On this day 10 years ago, the Washington Nationals announced the official transfer of ownership from Major League Baseball to an ownership group headed by Theodore N. Lerner and his son Mark D. Lerner, sons-in-law Edward L. Cohen and Robert K. Tanenbaum and their families.
At the time of the announcement, Managing Principal Owner Ted Lerner stated, “It has long been my dream to bring the national pastime back to my hometown, the nation’s capital. Now that it’s been realized, I plan on doing everything I can to make sure that this franchise becomes an international jewel for MLB, D.C. and the nation.”
We sat down with Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner, as he reflected on that special day a decade ago.
Could you describe the process of Major League Baseball handing over the team to you and your family?
It was a monumental task. Not only was our family taking over an entire organization, but we also were doing it in the middle of the season. It didn’t make things any easier that aspects of the team’s infrastructure were still based in Montreal. It took a number of years to really get our arms around it, hire the people we wanted and change the systems in place to ones we were comfortable with.
What were some of the first changes made after your family became owners of the team?
We wanted to make sure that when fans walked through the gates of RFK Stadium they knew there was a change. We spent 10 days cleaning RFK Stadium before our first home game as owners of the team. Prior to the start of that game, my family and I stood in front of RFK Stadium to greet fans as they came through the main turnstiles. From that moment on, we weren’t looking back, we were looking forward.
We gathered all the ushers and employees who would have face-to-face interaction with our fans and I told them that they were the face of the franchise – the first people fans see when they arrive, and the last people they see on their way home. We wanted to ensure that going to the ballpark was a great experience.
We were excited about the opportunity to take the organization to new heights. Our goal was to create an organization with a tradition of excellence, both on and off the field. I feel we have accomplished this, but we will never stop trying to improve.
Could you describe the moment it really hit you that you owned a Major League Baseball franchise?
The real celebration was on the morning of May 3, 2006, when Commissioner Selig called my dad to tell us that we were selected to purchase the team over 12 other groups that were bidding for the franchise. It was a special moment for our entire family, especially my dad, and I’ll never forget where I was when we got the call.
That evening, we had a major press conference, the first one our family had ever participated in, followed by a groundbreaking ceremony for Nationals Park the next morning. It certainly was an amazing 24 hours for my family and me.
What is it like to own a team in your family’s hometown?
It is an incredible honor for our family. We had never done anything in the public eye like this before, but owning a baseball team in your hometown is a special opportunity.
We operate the Nationals for our fans. Our fan base has entrusted us to run the organization, and this trust is something that we take very seriously. It is our duty not only to provide first-class entertainment, but to give back to the surrounding community. We were so honored to be selected as stewards of the Washington Nationals and we are proud to have been a part of bringing the national pastime back to the nation’s capital.
Thank you, Mark, for chatting with us, and congratulations to your family on this very special anniversary!
July 20, 2014 – OF Jayson Werth answered RHP Rafael Soriano’s third blown save of the season with a walk-off RBI double in the bottom of the 9th inning to nudge the Nationals past the Brewers, 5-4. Werth’s two-out double to left field sent INF Anthony Rendon on a 270-foot mad dash from first base to score the decisive run and give the Nationals’ their 11th final at-bat win of the season. OF Denard Span also went 2-for-4 with a walk on his Bobblehead day.
July 20, 2005 – Facing Colorado at RFK, LHP Mike Stanton pitched in his 1,000th big league game, becoming the 10th player in MLB history to do so, joining Jesse Orosco, John Franco, Dennis Eckersley, Hoyt Wilhelm, Dan Plesac, Kent Tekulve, Lee Smith, Mike Jackson and Rich “Goose” Gossage on the impressive list.
July 15, 2013 – During MLB’s All-Star festivities at Citi Field in New York, NY, with his dad pitching to him, OF Bryce Harper finished second to Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes in the Home Run Derby. Selected to represent the National League by New York’s David Wright, Harper had 24 total home runs, hitting eight in each of the event’s three rounds. Cespedes finished with 32 total home runs, nine of which came in the final round.
July 14, 2009 – At Busch Stadium in St. Louis, INF Ryan Zimmerman became the first third baseman to represent Washington, D.C. in an All-Star Game since Harmon Killebrew in 1959 at Forbes Field. Zimmerman is just the franchise’s third All-Star third baseman, as Tim Wallach represented the Expos in five Mid-Summer Classics (‘84, ‘85, ‘87, ‘89, ‘90) and Larry Parrish was the first with Montreal in 1979.
Last week, five Washington Nationals players were named 2016 Major League All-Stars, with OF Bryce Harper, 2B Daniel Murphy, C Wilson Ramos, RHP Max Scherzer and RHP Stephen Strasburg all awarded the annual mid-season honor.
This is the first time in Nationals history (2005-present) that the club will send five representatives to the Midsummer Classic. Washington previously had four All-Star players in 2012. The Nationals’ five honorees are second-most in the National League, behind only the Chicago Cubs, who will send seven players to San Diego.
In anticipation of tonight’s game, we thought it would be fitting to take a look at our All-Stars and some of the amazing stats they’ve put up through the season’s first “half.”
OF Bryce Harper – Harper will start in the National League outfield for the third time in his career. The 23-year-old earned his fourth career All-Star selection by garnering 2,865,095 fan votes, the highest vote total among all NL outfielders. The 2015 National League MVP, Harper currently leads the Major Leagues in walks (70) and intentional walks (16). He ranks fifth in the National League in on-base percentage (.400), while his 19 home runs are tied for fifth among all NL outfielders, and his OBP leads that group. Harper joins Hall of Famers Gary Carter (4) and Andre Dawson (3) as the only players in franchise history (Nationals/Expos) to earn at least three fan elections to the All-Star Game.
