Fight resumes: Nationals finally open 2020 season

July 23, 2020

A 2019 World Series champions sign is displayed during the Washington Nationals baseball practice at Nationals Park, Wednesday, July 22, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Rob Johnston Robbie Johnston, Ted Peters
From left, Rob Johnston of Alexandria, Va., and his son Robbie, 15, take a photo with Ted Peters of Haymarket, Va., who calls himself “Captain Obvious” outside Nationals Park before the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals play an opening day baseball game, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Will Vizcarra of Arlington, Va., wears a 2019 Nationals World Championship hat outside Nationals Park before the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals play an opening day baseball game, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Hayden Bluth holds up a sign that reads “Sell Us Tickets” as he screams the same thing outside Nationals Park before the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals play an opening day baseball game, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

A “Black Lives Matter Unity” image is displayed on a large digital screen at Nationals Park before the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals play an opening day baseball game, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

nats
The Washington Nationals play their home opener against the New York Yankees on Thursday night. (John Domen/WTOP)

nats merch
Nationals merchandise at the store at Nats Park during their home opener on Thursday, July 23, 2020. (John Domen/WTOP)

nats
Championship jerseys are on display and for sale at the store. (John Domen/WTOP)

People social distance at an outdoor bar outside Nationals Park before the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals play an opening day baseball game, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

A dog wears a Nationals’s scarf as it sits next to people social distancing at an outdoor bar outside Nationals Park before the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals play an opening day baseball game, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The Dome of the U.S. Capitol is visible as a Washington Nationals fan wearing a Juan Soto jersey walks outside Nationals Park before the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals play an opening day baseball game, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

From left, Rob Johnston of Alexandria, Va., and his son Robbie, 15, take a photo with Ted Peters of Haymarket, Va., who calls himself “Captain Obvious” outside Nationals Park before the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals play an opening day baseball game, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

A woman wears a Nationals’ World Championship mask outside Nationals Park before the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals play an opening day baseball game, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

People watch the game from the Top of the Yard bar on the rooftop of Hampton Inn & Suites hotel during an opening day baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

A 2019 World Series champions sign is displayed during the Washington Nationals baseball practice at Nationals Park, Wednesday, July 22, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
A 2019 World Series champions sign is displayed during the Washington Nationals baseball practice at Nationals Park, Wednesday, July 22, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

The New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals kneel while holding a black ribbon to honor Black Lives Matter before playing an opening day baseball game at Nationals Park, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. before the start of the first inning of an opening day baseball game at Nationals Park, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

An overall view of Nationals Park during the Washington Nationals baseball practice, Wednesday, July 22, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

The New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals hold a black ribbon to honor Black Lives Matter before playing an opening day baseball game at Nationals Park, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Dave Martinez, Trea Turner
Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez (4) and shortstop Trea Turner (7) kneel and hold a piece of black fabric before an opening day baseball game against the New York Yankees at Nationals Park, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Members of Washington Nationals kneel and hold a piece of black fabric before an opening day baseball game against the New York Yankees at Nationals Park, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Members of Washington Nationals kneel and hold a piece of black fabric before an opening day baseball game against the New York Yankees at Nationals Park, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Anthony Fauci
Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, center, holds his hat during the playing of the National Anthem before throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at Nationals Park at an opening day baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Anthony Fauci
Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci throws out the ceremonial first pitch at Nationals Park before the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals play an opening day baseball game, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Ceremonial first pitch is thrown by Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases before the start of the first inning of an opening day baseball game between the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Ceremonial first pitch is thrown by Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases before the start of the during the first inning of an opening day baseball game between the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Dr. Anthony Fauci meets Nationals closer Sean Doolittle after the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day. (Courtesy Washington Nationals)

Dr. Anthony Fauci and Nationals closer Sean Doolittle pose after the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day. (Courtesy Washington Nationals)

Members of Washington Nationals and against the New York Yankees kneel and hold a piece of black fabric before an opening day baseball game at Nationals Park, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals take the field for opening ceremonies before playing an opening day baseball game, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Max Scherzer, Aaron Hicks
Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer throws the first pitch to New York Yankees’ Aaron Hicks at Nationals Park during an opening day baseball game, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Washington Nationals Adam Eaton celebrates his solo homer against the New York Yankees during the first inning of an opening day baseball game at Nationals Park, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, center, smiles as he watches an opening day baseball game between the Washington Nationals and the New York Yankees at Nationals Park, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer throws during the fourth inning of an opening day baseball game against the New York Yankees at Nationals Park, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

A bolt of lightning comes down from the clouds during the sixth inning of an opening day baseball game between the Washington Nationals and the New York Yankees at Nationals Park, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
A bolt of lightning comes down from the clouds during the sixth inning of an opening day baseball game between the Washington Nationals and the New York Yankees at Nationals Park, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Rain and lighting halt an opening day baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Rain and lighting halt an opening day baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

