Without hesitation, Jason Turner climbed onto the home team dugout at Nationals Park as beer flew near his head. All over the city, people leapt to their feet in pandemonium and screamed with unfiltered joy. Turner looked briefly at the crowd of more than 16,000 delirious fans gathered at the ballpark, ripped off his partially torn and rain-soaked T-shirt, and slid head first onto the tarp.
The Washington Nationals, the team the 19-year-old George Mason University student grew up rooting for in Fairfax, had just won the World Series for the first time in franchise history.
It made sense to Turner that he’d celebrate by making the dugout his own personal slip and slide.
“It’s unbelievable,” Turner said moments later, his voice hoarse from yelling. “I didn’t think we were going to get this far this year, but oh my god! It feels good! Let’s go!”
One year after the Washington Capitals won the franchise’s first Stanley Cup title and gave D.C. sports fans a reason to believe in their teams, the Nationals embarked on their own quixotic journey that ended on 11:53 p.m. Wednesday night when closer Daniel Hudson heaved an 88 mph pitch to strike out Houston Astros’ Michael Brantley.
With the Washington Mystics winning their first WNBA title in early October, D.C. has won two championships in less than a month.
“First the Capitals and the Mystics. Now the Nats. All we need is Dan Snyder to leave D.C. and the [Washington football team will] get on top,” Turner said.
The Nats’ 6-2 come-from-behind victory in Game 7 of the World Series completed a season in which the Nats started 19-31 before squeaking into the playoffs with a late-season turnaround. In the postseason, the Nats faced five elimination games (hence the slogan, “Stay in the fight.”) They won each time, with the final test coming Wednesday in Houston (“Finish the fight.”)
More than 1,400 miles away at the Nats Park watch party in D.C., the skies had finally cleared after hours of rain, and fans waited after the game, some still in shock, to cheer as Nats manager Dave Martinez and his band of misfits took to the stage to receive the sport’s highest honor.
Even a month ago this moment would have felt improbable, if not outright impossible.
But the players credited Martinez and the veteran presence in the clubhouse for keeping the team together when their season could’ve easily derailed. And in the process, fans got to witness a team that embraced the lighter side of the sport.
Gerardo Parra introduced the “Baby Shark” phenomenon to fans and dugout dance parties to his teammates. Brian Dozier went viral for his rendition of a hit Puerto Rican song, “Calma,” and Juan Soto proved to be not just a star of the future, but one of the most charismatic players in all of baseball.
“This team is incredible,” said 32-year-old Jon Byrum of Woodbridge, one of the fans at the watch party. “From start to finish, this season alone has been a roller coaster, but it’s crazy to think we’re finally here. We’re World Series champions, baby! C’mon. It’s insane.”
Byrum celebrated the win next to several of his friends, including Matt Dunavant and Nicky Dunavant. Matt proposed to his now-wife at opening day in 2017 and they were married in a Nats Park suite last July. The Nationals hold a special place in their lives, and for them, the camaraderie of the players will be one of the things they remember most about this season.
“It’s the chemistry. Apparently, man, bringing Parra in mid-season, the way that loosened up the clubhouse, everybody seemed to click after that,” Matt said, still visibly emotional from the night. “It’s incredible, man. It’s incredible.”
As people began to file out of the ballpark, a familiar face stood in the concourse near the center field gate. A line of fans waited to get a selfie with Ted Peters, better known as “Captain Obvious,” a persona complete with a captain’s attire and a red-and-white sash with the word “OBVIOUS.”
The 54-year-old from Prince George’s County is a season ticket holder for both the Nats and Caps and goes to about 65 baseball games a year at Nats Park. He remembers when the Washington Senators left town in 1972, and having to wait 33 years for baseball to return to D.C.
“The love for this team, it’ll never end,” he said. “Because I loved them as the Senators and missed them as the Senators.”
Ushers and Nats team officials attempted to hurry Peters and fans toward the exit, but he moved slowly, taking selfies and giving out hugs to anyone who requested. On the screen in the outfield, the words “Fight Finished” and “World Series Champions” flashed in turn. The sound of cars honking echoed into the night, and fans began to pile into Half Street SE.
The party around the city was just getting started, and Peters was in no rush to leave. He had waited his whole life for this moment and he didn’t mind taking his time soaking it in.
Justin Peters contributed to this article.