Rosario soaks in ovation and contributes to Nats' wins in return to Atlanta

ATLANTA – As Eddie Rosario walked to the plate for the first time on Monday, Braves catcher Sean Murphy moved from his normal position behind it to in front of it, unofficially pausing the game. He knew what was about to happen.

The public address announcer introduced Rosario as the Nationals’ fourth batter in the first inning and the crowd of 38,858 fans stood up and applauded, an unusual thing to do for an opposing player. But Rosario wasn’t any ordinary opposing player.

The 32-year-old outfielder, who played three seasons with the Braves while winning the 2021 World Series and being named the National League Championship Series MVP along the way, tried to let the ovation pass. But the applause grew louder.

Finally, Rosario stepped out of the box, took off his helmet, waved it to the crowd and patted his heart in appreciation. He also acknowledged his former teammates and coaches who had joined the moment from the home dugout and playing field.

Then he hit the third pitch he saw from Charlie Morton down the left field line for an RBI double, giving his new team an early lead over his former squad.

“I'm very, very grateful for the fans and the applause they gave me, the welcoming they gave me,” Rosario said, via interpreter Octavio Martinez. “And then you see as well as my ex-teammates and the organization. They treated me very well while I was here. I'm very grateful for that. And you know, I've always seemed to hit well here for some reason. I feel very comfortable. I hit very well and just looking forward to hopefully keep contributing to us hopefully winning.”

It was a special moment for Rosario even after the Braves chose not to pick up his option at the end of last year, leading him to eventually sign a minor league deal with the Nationals three weeks into spring training.

“It's awesome. Fans don't forget,” manager Davey Martinez said of Rosario’s ovation. “He's had some big moments here. A big postseason. A big World Series. They remember that. So we were all proud of him to get that ovation. And we appreciate the fans. Hey, baseball fans are baseball fans, no matter what. Every time we go to a new city, and you see the stadium full like it is here, and we go back home and see our fans cheering for our guys, it's always exciting.”

Rosario collected three hits, two walks and three runs scored as the Nats won three of four games against this former team. He has raised his batting average by nearly 100 points over the course of this month after a dreadful April, sparked by being named NL Player of the Week for the first week of May.

“It felt great, obviously,” he said. “But at the same time, I don't like to receive those kinds of recognitions. It's mainly because now I feel like teams will focus more on you. If you're hot, they try to obviously study a little bit more and focus on pitching you differently. I felt like since then, I've gotten less fastballs to hit. So obviously, it makes it a little bit more difficult to hit. But at the same time, this is a game of adjustments. I've just got to make the adjustments.”

Rosario has also had to adjust to inconsistent playing time. With Lane Thomas back in right field, Davey Martinez has rotated Rosario and Jesse Winker in left, with one of them occasionally serving as the designated hitter as well.

“This isn't the first time that that has happened to me,” Rosario said. “It happened to me as well as last year, where I was kind of in a rotation playing. And those are things I can't control. I don't focus on trying to put my head down if I'm not playing every day. I just know that if I'm in the lineup, I try everything to prepare for the game. And when I'm able to help contribute to help the team, hopefully, help them win. But those are things that I don't have control over. I just gotta be ready and prepare for the day when my names in that lineup.”

It was also a somber return to Atlanta for Rosario. The team arrived in town just hours after it was announced Ronald Acuña Jr. tore his left ACL and would miss the remainder of the season. Rosario shared an outfield with the reigning NL MVP and was of course sad to hear the news about his former teammate.

“Very, very sad. It's unfortunate,” Rosario said. “He's too young to have those kinds of injuries early in his career, especially coming off an MVP season. It's just very sad, but I hope he's able to make a strong and quick recovery and come back to the form of the player we know he is.”

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