WASHINGTON — Five hours before Trevor Williams took the mound against the Padres at Nationals Park, Josiah Gray pitched six innings versus the Angels at the same stadium.
How was that possible?
The Nationals hosted Maxx and Parks Pusey, ages 13 and 10, on Wednesday afternoon to play MLB The Show ‘23 with Gray. The experience was part of the MLB Winter Meetings Auction to benefit the establishment of a Boys & Girls Club in Uvalde, Texas, in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School.
Gray met with the brothers for an hour, sunk into a leather chair in front of a TV screen for a doubleheader and faced his competition, both of whom were wearing his jersey.
“It was really cool,” said Maxx, whose strategy for victory was, “Hit home runs and don’t strike out.”
Game 1 of the doubleheader was a matchup between the Nationals and Angels. Gray started as himself, and Maxx started as Shohei Ohtani. As the contest entered the eighth inning knotted at one apiece, Gray exclaimed, “This is a really good game!”
In the video game matchup between reliever Hunter Harvey and Anthony Rendon, the former Nationals third baseman hit a game-winning, two-run home run.
“I’m sweating a little!” Gray said as Maxx recorded the final outs.
Gray and Parks played Game 2 as the Nationals and Yankees. This time, Gray tabbed MacKenzie Gore in what was a Nats win.
“I liked pitching against him,” said Parks.
This offseason, Major League Baseball partnered with all 30 teams and Minor League affiliates for the annual charity auction held at the Winter Meetings in San Diego. The clubs donated a wide range of fan packages, including meet and greets, on-field experiences with current players, off-the-field experiences with Hall of Famers, ceremonial first pitch opportunities, behind-the-scenes experiences, ticket packages and more.
“What’s great about opening a Boys & Girls Club in Uvalde is it’s something that will stand the test of time,” MLB vice president of social responsibility April Brown said last winter at the announcement of the auction. “So if every year we can think about this auction as building a legacy project for a community that needs it or a cause that’s important, then we really, as a collective Major League Baseball family, including our media partners and our community partners, are making a real difference.”
Gray, the official Player Ambassador to the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, asked and answered questions with Maxx and Parks while playing the video game, then autographed their jerseys and posed for photos.
Word got around about Maxx’s victory by the time the family sat in on manager Dave Martinez’s pregame press conference.
“Who was the champ, you?” Martinez said. “Congratulations. I love it.”