Thousands Turn Out As White House Honors Washington’s Nationals

November 5, 2019 by Dan McCue
White House ceremony honoring 2019 World Series victors The Washington Nationals. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump couldn’t help himself. Though he appeared to be in a festive mood as he welcomed the World Series Champion Washington Nationals to the South portico of the White House, the impeachment inquiry transpiring a few miles away on Capitol Hill was clearly on his mind.

Sticking mostly to his script, the president began his remarks before an estimated 5,300 fans gathered on the south lawn of the White House on a crisp, sunny Monday afternoon, noting that the nation’s capitol was celebrating a World Series victory for the first time in nearly 100 years.

“That’s big stuff,” he said to enthusiastic applause.

“The last time Washington, D.C. was home to the World Series champs, the president was a gentleman named Calvin Coolidge,” Trump continued. “That’s a long time ago.”

The president went on to say that “throughout this season, the Nationals captured the hearts of baseball fans across the region and across the country.

“America fell in love with the Nats baseball.  They just fell in love with Nats baseball. That’s all they wanted to talk about,” he said. “Well, that and impeachment.”

Trump clearly intended the tossed off line to inspire laughter — and it did from just about everyone but first lady Melania Trump, whose beaming smile went slack for the briefest of moments.

“I like Nats baseball much more,” Trump continued, digging back into a speech that recounted the highs and lows of the Nationals’ just concluded season.

Beckoned to the microphone by the president, Mike Rizzo, the Nationals’ general manager, said the team was “honored to be here in the long tradition of honoring champions in the White House.”

Rizzo called the team a “special group of human beings,” and said he was proud of the fact that when you read about Nationals’ players, you read about them in the Sports section rather than other parts of the paper.

Manager Dave Martinez cracked jokes about his team’s high-spiritedness, and choked up a bit talking about his team’s “heart.”

Trump mused that the Nationals’ players had ““ worked every count, hustled for every base, you fought for every run and produced a comeback story for the ages.”

To honor their grit, he said, “We’re going to call this Washington Nationals Day.”

The president had been booed at Nationals Park on Oct. 27, when he attended game 5 of the World Series. It was the first Major League Baseball game he has attended since taking office.

Though he made no mention of the boos and chants of “lock him up!” that accompanied them as he asked one player after another to say a few words to the crowd, he did declare at one point that “I am a total baseball fan.”

He also clearly reveled in the fact that catcher Kurt Suzuki slipped on a red “Make America Great Again” cap as he made his way to the podium, a move that inspired the president to throw his arms around the startled player.

Suzuki wasn’t the only player to show some support for the president. Another was first baseman Ryan Zimmerman.

Zimmerman told the crowed it was an “unbelievable honor” to be at the White House and to be standing before such a large crowd gathered there.

“This is stuff that you dream about,” he said. “To see all the fans show up, the parade, look at this crowd here — you know, we couldn’t have done it without you.”

Zimmerman then turned to Trump.

“Mr. President, me and my teammates — first of all, we’d like to thank you for having us here,” he said. “This is an incredible honor that I think all of us will never — will never forget.  And we’d also like to thank you for keeping everyone here safe in our country … and continuing to make America the greatest country to live in the world.”

With that, he presented the embattled president with a “Trump” No. 45 jersey.

Several players did decide to pass on the White House ceremony, including the All-Star third baseman Anthony Rendon.

Also missing from the steps of the south portico, where the players gathered with the World Series trophy, were Wilmer Difo, Sean Doolittle, Javy Guerra, Victor Robles, Joe Ross, Wander Suero, and Michael Taylor.

Most cited scheduling issues. The owners were represented by Mark and Judy Lerner, but the rest of the family, was not in attendance.

But the majority of Nationals stars were in attendance, including Anibal Sanchez Ojeda, Trea Turner, Max Scherzer, Howard Kendrick, Asdrubal Cabrera, Adam Eaton, Juan Soto, Austin Vouth, Yan Gomes, Patrick Corbin, James Dozier, Gerardo Parra Leon, Erick Fedde, Fernando Rodney, Matt Adams, Hunter Strickland, and Daniel Hudson.

The loudest applause of the afternoon were reserved for pitcher Stephen Strasburg, the World Series MVP who has opted out of the last four years of his contract.

Someone yelled “Please, Stras, come back,”

With that, a loud and persistent cheer of “four more years” rippled through the crowd.

Strasburg laughed. “Thank you,” he said.

“You know, I think, starting out 19 and 31 only makes this that much better,” he said.  “You know, we could have been like the other teams, we could have won over 100 games and it could have been smooth sailing all the way, but it wasn’t.  It wasn’t easy. And I think it was — we only had one choice and that was, you know, stay in the fight. And we stuck together. We pulled for each other.  And, man, what a way to celebrate finally finishing that fight.”

Returning to the podium, the president acknowledged the “four more years” chants, saying “I’m going to consider that four more World Series wins, okay? 

“That would be very exciting,” he said.

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