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Nats’ night to cherish, too
Question of the Day
SAN FRANCISCO — Over time, the fact the Washington Nationals were on the field when Barry Bonds broke baseball’s all-time home run record likely will turn trivial.
But video replays and still photographs of the event forever will show Mike Bacsik delivering the fateful pitch, Brian Schneider crouching behind the plate and Austin Kearns leaping at the right-center field wall trying in vain to catch Bonds‘ 756th homer.
No Nationals player or coach in uniform Tuesday night will forget what they felt during that moment. Though Bonds always will be the center of attention throughout the highlight, the Nationals will spend the rest of their lives knowing they played a part in baseball history.
“I’m not going to lie to you: I had the best seat in the house,” said Schneider, who stood a few feet from the plate throughout the 10-minute ceremony that followed Bonds‘ titanic blast. “I had goosebumps the whole time. As much as you don’t want to say it beforehand, now that it’s over with, I’ll never forget this day.”
The Nationals were able to savor the moment a little more because they accomplished their primary mission Tuesday night: rallying to score four runs in the eighth inning to pull off an 8-6 victory over the San Francisco Giants.
Turns out Felipe Lopez predicted his team would do just that. Moments after the Bonds homer, the Washington shortstop walked up to Bacsik and vowed to win the game for the left-hander. Lopez wound up driving in the go-ahead run in the eighth with a double.
“That’s what really made me happy,” manager Manny Acta said. “As I said, he was going to hit his homer sooner or later. The fact that our guys were able to put away their emotions and get their focus back into the game and come back to win the ballgame, that really made the night very nice for me.”
The star of the evening — other than Bonds, of course — was Bacsik, who has embraced his newfound celebrity with ease. The 29-year-old left-hander, a career minor leaguer who has bounced around from organization to organization, understands this is likely what he will be remembered for. And he’s fine with that.
Bacsik became a media darling in the 24 hours following the home run. He estimates he appeared on “a couple dozen” radio shows yesterday, conducted countless interviews at AT&T; Park and even had two drinks bought for him late Tuesday night when some fans recognized him at a local bar. He also went into the Giants clubhouse to congratulate Bonds and wound up getting an autographed bat from the new home run king.
Bacsik, who could wind up making millions in autographs and appearances, hasn’t shied away from watching countless replays of the moment, either.
“Oh gosh, if I said 100 times I might be lowballing the number,” he said. “I mean, it’s all day today. Which is fine. I understand the moment is part of history.”
Nationals equipment manager Mike Wallace had Bacsik’s jersey, several lineup cards, ticket stubs and game balls authenticated so they can be displayed some day either in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown or perhaps in an eventual Nationals artifacts display at the club’s new ballpark.
Wallace also saved the ball from the final out of the game and presented it to reliever Chris Schroder, who had the good fortune to earn his first career win on the same night Bonds hit No. 756.
“I mean, you’re never going to forget your first win anyway,” said Schroder, who had appeared in 37 previous games without picking up a win. “But especially on a night like that. I think it’s kind of cool that it worked out like that.”
By John McAfee
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