WASHINGTON - MARCH 30: Ryan Zimmerman #11 of the Washington Nationals celebrates with teammates after hitting the game winning home-run in the bottom of the 9th inning against the Atlanta Braves on opening day on March 30, 2008 at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. The Nationals won 3-2. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
On a sun-splashed afternoon in D.C., the minds of Nationals fans across town likely got in a workout on Thursday. Their minds likely wandered to South Capitol Street where Washington’s Boys of Summer were to return Thursday for a home opener unlike any in franchise history.
Sometime in the 12 p.m. hour, the Nationals were to have stood along the first base line as trainers, coaches and players would have been introduced to a standing-room only crowd. Soon after, they would have unveiled their World Series banner and received their championship rings.
It would have been special, there is no doubt.
But with the coronavirus pandemic delaying the start of the season, it’s unclear when that day will now come. A best-case scenario, it seems, would be for Major League Baseball to begin a shortened season by midsummer.
So with a potentially spectacular afternoon put on hold, we’ve dug into the archives and put the spotlight on five previous home openers in Nationals history. We’ve also included several highlight calls from Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler on the Nationals Radio Network.
Disclaimer: The Nationals are a modest 5-10 in home openers since 2005.
April 14, 2005: Baseball makes long awaited return to D.C.
After opening their inaugural season in Washington with a nine-game road trip, the Nationals’ first game at RFK Stadium proved to be worth the wait.
Third baseman Vinny Castilla went 3-for-3 with a two-run triple in the fourth inning and a two-run homer in the sixth as the Nationals beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-3 before a sellout crowd of 45,596. Castilla finished a single shy of a cycle.
Livan Hernandez took a one-hitter into the ninth inning before surrending a three-run homer with one out. Chad Cordero recorded the final two outs for the save.
MARCH 30, 2008 - RYAN ZIMMERMAN WALK-OFF HOMER IN BOTTOM OF THE 9TH
April 12, 2012: Zimmerman scores on wild pitch in 10th inning as Nats down Reds
Zimmerman delivered the winning run again in the Nationals’ 2012 home opener. This time he came through with his legs rather than his bat, scoring the winning run from third base after a wild pitch from Reds reliever Alfredo Simon.
The Nationals beat Cincinnati 3-2, improving their record to 5-2 in a season that would culminate in an NL East title. Craig Stammen earned the win after striking out the side in the top of the 10th on just 10 pitches.
April 3, 2013: Strasburg, Harper shine for defending NL East champs
Bryce Harper homered in each of his first two at-bats of the season and Stephen Strasburg threw seven scoreless innings as the Nationals began their NL East title defense with a 2-0 win over the Miami Marlins.
Harper, then 20, had been honored during pregame ceremonies after winning the National League Rookie of the Year the previous season. Davey Johnson, who famously declared “World Series or bust” before the 2013 campaign, was also honored pregame after winning the NL Manager of the Year award for 2012.
The 2013 Nationals finished 86-76 and missed the playoffs.
APRIL 1, 2013 - BRYCE HARPER'S SECOND HOMER OF THE SEASON
April 3, 2017: Lind goes deep in Nats debut
Harper homered again on Opening Day in 2017, but Adam Lind had the biggest blast of the afternoon. With the Nationals trailing the Miami Marlins 2-1 in the seventh inning, Lind delivered a pinch-hit two-run homer in his Washington debut. The Nationals went on to beat Miami 4-2.