The Washington Nationals were supposed to celebrate their first world championship in team history a few weeks ago. Instead, the Major League Baseball season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
While the MLB probes different ways to start their season potentially without fans, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo made clear in an interview Sirius XM’s MLB Network Radio that the organization was not going to raise its World Series banner or give out rings until fans can celebrate with the team in person.
“I think as far as raising the banner and the distribution of rings, we’re going to wait for our fanbase to be involved to do those types of things,” Rizzo said as transcribed by NBC Sports Washington’s Matt Weyrich. “Those are once-in-a-lifetime things to do and our fanbase is such a big factor in helping us win that thing. They earned it, they deserve to be involved in it and we’re going to wait for them to do it.”
That could prove to be a long wait. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an April 15 conversation that sports leagues could potentially begin again in the summer but without spectators and other major changes.
“There’s a way of doing that,” Fauci replied. “Nobody comes to the stadium. Put them in big hotels wherever you want to play. Keep them very-well surveilled and have them tested every week. And make sure they don’t end up infecting each other or their family and just let them play their season out. People will say well you can’t play without spectators.
“I think you’ll probably get enough buy-in from people who are dying to see a baseball game, particularly me,” he added. “I’m living in Washington. We have the world champion Washington Nationals. I want to see them play again.”
With a vaccine likely 12-18 months away, social distancing requirements could stay in place into 2021 meaning Nationals fans would have to wait an entire season to celebrate.
Despite the setbacks, Rizzo has done all he can to bring joy to Nationals fans during this period. On what should have been Opening Day, Rizzo put the World Series trophy on his window sill so fans could look at it from outside and take pictures.
During Rizzo’s chat with Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette, the GM also spoke about the team’s top prospect after Carter Kieboom, shortstop Luis Garcia – the 97th best prospect in baseball.
“Our young middle infielder, Luis Garcia, really showed [this spring] that he’s getting closer to being Major League ready,” Rizzo said. “A few nuances of his game need to come together for him to have the full package, but you’re talking about a young kid that held his own at the Double A level at 19 years old. He can stay in the middle of the field if we need him to be. He has a real propensity to put the barrel on the ball. Power is going to come later but runs the bases well. Son of a Major Leaguer so he has a lot of the intangibles and the things that we like in our prospects. He’s a guy really opened up a lot of eyes, not only at the ownership level but the major league staff level.”
— MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (@MLBNetworkRadio) April 19, 2020
Headline photo: Ian Oland/RMNB
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