WASHINGTON -- As the great ice skater Chazz Michael Michaels once said, "it gets the people going."
Nationals manager Davey Martinez was enjoying the evening with his team up 7-4 in Game 4 of the NLCS on Tuesday, just nine outs away from a World Series berth, when he felt something was missing. This game needed some juice.
The crowd had gone through a frontload of emotions with seven runs in the first inning and they were in the middle of a long wait until Clinchmas. So, Martinez peered down the dugout and called on the life of the Nationals' party, Gerardo Parra.
That gave the 43,976 fans in attendance what they really came to see and hear. They wanted their favorite band to play their biggest hit; 'Baby Shark.'
"I only put him in the game today to get the fans going again," Martinez joked.
Parra, though, came through with a single to back it all up. He has become a fan favorite on the 2019 Nationals and, for the most part, his production on the field has justified the hype.
Parra's greatest asset for the Nationals, however, is not his game. It is his presence in the clubhouse as the odd-ball who zips to his locker every day on a scooter, blows a party whistle after wins and wears red-tinted sunglasses in the dugout.
He's weird, but in a good way. And he is undeniably a key ingredient to a Nats team that is now further than any D.C. baseball club has been in 86 years.
As he sat at the podium soaked in various forms of celebratory alcohol on Tuesday night, Martinez told a detailed story about Parra earlier in the season, how a conversation between the two helped Parra realize exactly what his role for the Nationals needed to be.
"There was a point in time where he was struggling real bad. He was like 2-for-30, and it was kind of -- everything was kind of down a little bit. I didn't feel that energy, and I brought him in the office, and I said, 'hey, what's going on?' And he goes, 'oh, you know, I'm not hitting. I'm not helping the team.' I go, 'no, no, no.' I said, 'I don't care if you're 2-for-100, your job is to bring the energy every single day. That's who you are.' I said, 'you play that music loud. You pump up the guys.' I said, 'you're the guy that brings that energy every day,' and he just looked at me, and he goes, 'you're right.' He said, 'I'm not doing my job.' I said, 'well, go do your job'," Martinez recalled.
"Needless to say, after that, he started hitting again, and he came back to my office a few days later, and he goes, 'hey, thank you. I didn't realize that I need to have fun too, not worry about' -- I said, 'yeah, hey, bring it every day.'"
Parra has been the symbol of the Nationals' clubhouse chemistry this season which has been hailed as a strength. Major League Baseball is an everyday grind of 162 games and Parra has helped everyone on the team remember on a daily basis that it is just a game.
Martinez and the Nationals believe that approach overall is a big reason why they were able to overcome a 19-31 record to make the playoffs and now the World Series. Parra, though it may not show up in wins above replacement, has been invaluable.
"What he's done in that clubhouse has really changed the way these guys go about their business. I mean, it was business. There wasn't a whole lot of -- he made it fun for this team," Martinez said.
"Those guys up there, every one of his teammates love him, love him. All the fans love him. He's just that guy. He's the Parra Shark."
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