- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 31, 2019

The airplane door cracked open and the Washington Nationals’ Dave Martinez and Ryan Zimmerman emerged. Pausing at the top of the stairs, Martinez waved a giant Washington Nationals flag while Zimmermann did something that caused the team’s friends and family already on the tarmac at Washington Dulles International Airport to erupt in cheers: He hoisted the World Series trophy.

The Nationals’ return to Washington on Thursday capped a delirious day of high-fives, hugs and impromptu “Baby Shark” jams in a sports town known more for failure than success that is suddenly, improbably, amazingly celebrating a third national championship in just two years.

The Nationals, who arrived in the District in 2005, won their first World Series in franchise history Wednesday night in heroic fashion, rallying to top the heavily favored Houston Astros in a Game 7 on the road in Texas. The Series title was the city’s first since 1924 — ending a 95-year drought. The team joined the Capitals and Mystics as the clubs to bring titles to D.C. in the past 18 months.

Thursday’s celebrations were just the start. A victory parade is scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m. The procession will start at Constitution Avenue Northwest and 15th Street Northwest, proceed east along Constitution Avenue Northwest, and end on Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest and Third Street Northwest with a team rally, according to a press release from the mayor’s office.

“The people in Washington, man, they buy in,” Martinez said. “They’re all in. … We appreciate that. Believe me, the boys love it. And they feed off it. I’ve said this before: They have become the 26th man, and we appreciate them very much.”

Across the city, fans erupted when the Nationals recorded the final out Wednesday at 11:50 p.m. They cheered at Nationals Park, where a crowd of more than 13,000 stuck out the rain to see the moment they had all been waiting for. At Capital One Arena, where the Wizards aired the end of the game on the Jumbotron after their loss to the Houston Rockets, strangers embraced and exchanged fist-bumps as their baseball team finally did what seemed impossible for so many years.

The celebration spread into the streets. Car horns honked as people on sidewalks yelled back in jubilation. A man in his Toyota Highlander rolled down a window at a stoplight and screamed, “We won the fight,” a nod to the Nationals’ “Stay in the Fight” slogan.

Maryland resident Mike Barnes shouted with joy to no one in particular as he strolled down Sixth Street.

“This is just awesome,” Mr. Barnes said. “We got the Washington Mystics, the Washington Capitals two years ago. Now we got the Washington Nats — hell yeah!”

Police closed off a portion of F Street between Sixth and Seventh, allowing people to rally in the middle of the road. One fan climbed on top of a white van and started a “Let’s go Nats!” chant to people below. The man, wearing a blue Capitals hockey sweater, danced and waved his arms until he hopped back down to the sidewalk.

Just across the street from the ballpark in Navy Yard, people hopped over railings and climbed through the windows at Walter’s Sports Bar to continue the celebration, said Jeremy Giffords, owner of the bar and a Nationals season ticket holder.

There was about an inch of beer on the floor, broken glass and empty cans everywhere, Mr. Giffords said.

The mayhem is set to cost him a couple of thousand dollars to fix. Almost all of the tables were “demolished” from people standing on them, and holes were left in the walls of the bathrooms and the floor of the bar. The general contractor arrived Thursday to assess the damage.

“I couldn’t have gotten any luckier,” Mr. Giffords said about opening the bar this April. “I have joked with some people that maybe we need to talk to Dan Snyder and he can pay us to open up a sports bar next to FedEx Field and maybe try to change their luck a little bit.”

Over the course of the weekend, Mr. Giffords, 46, said the bar sold about 11,000 Bud Lights, went through about 130 kegs of beer and had about 2,000 pounds of ice delivered.

The moment especially meant a lot to those born and raised in the District. For years, Polo Bubani had to hear how the District was a city of transplants — carpetbaggers who showed little to no interest in local teams. Those who did pay attention suffered through their share of heart-wrenching losses.

Mr. Bubani said he never thought the Nationals would win the World Series — not after the years of hyping himself up, only to be disappointed each fall. But now, the Southwest resident stood in the middle of the street, wearing an old Bryce Harper jersey. Mr. Bubani altered the jersey by duct-taping over “No. 34” on the back and writing “wishes he was here” with a sharpie. He smiled.

“This is amazing. This is a renaissance right now,” Mr. Bubani said. “This is title town, you know what I’m saying? Titletown!”

When Virginia resident Jennifer Stevens watched the Nationals win, she couldn’t help but think of her parents. The 54-year-old remembered her late father, who raised four girls and passed on his love of sports to each.

“My father would just have been — he wouldn’t be happy with the Redskins — he would be totally, I’m sure they’re doing a happy dance up in heaven,” she said.

Now a mother of five, Ms. Stevens woke up Thursday morning and went to Dick’s Sporting Goods to buy World Series memorabilia. As she waited in a line that stretched to the back of the store, she held five baseball caps, three winter hats, three banners and 20 shirts in her arms. In all, she estimated she was about to spend $600 and the items would be distributed among her family.

“Well spent,” Ms. Stevens said. “Easy.”

Fans waited in line throughout the day Thursday at the will-call office at Nationals Park, despite the rain, to get more collectible paper versions of their original digital tickets from games 3, 4 and 5.

Mike DeGraba, decked out in Nationals gear and waiting in line to get his Game 5 collector’s item, said he went to the first game the Nationals ever played against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

“This Nats team seemed like an amazing group of guys, an amazing family, and I think that became the difference between winning the World Series and not winning it,” Mr. DeGraba said.

The Nationals would agree. Their run for the title, after all, required a long list of firsts: the first team to win the World Series after being 12 games under .500 in May, the first team in MLB history to win five elimination games in one postseason despite trailing in each game, the first team to clinch by winning all four World Series games on the road.

The Nationals had been fighting back all season, overcoming the loss of Harper and weathering the storm when they were 19-31 in late May. The entire time, Washington insisted they could overcome the challenges facing them, even when they went down three games to two against the Astros. Martinez repeated the mantra he convinced the team to live by all season: Just go “1-0” today.

On Wednesday, they went “1-0” one last time.

“Everything in your career that you fight for [is] for this moment,” Max Scherzer said. “You go to free agency. I signed here, and the first words out of my mouth was, ‘I came here to win.’ And we did it. We won.”

⦁ Adam Zielonka contributed to this report.

• Sophie Kaplan can be reached at skaplan@washingtontimes.com.

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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