WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - It didn’t compare to the parade they threw the Nationals in Washington three days after Game 7 of the World Series. How could it?
Maybe there weren’t hundreds of thousands of fans lining Clematis Street in downtown West Palm Beach on Thursday evening. But those who did turn out - and there were plenty who did - were treated to a yet another nice celebration of the 2019 champs, this one in their spring home.
“I am very impressed with all the players that are here,” West Palm Beach mayor Keith James said at the rally that followed the five-block parade. “I won’t mention it, but we did this a couple years ago for another team that will remain nameless. There weren’t as many players. So thank you for showing up. ... We are so proud and honored to have you in our city.”
The mayor’s not-so-subtle dig at the 2017 champion Astros - who now have seen the validity of that title questioned after they were found guilty of illegally stealing signs that season - wasn’t the only near-mention of the franchise that shares its spring facility with the Nats.
Manager Davey Martinez said his team could be described by one word: Habit. It’s actually his acronym for: Heart, Attitude, Belief, Integrity and Trust. And as he gave examples how the Nationals have displayed all of those qualities, he couldn’t help but twist the knife just a bit more toward the franchise his team beat in October.
“Integrity?” Martinez said with a smirk. “I don’t think I have to talk about integrity.”
As he did on Constitution Avenue in November, Martinez held the Commissioner’s Trophy as he rode this parade route inside a convertible. Unlike that day in D.C., fans were able to walk right up to Martinez’s car and take selfies with the trophy and interact with the skipper.
The same was true for Mike Rizzo’s car, in which the longtime general manager rode while smoking a cigar and holding a professional wrestling championship belt.
“2019 is behind us; we’re looking forward to 2020,” Rizzo told the crowd. “But it’s always nice to reminisce. We’ll never forget the season that we had in 2019. It was a magical season. It shows what you can do when you believe in ‘we’ instead of ‘me,’ when the name on the front of the jersey is more important than the name on the back of the jersey, and perseverance, hard work and dedication.”
Though more than a dozen players participated, the only one to speak at the microphone during the rally was Trea Turner. A native of nearby Lake Worth, he spoke glowingly about the Nationals’ spring home of the last four seasons and the effect it’s had on his teammates.
“I grew up 20 minutes from here. I’ve called this place home for a long, long time,” Turner said. “I’ve seen it all from Jupiter to Miami; I’ve played in so many baseball tournaments. And I’ve always loved it. But I’ve noticed how much these guys love it every year they come down, play golf, go eat food. We do a lot of things together. To watch them appreciate it as much as I have is really special to me.”
And for those who attended Thursday’s celebration, this was just another reason to appreciate everything they’ve been through over the last season.
“These guys behind me trusted one another throughout the whole year,” Martinez said. “They believed in one another throughout the whole year. I’m so proud of this group of guys. What they did, what we went through all year long, man, what an amazing (year). From bumpy to beautiful to whatever you want to call it. These guys are the real deal.”