to D.C. in 2005.
The job isn’t done for Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto. The job is just starting. The World Series presents a pomp and circumstance in baseball unseen in D.C. since before World War II. And no offense to baseball crowds in the 1930s, but the safe guess is the pomp and circumstance has grown significantly over the last 80 years.
Much of the scene next week will be mandated by Major League Baseball. The big national corporate sponsors will show up and things that have happened all year will get pushed aside in the great name of a cash grab. God bless America.
But, this is still D.C. and the Nationals still get some control over who throws out the first pitch. Should anyone need ideas, here’s a list of tremendous options. No politicians. Please. Seriously.
1) John Thompson - Big John was born here in 1941 and built a basketball empire at Georgetown in the 1980s. Nobody embodies D.C. more than Thompson, the old and the new, and he probably watched Senators games at old Griffith Stadium. Thompson was around when RFK was new. Big John has an edge, and so does this Nats team. Likelihood: Slim. Baseball likes to celebrate baseball during the World Series.
2) Joe Gibbs - The greatest winner the city has ever known. Gibbs is the epitome of class and maximizing player’s potential. A three-time Super Bowl winner that can probably still fire in a fastball. Likelihood: Even slimmer. Baseball likes to celebrate baseball and certainly not the NFL.
3) Tom Boswell - A sports columnist to throw the first pitch of a World Series game? Damn right. Nobody did more to keep the hope for a new D.C. baseball team alive than Boz. For more than 30 years there was no baseball in Washington, and every year, Boswell would work his contacts about possible moves or expansion back to the city. For D.C. fans that were starving for baseball information and needed a leader in their quest to get America’s Pastime back to the Nation’s Capitol, Boz was their champion. No journalist will ever be more intrinsically involved in a professional team’s success than Boswell is with the Nationals. Likelihood: Slim. The media isn't supposed to be part of the story.
4) Alex Ovechkin - The best athlete in D.C. in the last century. Not just a scorer, but a champion now. This isn't about the Caps just did it so the Nats can too. This is about D.C.'s best supporting the local 9. Likelihood: Decent chance. He's a huge star and has been at Nats games throughout the franchise's existence.
5) Livan Hernandez - He threw the first pitch for the Nationals organization at RFK 14 years ago. A fan favorite and a winner, Livo is loved by Nats fans. Likelihood: Seems like a good chance Livo will be involved in some capacity, first pitch might be a stretch though.
6) Wale - For young fans across the city, Wale is the most accomplished musician the city has produced. He proudly supports the Nationals and wears the Curly W just about everywhere he goes. Likelihood: Decently slim. Wale might not be quite a big enough star for a World Series first pitch but it would make a lot of sense for him to be involved somehow. Maybe he can say Play Ball!
7) Dave Grohl - A native of Northern Virginia and an incredibly accomplished musician. Getting Grohl to perform the National Anthem before next Friday’s Game 3 would be even cooler. Likelihood: Good chance, if he will do it. Not sure how much Grohl reps the Nationals. But him doing the Anthem would be incredible.
8) Anthony Williams - I know we said no politicians but if Williams wasn’t the mayor in 2004 the Nationals never make it to Washington in 2005. Securing the funding to build Nats Park wasn’t easy and probably cost Williams’ future in D.C. politics. The vote to build the stadium only passed by one vote and soon after Williams announced he wouldn’t run for re-election, but walk around the Navy Yard now and ask yourself if it was the right decision. Likelihood: Slim. It would be very cool though if the Nats' Ted Lerner and Williams came on the field together to see just how big their vision became.
9) Walter Johnson's relative - I don't know who this would be, but Babe Ruth's granddaughter threw out a pitch at a World Series game within the last decade. This would be a nice nod to a local icon as well as a tie to the last time a D.C. baseball team made the World Series. Likelihood: Strong. Baseball loves to honor its past especially with a local tie.
10) Frank Robinson's relative - A baseball legend and the Nationals first manager when they arrived in D.C. in 2005. Robinson passed away earlier this year and is one of the game's all-time greats. Likelihood: Strong. Baseball loves to honor its past and especially with a local tie. Robinson would probably get honored during the Series this year anyway since he passed away in February.
Wild Card - Tony Kornheiser. A national star now with his ESPN success, Kornheiser wrote for The Washington Post for years. He's also a huge Nats fan and talks about almost every game throughout the season on his podcast, which has a massive audience. Likelihood: Strong, but Tony will need to stay up late and deal with a huge crowd, neither are things he particularly likes. La Cheeserie.
Note: It’s probably fair to ask why I wrote this piece as I cover the Redskins and rarely, if ever, write about the Nats. Well, I’ve been at just about every major Nationals milestone as a fan, in person, in good seats and in bad. I watched Livo throw the first-ever Nationals pitch from the nosebleeds at RFK. I watched Jayson Werth hit that Game 4 homer from standing room seats at the Red Loft bar. I was there for the opening of Nats Park and the Game 5 loss to the Cubs. I traveled to Harrisburg to watch Strasburg pitch in the minors and I’ll never forget the electricity of his Nats Park debut. I watched Bryce Harper play in Bowie. I love this baseball team, and while I loved the Orioles when the Nats didn’t exist, there was always a big hole not having baseball in my hometown. Yes I’m a reporter but I’ve never covered the Nats. I’m a fan, just like you.
Let’s go win the World Series.