The Washington Nationals and Commanders forge a bond

Last month, a group of Washington Nationals boarded a bus to head to Ashburn. From experience, this is a lousy ride. The Nats were excited, though – because a morning at Washington Commanders training camp awaited them.

“Great,” said manager Dave Martinez.

“Oh man,” veteran starter Patrick Corbin said. “They have different shapes and sizes. We do too, but none of us can really compare to some of those big boys there. They’re just huge people.”

Thursday night, Josh Harris – currently enjoying his honeymoon as the new Commanders owner – will throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park. When the Commanders host the Chicago Bears next month, the football team will honor the baseball team.

What about the cross-pollination that the teams collectively refer to as “Capital Crossover: Diamonds and Gridiron”?

“We look forward to building a meaningful relationship with Josh and his team,” Nationals owner Mark Lerner said in a statement when the agreement was announced, “and this series is the perfect way to usher in a new era of professional football begin.” District.”

This statement can be roughly translated as follows: Daniel Snyder is no longer the owner of the NFL team, which means that the NFL team is no longer on an island. Let’s see if we can enjoy each other’s company and support.

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As the Nats headed to Commanders training camp — a trip on which they were accompanied by children participating in Nationals Youth Baseball Academy programs — players from both teams met and chatted afterward.

“A lot of them said they were baseball fans,” Corbin said. “Many of us said we were football fans. I think it’s good to have some kind of connection with them. Two professional teams in the same city. Definitely always keep an eye on them, support them. And hopefully they’ll do the same to us.”

Are such interactions important? Not particularly – at least not yet. There’s potential here, and we’re getting there.

But this partnership, while largely superficial at the moment, could be significant for fans and ultimately the region as a whole. The idea that the players they root for actually root for each other — and get to know and learn from each other — is a mystery to most fan bases. The idea that Commanders wide receiver Jahan Dotson came to a Nats game earlier this month, visited Martinez in his office and took batting practice — which he did — is honestly just kind of cool.

“He said he would take off for us,” Martinez said. “I told him he had to get on base first.”

Fun for everyone. Think of the recent examples when teams in the city seemed to be connected. These occasions were without exception great. When the Capitals played in the Stanley Cup Finals in June 2018, the Nats were out on the night of Game 4. So not only were Max Scherzer and Ryan Zimmerman there, but they also donned Capitals jerseys and hockey helmets, grabbed some sticks, and led the crowd in a deafening pregame chant of “Let’s Go Caps!”

When the Caps brought home the Cup, Nationals Park was a key stop on a bar crawl across the county, where Tom Wilson interrupted Alex Ovechkin’s interview with MASN’s Dan Kolko by singing “We Are the Champions” into the microphone. The crowd cheered every Caps appearance on the video board, which led to more beer drinking, which led to more appearances, which led to… you can imagine how that ended.

And when the Nationals subsequently won their own championship in 2019, perhaps the best part of their post-World Series celebration was a wild night at Capital One Arena. All Nats wore Caps jerseys. Zimmerman announced the starting lineup in the locker room. The two teams posed for a double team photo. The crowd sang “Baby Shark.” And when Corbin, Scherzer, Sean Doolittle, Trea Turner, Adam Eaton and Yan Gomes rode the Zamboni between periods, they took off their jerseys before leaving the ice – mimicking Brian Dozier’s celebration that led to one had become an integral part of the Nats. Delirium.

However, here is a way for the fun things to become impactful things. In June, for example, the Commanders and Nationals joined forces with Ted Leonsis’ Monumental Sports and Entertainment teams – led by the Caps, Wizards and Mystics – as well as soccer clubs DC United and Washington Spirit to donate $100,000 to Peace for DC, a local nonprofit organization that works to prevent gun violence.

Analysis: Commanders have reason for optimism. However, there is still a need for action in some areas.

A one-time five-figure donation per franchise doesn’t seem like much. But what if it led to more of the same? What if teams met more often to support more causes? Fans support their teams in a variety of ways by purchasing tickets, parking and hot dogs. Perhaps they could also be persuaded to support their teams’ causes. The entire community could benefit.

We’ll leave it to bridge building for now. The Nationals hosted the Commanders’ entire rookie class back in June. When new offensive lineman Nick Gates, a free agent signee, arrived at Nats Park, the club welcomed him to Washington by putting him on the video board where Wilson was introduced this year. Ovechkin was among the celebrities on the field before the Commanders’ home opener, Harris’ debut as owner.

Is it important? In a city that can sometimes seem divided, why not look for anything and everything that can bring it together?

“It was great getting to know the Capitals,” Martinez said, recalling his first season in Washington when the Caps won the Cup. “And to see our players and their players have the relationship that they have has been great. I hope we can do the same with the footballers.”

What we do know is that the owner of the Washington Commanders will be welcomed to Nationals Park on Thursday. When he walks onto the field for a small ceremony, he will almost certainly be cheering. This is the beginning of a warm, cozy hug that was unthinkable a year ago and shouldn’t be overlooked now. And if this new relationship between the teams can be more than just window dressing – if it could become the platform for something more meaningful – all the better. The Washington Nationals and Commanders forge a bond

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