WASHINGTON -- When 11-year-old Joe La Rocca played catch with Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer before a game at Citi Field in May, it was "the greatest thing in [his] life." But what came after that was pretty cool, too.
After Joe's father, who also is named Joe, uploaded video of the catch to Facebook and tweeted it to MASN, the clip went viral, garnering millions of views in just a few days. Suddenly, Joe was a celebrity.
"We have a SmartBoard in class, and we went [online] and we got to see me," Joe said Wednesday at Nationals Park before the Nats' game against the Mets. "And when they showed the video everyone started going crazy, and they were jealous."
As the video blew up, Joe's father began receiving ticket offers and fielding interview requests. A bed-and-breakfast in Cooperstown offered to house the family for free.
• Young fan has surreal game of catch with Scherzer
Eventually, the Nats invited the La Roccas to see a game at Nationals Park and come down to the field for batting practice. When Joe found out, about a week ago, he fell to the ground and "started going nuts," he said.
Though Joe and his family are Mets fans, the Nats now hold a place in his heart. He wore a Scherzer jersey to Nationals Park, and he said that though he'll root for the Mets on Wednesday he'll also be pulling for the righty who made him viral.
In the video of Joe playing catch with Scherzer, he vowed to never give away the baseball (though he and his dad had planned to hand it off to another fan), and true to his word he has held onto it, writing the words "Catch with Scherzer 2016" across it. He had it with him at Nationals Park on Wednesday to remind himself of that really cool day and all the fun that has come since.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing," Joe said. "I never thought this would happen in my life."
Alex Putterman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.