WASHINGTON (AP) - The “Baby Shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo” earworm might just be coming to a World Series near you, if Washington Nationals backup outfielder Gerardo Parra heads to the plate during one of his team’s home games against the Houston Astros.
A walk-up song that showed up months ago as a sweet tribute to the musical taste of Parra’s 2-year-old daughter has become a rallying cry of sorts for spectators at Nationals Park - who sing and clap along by the thousands, arms fully extended in a chomping motion - and his teammates - who do their own shark-inspired hand gestures after each hit, including pinching together an index finger and thumb after singles.
Some players work out wearing headbands sporting a cartoon shark. Some fans wear full-body shark costumes. There’s even a little blue stuffed-animal shark that Parra placed in the netting in front of the home dugout at Nationals Park.
All of the zaniness could be on display for a global TV audience as the Fall Classic shifts to the nation’s capital Friday night for Game 3, with Washington leading the best-of-seven series 2-0.
“It kind of caught steam. … We all thought it was just going to be a game or two. Or a week. But it turned into something cool. Something to the get the fans involved,” second baseman Brian Dozier said. “It was pretty cool to see in the playoffs. Everybody on their feet. He could have struck out or hit a homer and everyone would have been still clapping their hands.”
The song reflects a loose and lively attitude many Nationals credit Parra with introducing when he was signed in May after the San Francisco Giants cut him. Plenty of players say that atmosphere has been key to Washington’s turnaround from 19-31 that month to the sport’s biggest stage now.
“We’re still here in the World Series,” Parra said, “because we play together. We do anything together.”
There’s the dancing in the dugout after homers and behind closed doors after victories. The full-body embraces, including of Stephen Strasburg, who acknowledged, “I’m not much of a hugger, but they kind of just surround me. So I just have to take it.” The sunglasses sported by Parra - with a rose-colored tint - and pitcher Aníbal Sánchez - with yellow lenses - even during night games, a tradition that began in June.
“We’re lucky to have guys like Parra, Aníbal, Fernando (Rodney), these guys that have come here and changed the culture in the clubhouse,” said reliever Sean Doolittle, naming three players new to the team in 2019, including two picked up during the season, “and got a lot of guys in here to kind of loosen up and play the game with a little bit more fun, to be honest.”
Sure, don’t lose sight of the fact that important players were hurt early in the season and the Nationals are healthy as can be now.
And, yes, having stud starters like Strasburg, Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin, along with sluggers such as Juan Soto and Anthony Rendon, helped matters, of course.
But with the day-after-day schedule and the no-chance-to-get-away close quarters of a baseball clubhouse, it probably can’t hurt for the 25 players on the active roster to enjoy each other’s company and figure out ways to let certain losses dissipate amid some laughter.
“We were going through a time where we were so tight, and we had all of these expectations, and in a way we weren’t meeting them, and everybody was putting pressure on themselves and listening to all of the outside distractions going on,” catcher Yan Gomes said, thinking back to being 12 games under .500. “Then a couple of guys came in, and we decided to just kind of like drop this weight off our shoulders and just, in a way, dance like nobody’s watching.”
Nothing symbolizes that more than the silliness of “Baby Shark,” a children’s song with billions of YouTube views that was created by a South Korean company - which is different from the wrong version Fox played during its broadcast of Washington’s 12-3 win in Game 2.
Parra was trying to pick out a new walk-up song in June, when he was mired in an 0-for-22 slump, when he settled on this repetitive tune because he heard it “a lot,” thanks to his daughter.
Who knew it would become the phenomenon it has, played recently at Redskins and Capitals games, too.
“People enjoy it. All their kids enjoy it,” Parra said. “So I’m happy for that.”
AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins in Houston contributed.
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