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(Toni L. Sandys/THE WASHINGTON POST)
As the Washington Nationals struggle to claw their way above .500 in winning percentage, fans are crying out for better hitting and relief pitching. The Nats fired hitting coach Rick Eckstein and manager Davey Johnson has juggled the batting order. The organization is trying anything and everything to jump-start this team that began its season with the slogan “World Series or bust!”
But what the Nats really need is me. They have won every home game I have attended in 2013. With Pastor Henry Brinton in the stands, the team’s winning percentage is 1.000.
We all know that baseball players are notoriously superstitious. Some players refuse to wash their clothes after a win. Many perform elaborate, repetitive rituals before pitching or hitting. Wade Boggs was famous for eating only chicken before a game, and Justin Verlander eats a specific menu from Taco Bell before every pitching start. Virtually no one talks about a perfect game while it is in progress, for fear of jinxing it.
Given this kind of magical thinking, I am sure that most members of the Nationals organization, from owners to players, would love to have me in the stands. Whenever I am present at Nats Park, they win.
This started on Opening Day, April 1, when I watched the huge American flag unfurl on the field and saw the unveiling of the 2012 National League East Division Championship sign. The Nats beat the Marlins 2-0, and the season was off to a great start.
I was back in the stands two days later, and watched them shut out the Marlins on an unseasonably cold April night, 3-0.
Let me confess, however, that my good luck charm only works at Nationals Park. While visiting our daughter in San Diego in mid-May, my wife and I watched the Nats play the Padres. They lost, 1-2.
Back in Washington, my mojo returned. On Memorial Day weekend, I was present as the Nats beat the hated Phillies 6-1. On Independence Day, I celebrated as the Nats knocked off the Brewers 8-5.
A combination of work and vacation kept me away from the park in late July and early August, and the Nats went into a slump. Between July 5 and August 13 they lost 18 out of 33 games. Not the kind of record that will get a team into the World Series.
But on August 14 I returned to the stands, and the Nats beat the 2012 World Series champions, the San Francisco Giants, in a thrilling game, 6-5.
Now I am not a superstitious person, and I certainly do not possess magical powers. I pray frequently as a pastor, but do not have a direct line to the baseball gods. As a Christian, I believe that God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). I have always thought it bizarre that a player will point to heaven and give God credit for a home run or a touchdown, as though God always favors offense over defense.
But if the Nats think that I could help them to salvage this season, I would be glad to receive a couple of season tickets for the remainder of 2013.
Henry G. Brinton is pastor of Fairfax Presbyterian Church in Virginia