WASHINGTON - The song “Baby Shark'' blared over loudspeakers and a wave of red washed across this politically blue capital Saturday as Nationals fans rejoiced at a parade marking Washington's first World Series victory since 1924.
``They say good things come to those who wait. Ninety-five years is a pretty long wait,'' Nationals owner Ted Lerner told the cheering crowd. ``But I'll tell you, this is worth the wait.''
As buses carrying the players and team officials wended their way along the parade route, pitcher Max Scherzer at one point hoisted the World Series trophy to the cheers of the crowd.
At a rally just blocks from the Capitol, Scherzer said that early in the season his teammates battled hard to ``stay in the fight.'' And then, after backup outfielder Gerardo Parra joined the team, he said, they started dancing and having fun. And they started hitting. ``Never in this town have you seen a team compete with so much heart and so much fight,'' he said.
And then the Nats danced.
'I trusted these guys'
Team officials, Nationals manager Dave Martinez and several players thanked the fans for their support through the best of times and staying with them even after a dismal 19-31 start to the season. ``I created the circle of trust and I trusted these guys,'' Martinez said.
The camaraderie among the players was a theme heard throughout the rally. ``It took all 25 of us. Every single day we were pulling for each other,'' said pitcher Stephen Strasburg, named the World Series’ Most Valuable Player.
Veteran slugger Howie Kendrick, 36, said that when he came to the Nationals in 2017, ``I was thinking about retiring. This city taught me to love baseball again.''
Mayor Muriel Bowser declared D.C. the ``District of Champions.'' The Capitals won Stanley Cup in 2018, the Mystics won the WNBA championship this year, and now the Nationals are baseball’s best.
The Nationals won the best-of-seven series against the Houston Astros, with the clincher coming on the road Wednesday night.
``I just wish they could have won in D.C.,'' said Ronald Saunders of Washington, who came with a Little League team that was marching in the parade.
Nick Hashimoto of Dulles, Virginia, was among those who arrived at 5 a.m. to snag a front-row spot for the parade. He brought his own baby shark toy in honor of Parra's walk-up song, which began as a parental tribute to the musical taste of his 2-year-old daughter and ended up as a rallying cry that united fans at Nationals Park and his teammates.
As ``Baby Shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo'' played on a crisp morning, early risers joined in with the trademark response — arms extended in a chomping motion. Chants of ``Let's go, Nats!'' resonated from the crowd hours before the rally.
A packed crowd lined the parade route. Cheers went up and fans waved red streamers, hand towels and signs that said ``Fight Finished'' as the players rode by on the open tops of double-decker buses. General Manager Mike Rizzo, a cigar in his mouth, jumped off with the World Series trophy to show the fans lining the barricades and slap high-fives.
``We know what this title means to D.C., a true baseball town, from the Senators to the Grays and now the Nationals,'' Bowser said at the rally. ``By finishing the fight you have brought a tremendous amount of joy to our town and inspired a new generation of players and Nationals fans.''
Bowser added: ``We are deeply proud of you and I think we should do it again next year. What do you think?'' Then she started a chant of ``Back to back! Back to back!''
Martinez said he liked to hear the mayor pushing for back-to-back championships and said: ``I get it. I'm all in. But let me enjoy this one first. I don't know if my heart can take any more of this right now. I need to just step back and enjoy this.''
Martinez, who underwent a heart procedure recently, said that during the series, as things heated up, players and fans shouted at him to watch out for his heart. ``All this right here has cured my heart,'' he said.
And as the ``Baby Shark'' theme played once more, team owner Lerner told the team's veterans, ``From now on, you can call me `Grandpa Shark.' ''