Daze of My Life: Pride in Perseverance
Daze of My Life
Pride in Perseverance
by Kenneth B. Lourie
Baseball is back and the nation's capitol, Washington, DC., has them. For the next three years, RFK stadium, or whatever money-generating equivalent name it will be called, will be home to the former Montreal Expos, now known as, once and for all, and hopefully for ever, the Washington Nationals. Thereafter, the team will move across the river to Anacostia and take residence in a brand new ballpark (with its own corporate sponsorship no doubt) which it has been said, will be designed in a way "to change the paradigm" (whatever that means) "of baseball stadiums forever."
Personally, I'd rather see better ballplayers and less paradigming, but Major League Baseball simply won't take $300 million (the projected sale price of the former Expos) for an answer. They want a downtown stadium with all the bells and whistles, not to mention the ever-required, luxury boxes, views of the city, and mass transit-friendly accessibility with as much public financing that can be squeezed out of a turnip--making that municipal authority and/or elected official position him or herself for a bigger piece of the political pie.
Having lost the Washington Senators twice before (the original and subsequent expansion franchises) and been spurned on numerous occasions as Major League Baseball expanded into Toronto with the Blue Jays, into Arizona with the Diamondbacks, into Colorado with the Rockies, and into Florida twice, with the Devil Rays in Tampa Bay and the Marlins in South Florida, and also watched as other struggling franchises were road-blocked by MLB from relocating to the demographically desirable Washington, DC. area, fan's hopes had often been quashed.
Thirty-four years had already come and gone. Why would this year be any different? And then it happened. Washington, DC. Mayor, Anthony Williams, announced that after protracted negotiations with Major League Baseball, "Baseball was rounding third and heading for home to Washington, DC. Isn't that great!" The deal was done, or so we were told. Mayor Williams had given his word that not only could he stand; he could deliver. Well, a few wobbles later and perhaps with some politicking or shrew governing (depending on your perspective) by DC.
Council Chairwoman, Linda Cropp, a Council-approved deal was done. Not exactly a deal signed with a kiss but instead one passed to include a public/private partnership-type financing package with certain guarantees and stadium cost overrun protections to assuage enough of the Council's voting members to rule by majority and vote for Baseball in Washington, DC. in 2005.
And here we are a week after Opening Day: Brad Wilkerson got the team's first hit, Nick Johnson scored the first run and the franchise got its first win, against the Philadelphia Phillies. By the time this column prints, barring any weather-related cancellation, the Nationals will have played their first, for-real, non-exhibition, home game since 1971. And even though the team is not called the Senators anymore, they're still referred to as the "Nats," just as the original Senators were. Is that symmetry beautiful or what!
What goes around comes around, and after all the disappointments and heartache us Washington-area baseball fans have endured over the past 34 years, it turns that this Bud (Commissioner Selig, that is) is for us. Here, here--finally.
Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.