Nats excited for World Series reunion even with absences of notable names

While Friday night technically kicked off the Nationals’ weekend-long celebration of the 2019 World Series championship’s five-year anniversary, today is when the real festivities begin.

Several Nats alumni from the 2019 team will be at today’s game to participate in reunion events around the ballpark, including a Q&A session with fans. The first 20,000 fans to today’s game will receive a replica World Series ring. And tomorrow’s finale includes a 2019 World Series viewing toy giveaway for the first 8,000 fans 12 and under, plus autograph sessions.

For those fans who don’t have tickets for the games, former players will be joining the MASN and Nationals Radio Network (English and Spanish) broadcasts today and tomorrow, with special features also airing during the pregame shows.

And after five years – with a global pandemic happening right after the club’s first championship – the Nats are ecstatic to celebrate this weekend with former players and fans.

“I'm very excited,” said Davey Martinez, the Nats’ longest-tenured manager and the only one to not just win a playoff series, but win a championship. “I'm looking forward to seeing all the guys again, I really am. It's gonna be a fun weekend.”

The 2019 team was obviously special. Not only in that they won the World Series, but that they memorably came back from a 19-31 start to the season. And anyone who had any part with that team has always referenced how tight-knit a group it was.

“Teams build an identity together, right?” Martinez said. “And this team in particular was unbelievable. It really was. They were family. They did things that I thought, 'Wow.' We had some instances, but they kept it together and they had a great time together.

“But they knew why they were there and that was to win. When we started 19-31 – in case everybody forgot – I'm not gonna lie to you and I'm sorry I'm gonna say this, but they played their asses off. They really did. And it was fun to watch this group. Everybody picked everybody up. When one guy had a bad day, the next guy stepped up and did their job. So it was a great group.”

Because that group was so close and they did something so special together, Martinez said it’s going to feel like no time has passed at all when he’s reunited with the likes of Brian Dozier, Adam Eaton, Javy Guerra, Howie Kendrick, Aníbal Sánchez and Kurt Suzuki.

“It's gonna feel like it was yesterday when I see them, yeah,” Martinez said. “Those are unbelievable memories for all of those guys. All those who participated, without any of those guys, we don't win. So it's gonna be fun. Every time I look at my ring and my trophy, I always feel like it was yesterday. It's a good feeling.”

Most teams probably wouldn’t throw this big of a celebration for a five-year championship anniversary. But this is a special case for the Nationals. First of all, the Astros are in town, so it’s a good time to playfully rub it in. And secondly, the COVID-19 pandemic robbed the Nats of a proper victory lap during the condensed 2020 season without fans in the stands. The team feels like it never got to celebrate properly.

“Yeah, definitely. We missed out on a lot,” Martinez said. “I always go back and I always go back to my coaching staff, too. We had a chance to go to the All-Star Game. They didn't go. I went and I felt bad. Honestly, I really didn't want to go without them, but it's always an honor to go. But I felt bad for them. I felt bad for the guys. It was really a big tour for us that year to play and we never got to do that.”

So the weekend of April 19-21, 2024 it is finally a celebration. And although that handful of alumni will be here along with the 2019 members who are already here (Patrick Corbin, Sean Doolittle, Gerardo Parra, Tanner Rainey, Victor Robles and Ryan Zimmerman), a larger number of players from that team won’t be here because they are currently playing for other teams.

Max Scherzer (Rangers), Juan Soto (Yankees), Anthony Rendon (Angels), Trea Turner (Phillies), Daniel Hudson (Dodgers), Michael A. Taylor (Pirates), Joe Ross (Brewers), Yan Gomes (Cubs), Wander Suero (Astros) and Matt Adams (Tijuana, Mexican League) all have other obligations. And the three retired players – Asdrúbal Cabrera, Fernando Rodney and Stephen Strasburg – aren’t expected to attend either.

Unfortunately, their absence does make this celebration slightly odd.

“Absolutely. No doubt about it,” Martinez said. “But every time I see those guys ... I just saw Huddy in L.A., and we'll see him again next week. But he was like, 'I'll never forget that year. It was unbelievable.' I said, 'Yeah, neither will I.'"

But perhaps just as importantly there will finally be some important team members in attendance: the fans, who Martinez has always been sure to mention as a member of the Nationals, especially since the COVID season.

“When I talk about the team, and I always mentioned this, they're the 26th man,” he said. “Without them, there's really nothing, and we experienced that in '20 playing without the fans here. It was terrible. It really was. But it was what it was. So they're always included whenever I talk about any of our teams. I love the fans.”

Get to the ballpark early (or tune in from home early), wear your championship gear and give the 2019 World Series team the celebration it deserves.

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