For the next month or so, the Washington Nationals might be something of an afterthought in this city, as the Wizards and Capitals both embark on promising playoff trips this week. The Nationals tend to be very aware of what their D.C. counterparts are up to, and showed their interest most memorably one May day in 2015, when the Wizards’ No. 34, Paul Pierce, hit a game-winning buzzer beater a few minutes after the Nationals’ No. 34, Bryce Harper, hit a walk-off home run. Nationals players finished celebrating on the field, filed into the clubhouse, watched the shot and celebrated again. On Sunday, the Nationals’ game begins five minutes after the Wizards’ first playoff game begins across town.
But Saturday, the Nationals played in the afternoon, early enough that they could make it to Verizon Center for Game 2 of the Capitals’ first round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Max Scherzer organized a suite, and many of his teammates — Harper, Trea Turner, Adam Lind, Adam Eaton and others joined him there. With optional batting practice at 11 a.m. on Sunday morning, most of them left before the end of the double-overtime game.
Eaton is a particularly big hockey fan, as his brother-in-law plays at Michigan State. He spent time with the Stanley Cup when the Blackhawks brought it to the White Sox clubhouse during his Chicago tenure. He watched the Coyotes when he played in Phoenix, and Redhawks hockey while at the University of Miami (Ohio). He has already introduced his young son, Brayden, to the Capitals.
“I think other sports within the city interacting with each other only helps,” Eaton said. “You definitely feel a sense of unity.”
Dusty Baker said he didn’t pay much attention to D.C. sports before he got here, and doesn’t necessarily keep an eye out in the offseason, when the nearby Golden State Warriors earn more of his attention. But when John Wall visited the Nationals’ clubhouse last season, he started paying attention — in part because Wall is one of his son Darren’s favorite players
“He promised my son a jersey, which we’re still waiting on,” Baker said Saturday. “I understand he’s been busy.”
Baker said his son asked if he could stay in town Sunday for the Wizards game, but he made him head back home. Baker and the Nationals have to head to Atlanta after Sunday’s game. The Wizards will follow them there later this week, after two games against the Hawks in Washington.
“I’m hoping we turn into a City of Champions. That can be contagious, that process of positive thoughts,” Baker said. “When one team wins, another team wins, another team in the city gets behind you. Right now, the city’s kind of negative as far as playoffs from what I’ve heard, which I didn’t know. Every time I talk to somebody about the Caps, they’re like ‘oh, they’ll lose.’ They’ll get to the playoffs, they’ll lose. That becomes contagious in thought around the city. I’m hoping they win, then the Wizards win, then we win.”
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