Martinez, Nats pay tribute to D.C. veterans

May 29th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Jessica Camerato’s Nationals Beat newsletter. Melanie Martinez-Lopez is contributing to the newsletter with Jessica off this week. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Dave Martinez experienced firsthand the sacrifice and commitment of military service members and their families to keep the country safe, as he grew up with an uncle and cousins who served in the armed forces.

“I value the people that are out there risking their lives to save ours,” the skipper said before the 9-5 loss to the Mariners on Sunday. “I value all those people and the families as well, families that have lost their loved ones because they're trying to protect us.”

Family and some of his baseball heroes -- Joe DiMaggio and Roberto Clemente -- inspired Martinez to show gratitude for veterans in any way he can. He received the opportunity to visit the Washington D.C. VA Medical Center before the 10-0 loss against the Twins on May 21.

Visiting the Medical Center, which serves more than 128,000 enrolled veterans in the DMV area with primary and specialty care, was something Martinez had “been wanting to do for a while.”

He was accompanied by 12 members of the Nats' coaching staff. They spent the morning with patients, handing out autographed Nationals gear and baseballs for the veterans, passing out lunches and touring the center.

“The Nationals are dear and close to the hearts of so many of our veterans and our staff members, and so it was very exciting for our team that the Nationals come back and recognize their community and the sacrifice of our veterans,” said Medical Center director Michael Heimall in a press release. “It was really great having Davey and the coaching staff from the Washington Nationals and the team from the Robert Irvine Foundation come and spend some time with our veterans and staff.”

Not only did the coaches express their gratitude to the veterans, but they also recognized the work of the VA Medical Center staff. Martinez said the staff are like “managers in their own way,” dedicating their careers to supporting the vets.

The skip had two themes he wanted to emphasize to his staff during the visit: sacrifice and appreciation. Those two words lingered, especially when the coaches met veterans who shared their stories.

“I think that coming and seeing and allowing that [sacrifice] to sink in is a huge part of what Davey had us come out here and do,” said hitting coach Darnell Coles in the press release. “It allows us to understand what they have gone through, but most importantly, give them an appreciation for what they have done for us and allow us to do what we do.”

The Nationals were on the road for Memorial Day this year, but throughout the day, Martinez could not contain his gratitude to the men and women who help keep the country safe.

“I thank them, first responders, everybody for keeping us safe, for putting their lives on the line for us to have the freedom to do what I do and do what everybody else can do. So thank you so much,” Martinez said. “For the families who have lost one, my heart goes out to you guys. But thank you for sharing your loved ones with us.”