MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Howard thrilled to join Nats' ring of honor

Howard thrilled to join Nats' ring of honor

WASHINGTON -- To say Frank Howard was the happiest man at Nationals Park is an understatement. A few minutes before they played the Rockies on Friday night, the Nationals put Howard's name in the ring of honor, located on the right-field facade near the foul pole. Howard's name sits next to Jackie Robinson and former Nats manager Frank Robinson.

"I'm not one to live in the past, but I'll tell you what -- any time you have a chance to be on Frank and Jackie Robinson's team, it's a real thrill for me," Howard said. "It's nice when someone says, 'Welcome to the ring of honor.'"

Manager Dusty Baker played a role in the ceremony, giving Howard an autographed bat signed by members of the Nationals and a portrait of Howard wearing a Nats jersey.

Howard is considered the greatest living baseball player in D.C. history. During his seven seasons with the Senators, the man affectionately known as "The Capital Punisher" and "Hondo" hit .279 and averaged 34 home runs and 96 RBIs. He was a four-time All-Star and twice finished in the top five in the American League Most Valuable Player Award voting.

In 1968, Howard hit 10 home runs in 20 at-bats from May 12-18. For the season, Howard hit 44 home runs and drove in 106 runs.

"I had my best year here," Howard said. "As a result, I live here. It's a game I spent 53 years in as a player, coach and as a manager. Not everything goes your way, but the two or three things that didn't go my way, there have been 1,000 great things that happened."

Howard said he follows the Nationals and wants them to win the World Series. He is also a fan of Bryce Harper. Before watching Harper play, Howard ran into Bob Boone, who is the Nationals' senior advisor to general manager Mike Rizzo, several years ago. It was Boone who told Howard that Harper was going to be a special player.

"When Bob Boone tells you he is going to be special, you know he is going to be special," Howard said. "Harper is [23] years old. He has five years in the big leagues. He hasn't begun to scratch the surface. His next 10 years should be dynamite years."

Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for MLB.com since 2002 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.