(1/33)
Rob Johnston Robbie Johnston, Ted Peters
nats
nats merch
nats
A 2019 World Series champions sign is displayed during the Washington Nationals baseball practice at Nationals Park, Wednesday, July 22, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Dave Martinez, Trea Turner
Members of Washington Nationals kneel and hold a piece of black fabric before an opening day baseball game against the New York Yankees at Nationals Park, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Anthony Fauci
Anthony Fauci
Max Scherzer, Aaron Hicks
A bolt of lightning comes down from the clouds during the sixth inning of an opening day baseball game between the Washington Nationals and the New York Yankees at Nationals Park, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Rain and lighting halt an opening day baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The Washington Nationals will finally open the defense of their first World Series title Thursday, 119 days after their 2020 season was originally scheduled to begin.

Major League Baseball is kicking off its truncated 60-game schedule in D.C., where Nationals Park will be empty of fans for the nationally televised Opening Day game between the Nats and the New York Yankees. The game starts at 7:08 p.m.

Opening Day usually brings thousands of fans around the ballpark throughout the day. This year, however, is unlike any of the Nationals’ previous 15 seasons.

Before the game, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who is a self-proclaimed Nationals fan, will throw the ceremonial first pitch. The team is planning to raise a new 2019 World Series champions flag, and a previously recorded Presidents Race will be shown during the fourth inning.

“We definitely feel a connection with the fans, so we’re really going to miss them and we’ll be thinking about them. We’ll be pumping in crowd noise to try to make up the difference,” reliever Sean Doolittle said.

“I think Opening Day, like I said, we’ve got that patch on our uniform sleeve that says world champs. Going out there to start to defend our championship is something we’ve been looking forward to since the end of October,” he said.

The Nationals also said a Black Lives Matter stencil will appear on the pitcher’s mound during games on opening weekend.


RELATED STORIES


Championship jerseys

A uniform upgrade is one of the little-known perks of winning a World Series.

The Nationals’ home white jerseys will feature a gold theme in commemoration of the franchise’s first World Series title. The jerseys, which were designed in conjunction with Nike and MLB, will feature blue lettering with gold trim on the name plate to pay homage to the “lucky” blue jerseys during the team’s postseason championship run, as well as gold numbers. The traditional red cap with the curly W logo has also been changed, from its usual white to gold.

The Nationals will commemorate their World Series championship with gold-themed hats and jerseys at home games this season.

A look at the back of the Nationals’ special World Series-themed jerseys.

Jonathan Stahl, the Nationals’ vice president of hospitality, said there’s a limited amount of the team’s World Series-themed gear.

(1/3)

Fans should expect to see these regal uniforms at Nats Park throughout the season, Nationals Executive Vice President of Business Operations Jake Burns told WTOP.

“These will be our home jerseys, so we’ll still wear the blues on the road and the greys as well, but we’ve got an opportunity to wear the championship golds and we’ll wear them as often as we can,” he said.

Jonathan Stahl, the Nationals’ vice president of hospitality, told WTOP this is his 13th Opening Day in Major League Baseball, but he only recently found out that the defending champions get to wear special uniforms after winning it all.

“It’s very cool, and there’ll only be a select few available because it’s not something that can be reproduced,” he said. “We placed a basic order for it, and once that order runs out, there’ll be no more.”

Burns and Stahl said there will be virtual watch parties for every game starting next week. Burns added that every game will feature a different watch party, which will be piped into the ballpark scoreboard and seen by viewers at home.

‘The Fight’ resumes

The opening game will feature a premium pitching matchup between Nationals ace Max Scherzer and new Yankee Gerrit Cole, who was a member of the Houston Astros team the Nationals defeated in the 2019 World Series.

The Nationals will again be propelled by the outstanding starting rotation that manager Dave Martinez has dubbed “the Four Horses” — Scherzer, World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez.

“We’re getting those guys ready and they look good. I mean, they look really good,” Martinez said last week.

The return to the field comes with risks amid the novel coronavirus pandemic: Two Nationals players tested positive earlier this month, and delays in getting back test results led to a canceled practice two weeks ago.

The rough start to July prompted All-Star reliever Sean Doolittle to express concern about playing.

“We haven’t done any of the things that other countries have done to bring sports back,” Doolittle said after the announcement. “Sports are like the reward of a functioning society. And we’re trying to just bring it back, even though we taken none of the steps to flatten the curve.”

Veteran infielder Ryan Zimmerman was among the first major leaguers to opt out of the season, citing concerns about the health of his mother and his newborn son. Backup catcher Wellington Castillo and pitcher Joe Ross also will sit out.

Without them, the Nationals will attempt to become the first MLB team in two decades to win back-to-back World Series — since, as it happens, since the Yankees, who capped a run of three titles in a row in 2000. This is the longest stretch without a repeat champion in MLB history.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2020 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up