How this quartet learned they made the Nats’ roster

April 3rd, 2024

This story was excerpted from Jessica Camerato's Nationals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

WASHINGTON -- Being named to the Opening Day roster is a meaningful experience for Major League players, especially when it is their first in the big leagues. After weeks of competing for a roster spot in Spring Training, several hopefuls were delivered the good news by manager Dave Martinez. They recounted the moment they found out about the accomplishment.

RHP : First Opening Day
Irvin, 27, began last season with the Triple-A Red Wings. He was called up to make his Major League debut on May 3, and he earned a spot in the starting rotation.

“Last year, obviously my last meeting with Davey was, ‘You’re going to Minor League camp.’ This year, it was, ‘You made the team.’ So, two totally different feelings. … It’s hard to process, it seems, at the moment. It’s one of those things you reflect on, and they’re really cool. Right now, the focus is just helping the team win ballgames. … I’ve been to quite a few Opening Days growing up. Finally being able to be part of one on the field, it was special.”

SS/2B (Nats’ No. 19 prospect): First Opening Day
Nuñez, 23, was selected from the Marlins’ organization in the 2023 Rule 5 Draft. He made his Major League debut as a pinch runner on March 30 against the Reds.

“[I found out when] I grabbed the speaker from Davey’s office earlier, and they told me to hold it. As soon as they called me in the office, I forgot I left the speaker in my locker. … He was like, ‘Don’t worry about it. You’re going to have to keep it for the rest of the year -- you’re on speaker duty.’ And of course, I forgot the speaker (laughs). … It was really cool. It was a dream come true.”

LHP : First Opening Day
Garcia, 27, opened last season with the Marlins’ Triple-A affiliate. After he debuted with Miami on July 14, he was claimed off waivers by Washington on Aug. 1, and he established himself as a reliable lefty in the bullpen.

“Obviously, when you hear it out of the manager’s mouth, it’s great, it’s exciting. At the end of the day, you’ve got to stay even-keeled and ready to go. … I try to think of it as it’s not any different. The only thing that changes is it’s a new year. We’re trying to compete. You get to start 0-0, and that’s the beauty of it.”

RHP : First Opening Day with the Nationals
Weems, 31, was named to his first Opening Day roster as a member of the Athletics in 2020. There were no fans in the stands, and Weems experienced his first ceremonial opener this season with the Nationals.

“[Opening Day] is everything for baseball. You want to be on the Opening Day roster; it’s one of those goals that you look forward to. To start out with this club and hopefully do what you can to make this team better, it’s a very exciting and very rewarding feeling.”

And what about the manager who delivered the congratulatory news to these players? As Martinez had his first cup of coffee the morning of the home opener, he reflected on what that day meant for him and the fans who would be experiencing it at Nationals Park hours later.

“I don’t want to give away my age, but it’s been a lot of openers for me,” Martinez, 59, said with a smile. “I thought about what inspired me to do what I do: How’d I get to this point? I go back to the people that brought me to games -- whether it’s Little League games, whatever -- my parents, my grandparents, some here, some not here, and I think about those people. And [for] the fans: Who brought them here? Who brought them to their first opener? So for me, it’s always exciting, they get me through it. For those who have loved ones that showed them the way, today’s for them. That’s the way I look at it: Today’s for those who are here and not here. But it’s America’s pastime, and I hope I get a chance to do this for many, many more years. I love it. I love it.”