September 24, 2005: The District of Columbia
Baseball is America’s game, whose capital city, Washington, D.C., was without the game for 33 long years. Much has changed in the game of baseball and the country since September 30, 1971, the day the final Washington Senators game was played at RFK Stadium, and April 14, 2005, the day the Washington Nationals were inaugurated into their new position as D.C.’s home team. Major League Baseball has expanded to a global game with players from all over the world. The country has grown over that time as well, with more and more ethnicities settling in the United States. The Nationals actually had the most foreign-born players on their roster during the 2005 season. Prior to their move, the Nationals spent 36 seasons as the Montreal Expos, Canada’s first Major League franchise. While in Montreal, the Expos enjoyed mixed success on and off the field; they were able to draw exciting crowds to Olympic Stadium until the 1994 strike, which interrupted the Expos’ stellar season. Their 74-40 record had Les Expos poised for the postseason, but the inability of the Major League Baseball Players Association and the team owners to reach a collective bargaining agreement put an end to the success of the Expos. The lack of fan interest following the strike ended up costing the Expos 44 home games during the 2003 and 2004 seasons, playing those games in Puerto Rico. Having spent time in Montreal and Olympic Stadium, it was sad to see baseball taken away from the city, but on the bright side, a new market is able to call a Major League franchise their own.
The Ballpark Tour reached a new attendance record for the trip to RFK Stadium. Not the 32,467 in attendance at RFK, but the 3 friends (Frank, Matt and Eric) who joined Mike and I on the tour. The Nationals were playing my New York Mets in a late season match-up between National League East rivals. The Mets started the game right…that’s David Wright, who hit a grand slam in the first inning to put the Mets ahead of the Nationals and their ace Livan Hernandez, 5-0. Five runs were more than enough for Mets starter Tom Glavine, who went eight innings, allowing only two runs. Final score: Mets 5, Nationals 2. With the win, my New York Mets’ 2005 record improved to 2-2. It’s funny, because they won both road games I attended, but lost the two home games I attended. As a Mets fan, the fact that the Washington Nationals play in the same division is something I am not looking forward to down the road. The Washington, D.C. market is tremendous in both size and scope. There is a ton of money that can be generated in such a cosmopolitan area.
At first, I wasn’t excited to visit D.C. at all. Maybe it was the fact that I am not a fan of President Bush or the negative stories that I have heard from the 11 o’clock news, but after spending the weekend there I can say I am a fan of the District. There is an energy to the city, especially the areas in and around the White House. With that comes a sense of national pride as you walk throughout the city and see its sights. In two days, we were able to visit the Lincoln Memorial, the White House, the Washington Monument, the Pentagon, the Vietnam Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, the Capitol, the Air and Space Museum, the World War I Memorial and the World War II Memorial. As you can read, there is a lot to see in the Nation’s capital; my advice is to bring your walking shoes and a good map. You are going to need both.
RFK was my 25th stop on the Ballpark Tour. Baseball is America’s pastime for a reason. America is a country built on the hard work of individuals whose origins reach past its border. What better place than Washington, D.C. to honor these accomplishments? What better game than baseball to honor those who have walked before us? Baseball is America and I am happy to be a part of both.