WASHINGTON -- The Nationals honored Frank Robinson on Saturday by putting his name in the team's Ring of Honor. His name is located near the right-field flagpole. Robinson had no idea it was going to happen and was pleased by the honor.
Robinson, who was the team's first manager when it moved from Montreal after the 2004 season, was with the Nationals for two years, and they were competitive with him at the helm. Who can forget the 2005 season when the Nationals finished the first half in first place in the National League East with a 52-36 record? Unfortunately for Washington, the team finished the season with a .500 record and Robinson was relieved of his duties after the 2006 season.
"It's important to me [to be at Nationals Park], because it makes me feel wanted and appreciated," Robinson said. "I always had a special place in my heart, when I left here. I still watch [the Nationals]. I'm asked who are my favorite teams. And I say they are on the East Coast -- the Nationals and the Orioles. On the West Coast, I have the Dodgers and Padres."
Robinson said he takes a lot of pride in being the Nats' inaugural manager.
"From Day 1 until the All-Star break was over, there were exciting times. It was like a magical thing that was happening to this ballclub," Robinson said. "The players really put the effort into it. They did what they had to do. If we needed something late in the ballgame, we got it done. The only thing I regret is that we weren't able to finish it off for the fans and this organization. It didn't happen, but I'm proud of that team."
Robinson watches a lot of the Nationals games and predicts they will have a championship flag in center field soon. He pays close attention to Ryan Zimmerman and shortstop Ian Desmond. Robinson managed Zimmerman for more than a year, while Desmond worked for Robinson during Spring Training in 2005 and '06.
Robinson, who is an honorary president of the American League and an advisor to Commissioner Rob Manfred, had private conversations with Zimmerman and Desmond and called them family. Robinson asked Desmond about the nine errors he has made this season thus far. Desmond assured Robinson he would limit the miscues.
"There are outstanding people, not just players," Robinson said. "I appreciate them thinking about me and keeping me alive in their lives. They have a special place in my life."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.