D.C. team loyalty can be hard to shake, according to Washington Nationals fans in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Some proud Nats fans will be wearing red caps into church this weekend, a reminder of Washington’s first World Series appearance in 86 years.
The Houston Astros won game three Oct. 25, trimming the Nationals series’ lead to two-games-to-one, but that hasn’t dampened fans’ enthusiasm for a team which started this season 19-31 which led to calls to fire manager Davey Martinez.
“I never lost confidence,” said Brian Madden, a parishioner of St. Mary’s in Annapolis. “It was just a matter of timing.”
Anthony Long, a parishioner of Holy Family in Davidsonville, agreed.
“I think manager of the year should be Davey Martinez,” Long said.
Long, 69, is a retired electrician who grew up in D.C. cheering for the Washington Senators, who left the nation’s capital in 1971 to become the Texas Rangers. “They were terrible but we still went all the time,” he said. During the three-decade-plus period when D.C. had no baseball until the Montreal franchise moved there in 2005, he was an Orioles fan.
His loyalty to the Nationals has earned him teasing from fans of other teams, including a former pastor of St. Mary’s, who was not shy about his love for the Mets when Long would go there for reconciliation.
“When I went into confession with my Nats hat,” Long said, “he would say, ‘Son, if you left your hat in the truck, I wouldn’t be so hard on you.’”
Madden, 60, recalled that when he lived in Seabrook, in Prince George’s County, he would bring baseball cards to his local 7-11 to ask for autographs from one Senators player who worked there part-time. Like Long, he cheered the Orioles after the Senators left. He was at the first game the Nationals played at RFK Stadium.
“The old ‘curly W,’ it pulled me back in,” he said of the team’s script logo.
Matt Palmer, 41, a parishioner of Our Lady of Victory in Baltimore, grew up in Prince George’s County without having known a D.C. baseball team. He rode the train to Orioles games and later covered the team for the Baltimore Examiner and Press Box.
On April 6, 2005, Palmer attended the Nationals’ second game ever in Philadelphia, and experienced something new to him: a baseball team with “Washington” emblazoned across their chests. Now his children are Baltimore sports fans.
“I love hometown pride and I want my kids to be proud of Baltimore, just as proud as I am of D.C.,” said Palmer, whose professional career has taken him from the Catholic Review to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and now Towson University.
There is much for fans to admire about this year’s team.
Palmer sees the Nationals’ success as an example of overcoming adversity. Father Andy Aaron, the pastor of Holy Family, appreciates the way some Nationals players’ express their faith on the field.
“Some of the players are very overt with their thanking God, just for the ability to play, and give God the glory instead of themselves,” Father Aaron said. “That’s a good lesson for anybody, whether you’re trying to build up a newspaper or build up a parish: remembering to give God the glory rather than yourself.”
As Long, the Holy Family parishioner, left for adoration the evening of Oct. 24, a travel day from Houston, he said, “I’m going to ask God to continue to bless the Nats.”