The air was crisp, the atmosphere convivial last Thursday as the Washington Nationals took batting practice at Wrigley Field. The 2012 season, one that carried more expectation and anticipation than any in the organization’s history, was near.
Behind the batting cage, general manager Mike Rizzo approached manager Davey Johnson. There, Rizzo reflected on the work that built these Nationals. He glanced out at a team on the verge, and then at the man who’d chosen to help bring them there.
Johnson, pushing 70 and managing his fifth major league team, turned and put his hands on the general manager’s shoulders. Their relationship born out of mutual respect that evolved into its current form as a result of the abrupt and absurd last summer, the two stood like that for a moment, then shared a hug.
“I was more glad,” Johnson said later, “that he was there.”
“You could see them looking at each other, smiling,” said special assistant to the general manager Harolyn Cardozo, who often serves as a conduit between the two. “It was this moment, this ‘We’re in it together, and we’ve got something good here,’ moment. That has to be unique.”
For an organization that just passed its eighth birthday and has a history strewn with moments of ineptitude and instability, the tranquility that presides over it now is incomparable.
For the two men who exemplify that stability most, the symbiotic nature of their relationship sets the precedent for the organization.
Dialogue, several Nationals officials said, is constant and encouraged. The prevailing thought being the same one Cardozo visualized between Rizzo and Johnson on Opening Day: We’re all in this together.
When Rizzo brought Johnson on as a special assistant, he wanted the man and his vast baseball knowledge by his side. But when the opportunity arose for Johnson to become the Nationals’ manager, one of several invitations he’d had since 2000, Johnson only agreed to it for this organization because Rizzo was at the top of it.
“Today, right now,” Johnson said, “It’s a perfect fit.”
Baseball lifer meets rookie GMView Entire Story
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Amanda Comak covers the Washington Nationals and comes to The Washington Times from the Cape Cod Times and after stints with MLB.com and the Amsterdam (N.Y.) Recorder. A Massachusetts native and 2008 graduate of Boston University, Amanda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow her on Twitter @acomak.
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