MASN broadcaster Bo Porter really enjoyed his first season as a co-host on the “Nats Xtra” pregame and postgame shows. And he could not have asked for a better ending, as the Nationals went all the way to win the 2019 World Series.
Porter knew it was a big step to go from being a player to a coach to a manager and now to broadcaster in a matter of a couple of seasons. But he said feeling comfortable and respected by the people he worked with made all the difference.
“It was great,” Porter said. “I was extremely blessed for my transition to happen with Dan Kolko, Bob Carpenter, F.P. Santangelo, producers John Harvey and Carolyn Shomali. It was people that I had working relationships with already. That played a major role in my decision to join MASN and the Washington Nationals.”
And taking off the uniform and putting on a suit and tie for television gave him a new appreciation for this side of the camera, how hard it is to have to ask the tough questions and find out why a manager or player did what they did in the game.
“I have said this many times: I wish I had this media experience before I managed,” Porter said. “Because going through the course of the season from the media side of it, it brought the game full-circle for me. Understanding all the things which I already understood as a boots-on-the-ground player, coach and manager, I was able to now see it from the lens of the media side and understanding all the things that went into the day-to-day and why a coach would make a decision. Why a manager would make this decision?
“Now I have to report on it. How that is being reported obviously will go a long way in determining the relationship that extends from coach to player and manager to front office. It gave me a greater appreciation of the entire dynamic that surrounds our game. From ownership all the way down to the minor leagues, I had a clearer understanding of how all the pieces of the puzzle now fit.”
Porter managed the Astros from 2013-2014 and had been a coach with the Nats, Braves, Marlins and Diamondbacks at various times between 2007 and 2016. He played for the Cubs, Athletics and Rangers from 1999 to 2001. In all of his seasons around baseball, however, the 2019 season with the Nats was unforgettable on so many levels.
“The excitement of winning the World Series and being a part of that historic season for the Nationals,” Porter said. “There is only one thing better than winning and it’s more winning. When you start spring training and you say to yourself you want to be the last team standing, you want to celebrate in the middle of the diamond, it is something that as a competitor it drives you each and every day.”
In November after all the celebrating had died down, Porter said the realization of what the Nationals had pulled off finally sunk in. From the depths of just 19 wins through May 23 to a playoff spot and then an improbable run, Porter shook his head and smiled.
“It took probably another month for it to set in because you know how difficult it is,” Porter said. “I go all the way back to the middle of May, when there was a lot of people writing this team off. I am on record saying this: I would never give up on this team because of the starting pitching. If they are able to pull it together, if they get in, they are the most dangerous team in the playoffs. The reason being is when you take a talented group that Mike Rizzo put together and add the great job that Davey Martinez did (it becomes a winning combination).”
Porter was with the Astros in the midst of a full-on rebuild. In those two seasons, he managed in his current residence of Houston and the Astros lost 190 games. He understood from the dugout and the clubhouse how tough it is to try to put a winning team on the field. Porter had special empathy as a former manager watching the current Nats skipper remain optimistic when the team was struggling on the field.
“It was a growth and learning curve for me as well,” Porter said. “I learned a lot from watching Davey last year and how he handled the slow start, the underperforming team that many picked to win. When you find yourself in that situation, a lot of times there is a lot of finger-pointing, there is a lot of chirping, there are a lot of knee-jerk decisions being made. Mike Rizzo showed great leadership by keeping his hand on the pulse and sticking with the organization plan. Davey Martinez showed tremendous leadership by sticking with his guys and not crumbling under all of the pressure that was hanging over his head and his job security.”
Porter watched and admired how Martinez did not panic. The Nats mended from injuries, reworked their bullpen and got on a roll. Porter said the club deserves credit for staying the course when so many other teams might have made major changes.
“How many teams have we seen crumble under those circumstances? You look up and the roster is completely different, and now the organization goes another five, ten years trying to get back to the point where they have a championship window,” Porter said. “For the Nationals to hold it all together and keep this championship window intact and start it with great leadership. That great leadership is what led to the players being able to deliver a championship. People talk about championship cultures. As coaches, as managers, as front office executives, we don’t build championships. We build people. And the people build the championship.
“So what Mike Rizzo, Davey Martinez and the Lerner family did was build up the people that they were charged to build up. And the people delivered the championship. It’s just a fascinating story as it relates to leadership, as it relates to fortitude. Many people just wrote this team off at 19-31. But you look at the end result, it was a team of champions.”
As for those people - the players - it was guys like Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto and his teammates that made it all happen.
“The (Max) Scherzers, the (Stephen) Strasburgs, the (Ryan) Zimmermans, Gerardo Parra comes in and he adds a whole different level of excitement and fun for the team,” Porter said. “Aníbal Sánchez, the guy who has been to the World Series and lost and he has accomplished so much, but never got the ultimate prize. I think having Howie Kendrick for the whole season and his leadership (was crucial). Collectively, we had the right people in the clubhouse that was able to get the most out of each and every person that stepped foot in that clubhouse. That is why that team won the championship.”
What a ride for the Nationals in 2019. For a baseball lifer like Porter, who had seen it all, this run was one for the ages. Porter got to talk on television about the best season in franchise history, coming to this place with a unique perspective that few have experienced, and with it, a deep appreciation.
“The greatest moment in my sports career was that last strike and Daniel Hudson closing out Game 7 and realizing that we were the world champions,” Porter said.