- - Sunday, November 3, 2019

It was one hell of a goodbye.

That’s what Saturday’s glorious parade in the District for the Washington Nationals was — a goodbye to the 2019 World Series champions.

It was a farewell few will ever forget.

QUIZ: Can you pass this World Series trivia test?

Goodbyes are typically sad, but not this one.

On a sunny fall afternoon on Constitution Avenue, this party was a celebration of the time the team and their fans spent together. It was perfectly appropriate, too, because there will never be another season like 2019 — the first World Series championship season for every Washington baseball fan who wasn’t alive 95 years ago.

The Nationals could repeat next year and do it again, but it won’t be the same.

Make no mistake about it, every World Series championship season is special.

But for this town, it will never be the same as it was Saturday in a sea of red in the heart of the nation’s capital.

“For this first time since 1924, we brought the world championship back to Washington,” owner Mark Lerner said.

Think of all that has happened since the last time the city celebrated this special title: There was the Depression, World War II, television and rock and roll.

There was the Vietnam War, disco, the Cold War, the Berlin Wall collapse, Carrot Top, the Internet, a Stanley Cup championship.

And now, a World Series for a city that did not even have a baseball team to call its own for 33 years.

We will never pass this way again.

“They say good things come to those who wait,” said Ted Lerner, who recently celebrated his 95th birthday. “Ninety-five years is a pretty long time to wait. But it’s worth the wait.”

This was a special group of players that Washington fell in love with rather quickly. Let’s face it, while they were battling back from a 19-31 start to finish with a 93-69 record and win a wild card berth, many of you weren’t paying attention.

After all, attendance at Nationals Park this year was down nearly 300,000 from the year before, to 2.26 million, and local television ratings were down as well.

But everyone woke up when Juan Soto cleared the bases with his eighth-inning game-winning hit in the wild card game on Oct. 1, and by Saturday, there were thousands more people who wanted to watch this team celebrate.

I suspect many of them will be at Nationals Park next season when the champs return to the field to defend their crown.

That will be great. But it won’t be the same.

“These guys, we fought all year long to stay together,” said Ryan Zimmerman, who has been here since the return of baseball in 2005 and was visibly emotional on stage at the scene Saturday. “We came from a dark place in June. We played playoff games from June on and I think that really helped us. There is not a team I wouldn’t rather to do this more than these guys.”

They won’t stay together, though. You can probably say goodbye to Brian Dozier and his shirtless, dancing joy. He was a one-year, $9 million free agent signing at second base who saw very little playing time in the postseason on the field. In the clubhouse celebrating, Dozier may have been the Most Valuable Player.

The business of baseball has already resulted in a decision by World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg to opt out of his contract to become a free agent.

Washington has declined the team options on both Zimmerman and catcher Yan Gomes, and Anthony Rendon will likely be the most sought-after free agent on the market. There will be others as well.

The hope is that the team will reach an agreement with Zimmerman that works, and a new deal with Strasburg, who moved his family here to Washington last year and is very comfortable with this organization. The bigger question is Rendon, and whether or not the Lerners will make him an offer that tops any other that his agent, Scott Boras, can reel in.

The crowd along the parade route Saturday made it clear how they felt, with chants of “Sign Rendon, Sign Rendon” along the way.

Even if Rendon returns, it will be a different team in 2020. Saturday’s goodbye, though, doesn’t mean forgotten. Far from it.

Fans will remember the heroics of Howie Kendrick, the joy of Gerardo Parra, the excellence of Rendon and the rest of this cast.

Here in Washington, players like Paul Casanova, Tim Cullen, Ed Brinkman, Bernie Allen and others from those losing Washington Senators teams of the 1960s are still revered by the generations of baseball fans who grew up watching them.

They remain immortal to them.

So will the 2019 World Champion Washington Nationals. They will remain baseball gods in this city.

⦁ Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

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