Long before the Nationals lost 4-1 to the Phillies on Tuesday night, before the 45,695 fans found their place inside Citizens Bank Park and hours before they’d get their first glimpse at Jayson Werth playing inside their ballpark in a Nationals jersey, the Nationals right fielder took a different tour through the bowels of the park.
For the first time in over four years, Werth walked past the home team’s clubhouse door and kept on going.
His reception, which had been the topic of much conversation leading up to Tuesday’s game after many Phillies fans booed Werth at Nationals Park last month, was a warm one. It began with boos but when Werth tipped his batting helmet to the Philly faithful before stepping in the box, those faded and were replaced with a standing ovation — prompting another cap tip. He’d offer yet another when he took his place in right field at the top of the second following a walk and a stolen base.
“I was happy to be back here and playing in this stadium,” Werth said “It’s an atmosphere like no other place. The fans welcomed me back and I was very grateful. I’ll definitely remember that for the rest of my career.
“After the four seasons I spent here and what was accomplished while I was here, to welcome me back like that, it means a lot. It really does. It’s something I’ll definitely remember for a long time.”
Werth had said before the game that while he, of course, hoped the reception would reflect what he helped accomplish as a member of the Phillies, he had low expectations.
“You can’t take away from me, from us, what we had,” he said. “It was a special time in sports history, let alone Philadelphia sports history. Hopefully I’ll be remembered for the good times and, after that, I understand. I understand all bets are off.”
After the game, he maintained that stance.
“I was glad it went the way it did,” he said. “From here on out, whatever happens, I’ll definitely always remember that first at-bat… If I’m booed every day here for the rest of my career, I’ll take that as a compliment.”
Werth was also asked to compare his new team to his old — to contrast how his role has changed from being one of many in a stacked lineup to more of a star and a leader in Washington.
“They’re two totally different animals,” he said. “We want what (Philly) has. There’s no doubt about that. That’s one of the things, going to Washington, I was very adamant about — turning that atmosphere and that stadium to maybe not exactly what’s going on here because it’s possible you can’t replicate that anywhere but it’d be nice to get that going in the right direction and have something similar.”