By Gordon Woodworth, Chronicle News Editor
The Washington Nationals won their first World Series title with a heart-stopping Game 7 win over the Houston Astros last Wednesday night, and Queensbury High School 1998 grad Mark Scialabba was in the middle of it as the team’s Assistant General Manager, Player Development.
“It’s been wild since then,” Scialabba told The Chronicle Tuesday. There have been celebrations on the field and in the locker room, in a parade, at a Washington Capitals hockey game, at the White House.
“It’s a special group of people that we have here,” Scialabba said. “They never quit, and always fought, even when we were down. It’s kind of a storybook season. To come back from being down in the five elimination games in the playoffs just shows you the type of team we have. It will go down in history as one of the best comeback stories in baseball.”
The World Series win “was a surreal moment,” he said. “We were right next to the stage. It’s what you dream about. It’s why you do this job and compete every day.
“You always try to build your process to put yourself in this position. Most of the time you’re going home having lost that last game, and this is the first time in my career and in our existence here as the Washington Nationals where we won the last game. It’s just an unbelievable feeling.”
After the on-field hoopla, the celebration moved into the clubhouse, “and that’s where the real party started,” said Scialabba. “We went into the clubhouse to continue the champagne and beer celebration and then we went back to the hotel, quickly showered up, and then we headed over to the Four Seasons where the players were staying.
“The Lerner family opened up the tab and we had drinks and food through the night and celebrated with our coaching staff and our players and our front office. It was just a great team moment. It’s incredible, and it kept going for days.”
How late was Scialabba up that night?
“I don’t know,” he said, chuckling. “You lose track of time. You just try to enjoy the moment. You just hug the people you work so hard with. You live with each other. You really do. I see these people more than I see my family. You’re doing this for eight months. It starts in February. People don’t realize that.
“And we have to prepare. I’ve got a lot of work to do to get ready for next year. It started a few days ago, I’m trying to play catch-up.”
Scialabba was a standout baseball player at Queensbury and at Williams College before getting his master’s degree in sports management at UMass-Amherst.
He joined the Nationals in 2006 as an intern and worked his way up. After the Nationals beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League championship series, Scialabba was promoted to Assistant General Manager, Player Development.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity the Lerner family has given me from Day One and to be part of this run and part of building this franchise to the point where we had sustained success, and then to finally get to the finish line this year is very humbling.
“It’s extremely difficult to get to where we are. It’s very rewarding, not only for [General Manager] Mike Rizzo and the Lerner family, but for myself and my family, my wife and my family back home in Queensbury, my brothers who have been very supportive throughout the entire run.”
Scialabba said he will continue to oversee the Nationals’ minor-league system with assistant GM Doug Harris, but “I will probably get more involved on the Major League side and gain more responsibility there, helping Mike Rizzo out on more of a day-to-day basis during the season.
“I’m located in D.C., so it’s being closer to him on some of the business opportunities with different contracts and transactions and things like that. That will evolve over time, but it’s just a nice way to be rewarded and another step forward and I’m very excited and happy about it.”
How was the parade?
“I think it might have been the best part of the celebration,” Scialabba said. “This weekend was perfect weather-wise. Bob Boone told me when he won his World Series in 1980 with the Phillies, it didn’t really hit him until he turned down Broad Street and saw miles and miles of people. That’s really when you realize the impact that you’ve had. And that’s what I felt as well.
“You turn down Constitution Avenue around 15th Street, and you see a lot of people and as you approach the Capitol, there’s a sea of red, and people are going crazy. In a city that is divided in some ways, it’s nice to unify them and come together for a common thing, and to be a part of that is incredibly humbling and exciting. You lose it. It’s very emotional.”
Monday, he and his wife Meredith visited the White House with the team. “It was a beautiful day,” he said. “We had coffee and a little reception. Then we had an East Wing tour, and the players had a separate tour with the President and went to the Oval Office. We sat with the owners and the families down in the front on the South Lawn. It was a wonderful day. I thought it was a really nice ceremony. They had the Marine Corps band in the front playing music. It was really nice to be honored there, and because it’s our hometown, it’s really special.”
He didn’t get to meet President Trump, but said, “I did meet President Obama and President Bush when they came to throw out of the first pitch. If we win again next year, maybe I can meet him then.”
The previous night the team went to the Washington Capitals game, and celebrated with the team. Scialabba had his photo taken with superstar Alex Ovechkin.
How does this rank among highlights of his life? “There are certain personal life moments, like getting married and having a child, those are the #1 things, but this is right there with those.
“As a kid, I dreamed I could play in the big leagues someday. I didn’t go that route, but once I realized I could use the passion for the game and my knowledge and combine that with my education to hopefully one day work in the game…I always had support from my parents and my family and the people around me and I hoped that this could happen. I’m so grateful for the help I have gotten along the way and I feel very lucky.
“I think Branch Rickey said luck is the residue of design, and our design all these years has finally helped us to get to this point. And it’s a credit to everyone here — the ownership group to give us the resources, Mike Rizzo to lead us in this direction, people like Doug Harris, Bob Boone…and all these guys at the top who have been here all these years together.
“But ultimately it’s up to these players that we have acquired and they are just a tremendous group of people that play for one another and never gave up and showed us what perseverance and resilience can do, not only in baseball but in life. It’s just unbelievable.”
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