If the Washington Nationals are going to upset the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series—with wins at home tonight and in California Wednesday—they’ll need some “Baby Shark” magic. After he began using “Baby Shark” as his walk up music before at bats, Nationals backup outfielder Gerardo Parra turned the popular children’s song into the unofficial anthem for a once down-and-out team that made an improbable mid-season turnaround and scrapped its way into the playoffs. Whenever the song plays at Nationals Stadium, few remain in their seats as the crowd sings and shark-chomps along. But as Washington sports fans know, Parra isn’t the first shark-themed ballplayer to fire up the home crowd. Washingtonian recently caught up with Tyler Stoltenberg, 33, and Terry Cangelosi, 32, the two former Washington-area co-workers who in 2010 engineered the shark branding of former Washington National Roger Bernadina.
When and how did you first come up with the idea to nickname Roger Bernadina “The Shark”?
Stoltenberg: It was in 2010, and Terry and I worked together at Imagination Stage, a children’s theater in Bethesda. We were going to a lot of [Nationals] games that season together, and we saw Roger Bernadina do some spectacular catches in the outfield that season. We always kind of cheered for him. And that summer at the theater where we worked, there had been a children’s play, and one of our friends had made these costumes that were felt shark hoods, essentially. The play was over and we decided we wanted to nickname one of the players and bring a sign and dress up, and Roger Bernadina was the guy.
Cangelosi: We went to a game in late August of 2010, and we had very good seats. We were very close to the stands and we got his attention ahead of the game. Him and [former Washington Nationals outfielder] Nyjer Morgan. So we kept calling him the shark and Morgan kept egging him on a little bit to do this kind of shark fin motion. And everyone around us in the stands was like, ‘What? Why is he nicknamed the shark?’ We had the nickname because he hunts down fly balls like a shark going after its prey. And at that same game he hit the game-tying, two-run home run. And at that point everyone in our section was sold on the shark nickname. And from then on, more and more people started referring to him as “The Shark” and doing the shark-chop with their hands when he came up to bat.
Stoltenberg: Yeah, we kind of kept it going through 2011. We started a blog, and started tweeting about Roger Bernadina, and that kind of built some momentum in 2011. But then it really hit its stride in 2012 when the Nats were really good. Bernadina had a great season, and that’s where it started getting really big.
What has it been like to watch “The Shark” come back and become very popular in a different context?
Cangelosi: I get flashbacks to the 2012 season, especially seeing people doing that shark chomp.
Stoltenberg: It’s so great there’s so much energy towards it. The thing that I think is different is, when we were doing it, it was all grass roots. We were doing it through word of mouth and through Twitter, kind of coming from the fans. Now, the Nationals organization has really embraced this and their social media is all over shark stuff. And I would like to hope that some of it was because of what we did. I feel like we laid the groundwork a little bit.
Does it bother you at all to see a lot of the same shark-related material that was used for Roger Bernadina now used by Gerardo Parra?
Cangelosi: At first I was a little put off. Like, ‘no—there’s [only] one shark.’ But it’s always so great to hear, when you talk to someone who’s been a fan since 2011-2012, and you bring up the shark, or just Roger Bernadina, everyone seems to know his nickname was ‘The Shark,’ and that is awesome. The original shark.
Do you have a message for Gerardo Parra?
Stoltenberg: I would say, bring some shark magic to the playoffs.