WASHINGTON — A lifelong Washington Nationals fan is getting a huge honor from the team at this weekend’s World Series after WUSA9 profiled his story.
Norman Willis, 95, has been a Nationals fan since the 1920s, called out the ceremonial “Play Ball!” before Game 4 of the World Series at Nationals Park on Saturday night.Willis made the drive up from his assisted living home in Charlottesville with his grandson.
"I couldn't believe it," Norman said when he heard the news.
The family was notified by Nationals team officials in an email on Thursday night after previously sending the Nationals a link of the original story reported by Eric Flack.
“Granddad represents so much more than just baseball,” wrote Norman‘s granddaughter Kelly Ooten in an email to WUSA9 shortly after the family learned the good news.“He carries so many others on his shoulders and this moment celebrates a validation of that energy and hope.”
Norman’s story and love of baseball dates back to the 1920s when Norman was growing up in Northwest D.C.
Norman grew up on V Street in Northwest D.C. listening to Washington Senators games on a transistor radio. The family says it was one of the first transistor radios on Norman's block.
“When I was young, I thought I was going to be a pitcher” Norman recalled. “So, I went in and pitched one inning and they knocked it around so bad I never wanted to pitch again,” he said with a laugh.
Cheering on D.C.’s first baseball team, the Senators, from the bleachers of old Griffith Stadium, Norman would listen to away games on a transistor radio from his family’s house on V Street.
When baseball returned to D.C. 15 years ago, Norman traded in his Senators Blue for Nationals Red. The family said Norman and his wife Frances have been Nationals season ticket holders since baseball returned to D.C, and Norman was even in the stands cheering when the Nats swept the Cardinals to win the NLCS.
"It has fulfilled a dream, the fact that we finally qualified to play this time," Norman said. "It means a lot to me, because I'm running out of time."
Norman's family originally hoped his lifelong love of D.C. baseball will be honored by the Washington Nationals by allowing him to throw out the first pitch before one of the team's World Series games.
Ooten says simply being included in the pregame ceremonies will mean everything to her grandfather.
“His story is one that has impacted our family daily, and now, we are so grateful to share that blessing,” Ooten said. “May we never forget the benefits of faithfully pursuing our passions and to never take for granted the opportunities we have to "Stay in the Fight!"
Norman even got to talk baseball with one of the Washington Senators legends he used to cheer for back in the day, Frank Howard. Howard wrote the forward on a book that Norman authored about the Senators.
The Nationals may not have won the game, but it's not the final score that Norman will remember.
"I never would have expected it," Norman said. "So I thank you for all that you have done."