Kurkjian On Nats’ Title: A Story You Can’t Make Up

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Kurkjian On Nats’ Title: A Story You Can’t Make Up
Dec 3, 2019

Some of the top baseball writers in the D.C. area gathered at Knight Hall Dec. 2 to discuss what it was like to cover the Washington Nationals’ championship season.

The panel, hosted by the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism, featured beat writers Jesse Dougherty (Washington Post), Jamal Collier (MLB.com) and Brittany Ghiroli (The Athletic), as well as ESPN national baseball writer Tim Kurkjian.

The group talked to students about the ebbs and flows of the Nationals’ season, recalling the clubhouse camaraderie at the lowest moments, the wild ride through the playoffs and even and how manager Dave Martinez kept his team prepared for October.

On May 23, the Nationals were 19-31 and an afterthought in the postseason chase.

Collier talked about how many times he had buried the team, saying, “I thought they were going to be done, and wouldn’t make the playoffs, and they just kind of kept going.”

Despite the dismal start, the Nationals recorded winning records in June, July, August and September, heating up just in time for the playoffs.

Despite witnessing it themselves, the four panelists could not provide any answers as to how the Nationals were crowned world champions at the end of October.

“It’s a story that you just simply can’t make up,” Kurkjian said. “I remember writing and going on TV, at 19-and-31, and saying, they have no chance to make the playoffs.”

Martinez maintained a poise and confidence throughout the season that alarmed the reporters so much so, that they would question how authentic his positivity was despite the team’s early struggles and Martinez’s alleged position on the hot seat.

Ghiroli said she would even question, “Is this guy watching the same games we were watching” because of his overwhelming positivity.

“I think players feed off of that,” Ghiroli said. “To have a guy who said, ‘I believe in you, I know you guys will turn it around.’”

According to Statista.com, the Nationals were the oldest team in baseball in 2019. Yet despite their age, the panelist said the team had fun throughout the course of the season. They found a rallying anthem behind the children’s song “Baby Shark” and had an infusion of international players that created a different culture.

Kurkjian recalled Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman’s in-season reflection, expressing how different the season was for him.

“Ryan Zimmerman told me in early August, long before we even thought they were going to make the playoffs, that ‘this is the most fun I’ve ever had.’ And of course, he told me that again in October,” Kurkjian said.

The event concluded with the panelist providing words of wisdom for students at the panel, emphasizing a commitment to reading more, writing more, gaining more experience and taking risks.

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