Former Washington Nationals closer Chad Cordero made his return to Nationals Park on Friday night, the first time he’d been here since the 2008 season. Cordero, or the Chief, as fans remember him, was in town to conduct a baseball camp and was invited by the Nationals to throw out the first pitch.
Cordero, 30, said he intends to attempt a comeback and will try to pitch in winter ball this offseason to see if he can entice a team to pick him up.
Here’s some more of what Cordero had to say before he got a nice ovation and threw out the first pitch to Drew Storen:
On what it’s like to be here: “It’s just kind of weird to put on a Nationals jersey. I never thought I’d be able to come back here and throw out a first pitch. It’s cool. It’s unbelievable.
“I never thought there would be something like this. I knew the fans were behind me and supported me. But I didn’t think this would ever happen. I didn’t think I would be throwing out a first pitch in a Nationals uniform. It’s pretty cool. I’m pretty pumped just to be asked to do this. It means so much. To have my family, my kids here, too, it makes it even better.”
On what it’s like to see the buzz the city hasn’t had since the Nationals’ first year: “Hopefully, this is the year the town of D.C. gets to see a playoff game here. I know we tried to give it to them that first year. That first year was magical.
“We played very well. Unfortunately, we kind of dived in the second half. This team, I don’t think they’re going to do that. I think they have the pitching staff to go out there and make it happen. That’s how good they are, every day. We didn’t have that. We had Livan, who would go out there and give us eight, nine innings every outing. But after that, we didn’t have anything. I think this could be the year they make a run.”
On if he’s invested in the Nationals on a daily basis now: “I’m definitely a Nationals’ fan. I’m a baseball fan in general. I will say, I check Nationals.com every night. I check the box scores and I check what’s going on with the team. I have a connection here. I still know a couple guys on the team. Ross was a rookie my last year here. I remember Zimmerman when he first came up. I still have a connection here. I try to follow them as much as possible. I still love it here. It’s like the Nationals were my family for four years. You can’t just cut ties with your family. It’s always going to be with me. They treated me so well when I was here. That’s why I’ll always be a fan of them, no matter what.”
On what it was like to come to terms with how his career went: “It’s been kind of tough, especially when it first happened. When I first got hurt, I thought I could come back right away. The shoulder, it’s just one of those things where it’s kind of hit or miss. You might not feel one day, but the next two days you might feel awful. Fortunately for me, for the first couple years after my surgery, it just never came back.
“Trying to come back last year after my daughter (Tehya) passed away, it was a tough thing. I should have stayed home, been with the family. But was trying so much to do it for Tehya, trying to keep her memory alive. I just tried too hard. I should have taken a step back and stayed home last year.
“This winter, I went home and I thought about it. I said, ‘I just want to be with my family.’ Especially after my wife was pregnant, I said I want to be here for the kid no matter what for his first year. I don’t want to miss a single day. It’s been fun, being home for the last year and a half. Seeing my daughter rise up for the first time. As a baseball player, you don’t really see those moments. Luckily for me, I’ve been able to do that.”
On his interesting connection with Storen, who he met in 2004 when Cordero was a rookie and Storen was a bat boy for the Reds, shagging flies in the outfield in Cincinnati: “I haven’t seen him since that day but I remember that very well. It was weird because I didn’t realize that was him and it was the same kid until I read the story about him. But I remember him and he was, I don’t even remember how old he was, but he was out in Cincinnati, he was standing all by himself in right center, nobody was talking to him, nobody was coming close to him, so I was a rookie, I was like ‘I don’t know any better, I’m going to go out and talk to this kid.’ Because you knows? You might be talking to a guy who might be taking your job one day — and I kind of did.
“But it was cool. He was a nice kid. He was just taking everything in. To see him back here, it’s kind of odd, him being drafted by the Nationals and all, but it’s kind of cool at the same time. He’s done well. I’m glad to see him have some success.”
On Storen almost reaching Cordero’s record 47 saves in a season last year: “I took a huge sigh of relief when he didn’t. But I think he’ll get it one day. Whether it’s next year or the year after, I think he’s definitely going to beat my 47 saves here. It’ll be a sad day when he does, but at the same time it’ll be really cool to see him do that.”
On his comeback plans: “The itch is definitely back. I want to go out there, I want to play again. Especially after this week, going out there and playing with all these little kids, I want to go out there and play again. It’s still real hard to watch baseball but I make myself do it because I’m a fan of the game. I want to get out there and throw again. I want to get out there and try it back out.
“The plan right now is to hopefully go down to winter ball this offseason, play down there a little bit and hopefully do well enough that a team will see me down there and pick me up. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get back up here. I’ll start off in Double-A, Triple-A, even if I have to go to Independent ball to prove that I can play again, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to hopefully one day make it back up to the big leagues and stick again. Baseball takes a lot of hard work. You can’t just expect to go out there and be in the big leagues after taking a year and a half off. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get back out there.”