The most populous items at Nationals Park on Thursday morning were orange traffic barrels. They were stained by dirt and flanked by wire fencing near the home plate entrance on South Capitol Street. No one was around. A handful of cars drove past, heading toward the downtown section of a city all but at a standstill. Across the street, the new arches of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge stood bright and quiet.
Thursday was not supposed to be like this. It was supposed to be a day to remember and fete the 2019 World Series champions. The team had one home exhibition game scheduled before the regular season was supposed to begin March 26 in New York. That would have been the first chance for fans to see the Nationals on the field in their home park since winning Game 7 in Houston.
But, this Thursday was set to bring the big celebration. The flag up, the trophy in the stadium, perhaps a ring reveal. Booming cheers for player after player, so many of which are returning: Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, Trea Turner, Ryan Zimmerman, Howie Kendrick, Sean Doolittle, Daniel Hudson, Juan Soto, Victor Robles, on and on.
The game was set to start just after one in the heart of a mostly sunny day. Temperature in the 60s, Strasburg, off his World Series MVP and new offseason contract, lined up to pitch, a division rival and its boisterous traveling fans in town. All that joy has been stalled while baseball and the rest of the country adheres to restrictions in an attempt to slow the hard-charging coronavirus.
“You can always look at every situation with a positive or negative kind of light,” Max Scherzer said. “We were ready to start the season. We were all ready. We were gung-ho ready to start the season. The thing is, life in this world now, we’ve all had to deal with drastic change to our lives and everybody’s trying to do the best they can to cope with it and try to make the best of the situation when we’re in such a dire crisis right now.”
Like Scherzer, Mike Rizzo remains in West Palm Beach. The general manager’s daily work has been contorted by baseball’s hiatus and unknown start date. While managing this new normal, Rizzo is hunting for something other than gloom while the whole sport is in a standstill.
“This is going to be a very, very special Opening Day for us when it happens,” Rizzo said earlier in the week. “We still have that to look forward to. On the brighter side, the glass half-full view is we're the reigning world champions and we still are clutching hard to that trophy. We've got ourselves a banner-raising ceremony coming. We've got ourselves some beautiful rings that we're going to be able to wear around D.C. in the very near future. Although we're thinking daily and hourly about the humanity of what's going on right now, we also have that to look forward to when we get through this thing and we come out the other side and baseball begins again.”
For now, he waits. They all wait. Another marquee day has passed without its previously planned party ever starting. Nationals Park is closed to the defending World Series champions, and it’s unclear when it will open again.
Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.
MORE NATIONALS NEWS: