Gerardo Parra hadn’t been back in the District since December 2019. On Saturday afternoon, the 11-year veteran was told he was heading back to the big leagues.
Like any other minor league call-up, Parra drove the five-and-a-half hours to Nationals Park from Rochester, New York — where the Washington Nationals Triple-A squad resides. After the rainy drive, the Venezuela native arrived in the District just after 10:30 p.m.
“I feel like a first-time big leaguer,” Parra said standing in the home dugout in a cutoff t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops on Sunday afternoon.
Nationals manager Dave Martinez said Parra’s been swinging the bat well in the minors and the team needed another outfielder, so the veteran was called up.
Parra played 21 games with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings this season, batting .222 with 12 RBIs and a home run.
Like Parra, the song returned to Nationals Park when he stepped into the batter’s box in the seventh inning against the Mets on Sunday. The crowd of 30,371 at the stadium greeted Parra, clapping along with the song and flapping their arms in the now-famous “shark” motion.
In his return to the plate, Parra sent the second pitch he saw down the left field line into the corner for a double. The crowd roared again as the song played again with Parra on second.
“He’s just a smart baseball player and you know the kind of energy that he brings to our clubhouse, it’s nice to get that back,” Martinez said.
Parra was brought up to the big leagues to be a veteran Martinez can use off the bench and play in the outfield, but Martinez said he could also “play in a pinch” at first base.
In his career, Parra has played at first base 39 times, including 14 games in 2019 with the Nationals.
Last season, Parra played with the Yomiuri Giants, but he didn’t want the trip across the Pacific to be the end of his baseball career. He wanted to get back to the major leagues.
“Last year when I signed with Japan, I said I want to play there, but I want to be back [in the majors],” Parra said. “I’m happy I’m here … this year’s a new year and [I want to] try to be the best and try to be a champion again.”
Parra had knee surgery last fall and he said he’s worked on getting his body back to full strength. He said his mobility isn’t limited and he’s ready to play in the outfield when his name is called.
“I lose a lot of weight. I’ve prepared my body for that point,” Parra said. “I’m ready for anything. The moment Davey gives me the opportunity to play, I’ll do my best.”
Martinez said the Nationals felt Parra was ready to return to the big leagues after talking with Matthew LeCroy, the Red Wings manager.
The Nationals sent infielder Luis Garcia down to Rochester and designated left-handed pitcher Ben Braymer for assignment to make room for Parra on the roster.
“We need to see him be more consistent,” Martinez said of Braymer. “In order to be able to play in the big leagues, we talk a lot about being consistent and he just hasn’t shown us the consistency yet.”