May 9, 2015, 5:52 PM EST
Just before the start of Saturday’s game against the Braves, Nationals fans had a chance to welcome back one of the franchise’s most beloved members. The club honored its first-ever manager, Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, who threw out the first pitch and was inducted to the Ring of Honor as apart of celebrating the team’s 10th anniversary season in the nation’s capital.
“It’s important to to me because it makes me feel [wanted] and appreciated,” Robinson said of the honor. “I’ll always have a special place in my heart for this team.”
The 79-year old Robinson was all smiles as he reflected on his time with the Nats, which was highlighted by the organization’s 2005 move from Montreal to give Washington a baseball team for the first time in 34 years.
“We were excited about [the move],” he said. “It was a good situation for us coming away from Montreal although it was kind of bittersweet leaving those fans up there because those 5,000 die hard fans were great. But it was good to be coming to an exciting team and fans that were ready to support their team coming to this [city].”
Robinson said he still watches the club closely, and with a keen eye on Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond, who were both in the organization when he was still manager. Robinson said he had a chance to talk to both players in the clubhouse before the game.
“[It was like] like family,” Robinson said. “It was very touching. I’m always glad to see those guys, because they’re very outstanding people. Not just good baseball players, but they’re outstanding people. I appreciate them thinking about me and keeping me alive in their lives. I feel very special about them and they have a very special place in my life.”
Robinson, of course, was known for far more than just his managerial abilities. He was considered a five-tool player during his days with the Cincinnati Reds and the Baltimore Orioles in the 1960s through the early 1970s, winning both the NL and AL MVP awards. So naturally he was asked to give his take on Nats’ budding superstar Bryce Harper.
“I remember reading a lot about him and couldn’t wait to see him,” he said of the 22-year-old outfielder. “It took him a couple years to really get his feet on the ground. I think he now understands the pitchers in the league, what they’re trying to do to him and make some adjustments.
“He’s the real thing. I think you’re gonna see a lot of exciting things out of this this young man for a lot of years.”
But all the things that he discussed, the former skipper appeared to be most pleased with the transformation the organization has made from being a bottom feeder in the NL East to being considered a World Series title contender.
“They’re right there now,” Robinson said. “They’re there. It’s only a matter of time. And in the next few years, if not this year, you’re gonna see a World Series flag flying from the flagpole in centerfield.”
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
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