Flashback to May 9 –the Washington Nationals were in a complete free-fall, sitting at 14-22 and No. 4 in the NL East. After being swept on the road by the Milwaukee Brewers, the Nationals traveled to Los Angeles to take on the powerhouse Dodgers; yes it was still early, but the season was already in danger of slipping away.
As it turns out, the Nationals would save their season on that Thursday – just nobody knew it yet.
On that fateful day in early May, the Nationals announced they were signing veteran free agent outfielder Gerardo Parra to a one-year contact after he was designated for assignment by the San Francisco Giants.
Parra, who struggled in the Bay, compiling a 52 OPS+ in 97 plate appearances, was added to be a left-handed bat off the bench and outfielder who can play all three positions; however, he quickly became a beacon of hope for a Nationals team in dire need of a spark.
The legend of Parra’s Nationals career began in his first game with the squad, when he hit a game-winning two-out grand slam in the eighth inning at Dodger Stadium. It has only grown since then.
While Parra is a veteran with over one thousand career hits and two gold gloves, his biggest impact on the Nationals won’t be found on any scorecard or analytical statistic. His most effective roles have come off the field – mainly as the team’s dance maestro, and team dinner coordinator.
Parra injected youthful energy into a clubhouse that desperately needed it. He got the whole team dancing, and as the Nationals finally got healthy, the wins started to pile up.
Fast forward to present day, the Nationals have been the best team in baseball since May 24 going 31-13 during that span. And in just two months has gone from a team talking about rebuilding and trading Max Scherzer to having a two-game lead in the NL wildcard race as well as the second place spot in the NL East.
Throughout this historic turnaround, Parra has not stopped having a good time. As the leader of the now famous Nationals Dance Party, the celebration line that occurs after every home run – Parra has: twerked with second baseman Brian Dozier; rode the wave with catcher Kurt Suzuki; wiggled with first baseman Matt Adams; broken it down with veteran Howie Kendrick; and has stroked the beard of third basemen Anthony Rendon.
Parra’s goofy ways aren’t confined to the dugout either; whenever he steps to the plate he is welcomed by the chorus of “Baby Shark,” as well as thousands of fans and several teammates doing the shark bite in the stands.
This party can only continue if the Nationals keep winning, and with one of the most talented rotations in baseball to go with a deep and productive lineup, hopefully, we see this wacky team dance their way into October.