2B Daniel Murphy – For Murphy, who signed a three-year contract with Washington this past offseason, this is the second All-Star selection of his career (also 2014). The Nationals’ second baseman leads the National League in batting average (.348), hits (117), and multi-hit games (38). The 31-year-old, a players’ selection to the NL squad, also leads all NL second basemen in doubles (25), home runs (17), RBI (66), and slugging (.598).
C Wilson Ramos – This is the first All-Star nod for Ramos, who currently leads all qualified Major League catchers in batting average (.330), on-base percentage (.382), RBI (48) and slugging percentage (.536). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, after hitting .229 in 2015, Ramos is the only player in MLB to increase his average at least 100 points from last year to this year (min. 100 plate appearances in 2016 / 500 plate appearances in 2015). Ramos was elected via player vote.
RHP Max Scherzer – Scherzer is an All-Star for the fourth consecutive season. The 31-year-old leads the Major Leagues in strikeouts (164), ranks second in the National League in strikeouts-per-nine-innings (11.56) and is tied for the second-best WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) in the NL (0.96). Scherzer earned his 10th win of the season on Saturday night, tossing 7.0 innings of three-hit ball. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the fourth consecutive season in which Scherzer has won at least 10 games before the All-Star break. Only two other pitchers reached double digits in wins prior to the break in each of four consecutive seasons over the last 20 seasons: RHP Greg Maddux (1997-2001) and RHP Roy Halladay (2005-11). Scherzer was selected to replace teammate Stephen Strasburg on the 2016 All-Star team by National League manager Terry Collins.
RHP Stephen Strasburg – For Strasburg, the only remaining qualified starting pitcher in MLB not to suffer a losing decision, the All-Star nod is the second of his career (also 2012). At 12-0 with a 2.62 ERA, Strasburg is the first National League starting pitcher to begin a season 12-0 since 1913. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Strasburg is the fourth pitcher in MLB history to go 12-0 or better before the All-Star break, joining BAL LHP Dave McNally (13-0 in 1969), PIT reliever RHP Roy Face (12-0 in 1959) and CIN reliever RHP Brooks Lawrence (12-0 in 1956). On Friday, he extended his personal winning streak to 15 games (dating to Sept. 15, 2015). He was selected to the 2016 All-Star team by National League manager Terry Collins.
Good luck to all the Nationals representatives tonight in the 2016 Major League All-Star Game at Petco Park in San Diego!
Today in Nationals’ History: Back-to-back HRs in back-to-back innings & Wily Mo Pena sets defensive record
July 10, 2013 – INF Anthony Rendon and C Wilson Ramos hit back-to-back solo shots in the fifth inning, then INF Ryan Zimmerman and OF Jayson Werth did the same in the sixth, as the Nationals powered past the Phillies for a 5-1 road win. The Nationals hit at least four home runs for the 9th time in 2013.
July 10, 2008 – OF Wily Mo Pena recorded 11 putouts to establish a Nationals (2005-pres.) single-game record for outfielders in an 11-inning 7-5 loss against the Diamondbacks. The Major League record for an outfielder in a 9-inning game is 12.
June 29, 2008 – Down 2-1 with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the 12th, INF Ronnie Belliard hit a walk-off, two-run shot off George Sherrill to secure a 3-2 win vs. Baltimore. Belliard became just the second Washington National to erase a deficit with a walk-off home run while down to the last strike. He was also the first DC-based big leaguer to hit a walk-off homer in the 12th inning or later since June 28, 1970, when Senators pinch-hitter Rick Reichardt hit a two-run home run off Baltimore’s Eddie Watt at RFK.
June 24, 2014 – IF Ryan Zimmerman mercifully hit a two-run shot in the top of the 16th inning and made a diving catch in the bottom of the frame to lift the Nationals over the Brewers, 4-2, in the longest game (by innings) in Nationals history. Zimmerman’s first career extra-inning blast was made possible by a seven-reliever collaboration that lasted 10.0 scoreless innings (10 hits, 5 BB, 6 SO). Washington’s defense turned three double plays, and individually, SS Ian Desmond made two dazzling 6-3 putouts, while OF Denard Span made a game-saving catch at the wall in the 14th. 3B Anthony Rendon’s 12th homer, a solo shot in the eighth, tied the game at 2-2, and ultimately sent the game to extra innings.
June 21, 2011 – Rookie C Wilson Ramos hit a dramatic walk-off, three-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning as the Nationals stun the Mariners, 6-5, at Nationals Park. The Nationals trailed, 5-1, but rallied in a ninth inning that included three singles, a walk, an error and Ramos’ blast. For the first time since coming to D.C. in 2005, Washington trailed by more than two runs in the ninth or later, but rallied to win the game.
June 20, 2015 – RHP Max Scherzer tossed the second no-hitter in Nationals history (2005-present) in the 6-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was Scherzer’s first career no-hitter and the fourth in D.C. baseball history. He struck out 10 and carried a perfect game through 8.2 innings before a 3-2 slider hit pinch hitter Jose Tabata. According to Elias, the last MLB no-hitter in which only one batter reached base, and that on a HBP, was thrown by MIA’s Kevin Brown, June 10, 1997 at SFG.
Check out pictures from Scherzer’s nearly perfect performance in the gallery above!
June 20, 2008 – OF Elijah Dukes became just the second Washington National to record five hits in a game during a 14-inning, 4-3 win versus the Texas Rangers. After tying game with solo shot in the eighth inning, Dukes sent Nationals Park faithful home happy in the 14th with a seeing-eye RBI single through the left side of the infield. He also became the first player in the (then) nearly 40-year history of the franchise to notch five hits, including the game-ending hit, in the same contest.