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Baby sharks, conga lines had role in saving Nationals' season


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Baby sharks, conga lines had role in saving Nationals’ season

For a Washington Nationals staff heading to the franchise’s first World Series due to clutch hitting and lights-out pitching, it’s simple to miss the significance of the dugout dancing.

But nearly everybody with the Nationals, together with supervisor Dave Martinez, mentioned the conga lines, the music and the sheer enjoyable the staff’s Hispanic stars delivered to the membership this yr performed a giant role in the Nationals’ success.

In May, along with his staff treading water at 19-31, Martinez was certain the Nationals may flip issues round and save their season — they simply wanted to remain the course, loosen up and benefit from the recreation extra.

Enter Gerardo Parra.

The Venezuelan-born outfielder, signed by the Nationals on May 9 to fill in whereas a number of key place gamers had been injured, is credited by everybody from the entrance workplace to the dugout with imbuing the staff with an infectious vitality that helped change the season’s trajectory.



“What he’s done in that clubhouse has really changed the way these guys go about their business,” Martinez mentioned. “I mean, it was business. There wasn’t a whole lot of [fun]. He made it fun for this team.”

In the age of analytics, dancing in the dugout after residence runs or consuming collectively in the clubhouse cafeteria earlier than video games doesn’t essentially translate to successful.

But Parra’s exuberance — together with the outgoing personalities of fellow Venezuelans Anibal Sanchez and Asdrubal Cabrera, and the swagger of the Nationals’ two younger stars from the Dominican Republic, Victor Robles and Juan Soto — helped rescue the 2019 Nationals, who play Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday towards both the Houston Astros or the New York Yankees.

“Sanchy and Parra and all of our Latin guys, what they can do, they just bring an energy, just a personality that we just rallied around,” Max Scherzer mentioned because the staff celebrated sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Championship Series on Tuesday night time. “It simply grew to become contagious, and all people had a hand in it. One factor led as much as one other, and simply our clubhouse shenanigans and the way in which we will simply have enjoyable collectively.

“I think that’s the biggest thing, is that this team plays for each other and has fun together.”

Of course, it helps that among the staff’s Venezuelan- and Dominican-born gamers are additionally enjoying out of their minds.

Sanchez had a no-hitter damaged up after seven innings of Game 1 of the NLCS. Soto has 9 hits, two residence runs and 7 RBIs this postseason. Robles returned from a hamstring damage that induced him to overlook greater than every week of the playoffs and blasted a solo residence run in Game 3.

Conversely, Parra doesn’t cra-ck the lineup a lot anymore. During May and June, the 32-year-old was essential for Washington as a stopgap in the outfield and at first base whereas different gamers handled accidents. Now his role is extra about what he does off the sector than on it — although he did pinch-hit in Game 4, ripping a single to proper for his first hit of the postseason.

Martinez joked that he despatched Parra in to pinch-hit solely “to get the fans going again.”

Parra grew to become an unlikely phenomenon amongst Nationals followers when he modified his walk-up music — the monitor performed over Nationals Park audio system when a participant comes as much as bat — to the favored youngsters’s tune “Baby Shark.” His younger daughter liked the tune, and when Parra was swiping by music on his telephone on the lookout for one thing new, the earworm stored arising.

Most large leaguers, suffice it to say, don’t swagger as much as the plate with youngsters’s music blaring in the background, however Parra sees issues otherwise. His strategy to baseball, and life, is predicated on a easy philosophy: Keep it upbeat.

“Stay positive. Just be happy every day, believe in myself,” Parra mentioned. “We have a great team. Be happy every time.”

While followers grew to like “Parra Shark,” because the craze grew to become recognized, Parra turned the clubhouse tradition inside out in different methods. He received the Nationals dancing to rejoice residence runs. The sort of dance was left as much as the hitter. He pumped energetic music — often Latin dance or digital music — by the clubhouse audio system.

Martinez recounted one level in the course of the season when Parra was slumping on the plate. It affected his vitality. Parra didn’t really feel he was serving to the staff anymore.

“I go, ‘No no no no,’” Martinez mentioned. “I said, ‘I don’t care if you’re 2 for 100; your job is to bring the energy every single day. That’s who you are.’ I said, ‘You play that music loud. You pump up the guys’ … and he just looked at me and he goes, ‘You’re right.’ He said, ‘I’m not doing my job.’”

It’s greater than Parra’s job now. When the Nationals clinched a postseason berth Sept. 24, Sanchez was blowing a whistle on the entrance of a conga line that slithered all through the clubhouse. When Stephen Strasburg left the mound in Game Three of the NLCS, Parra greeted him with a hug — and Sanchez joined in behind him, regardless of how awkward it made the often stoic ace really feel.

“The group hug, yeah, that’s GP and Sanchy,” Adam Eaton mentioned. “They’re touchy-feely. It’s nice. They like trying to make Stras feel as uncomfortable as possible. It’s great. When Stras is uncomfortable, good things happen, so we love it.”

The vitality has been undeniably infectious and has rubbed off on the American-born gamers in a number of methods.

“I’m seeing Strasburg dancing salsa, Scherzer dancing merengue. It’s unbelievable,” Johnny DiPuglia, Nationals vice chairman of worldwide scouting, advised NBC Sports Washington. “Before, when you would go in there and speak Spanish, people would look at you like a UFO. Now, you have to know some words of Spanish just to fit in. I think it’s wonderful.”

Scherzer confirmed off his Spanish expertise after the Nationals received Game Four of the NLDS when he and Ryan Zimmerman had been requested a loaded query about having a staff filled with veterans.

“Yeah, we joke about that. We’re a bunch of viejos,” Scherzer mentioned, utilizing the Spanish phrase for “old men,” although MLB’s official transcript determined he mentioned “yahoos.”

Whatever language the gamers need to converse, and nonetheless they need to rejoice, one thing is clearly working. Entering the World Series, the Nationals have received 16 of their previous 18 video games relationship again to the common season.

As Anthony Rendon not too long ago put it, “We have taken our victory party to a whole new level.”

• David Driver and Matthew Paras contributed to this report.

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