Opening Day

By the

April 5, 2001

Early April is the best time of year. Baseball season starts. On fields of dreams across the country, the boys of summer make an early appearance, and so begins America’s religious obsession with the game played on a diamond. The numbers may say that football or basketball is more popular, but the furor surrounding Opening Day each season is proof positive that baseball remains our national pasttime.

George W. Bush understands this. People forget that he’s a baseball man. Sure, he’s also an oil man and a military man, but first and foremost he’s a baseball man. He comes from baseball stock. His old man was a star first baseman in his Yale days. He was a part-owner of the Texas Rangers before he was the governor of Texas. Now he’s the President of the United States, and he’s taking baseball all the way to the oval office. All my partisan differences with the man aside, I loved seeing him out in the Rose Garden the other day with Yogi Berra and a slew of Hall of Famers, announcing that he was going to start a tee-ball league on the White House lawn. Genius, pure genius. I loved even more that he said he wanted to bring a team to the nation’s capital. Of course.

Washington, D.C. needs a lot of things. It needs a better education system. It needs more capital investment in its public transportation. It needs a more effective police presence. And in light of all these and other needs, vying to get a baseball team might seem frivolous or even downright irresponsible. Our leaders will try and sell it in different terms, talking about the economic impact a team will have on the city. I’m not so sure that’s the most important part, though. Think of the importance the Redskins have in our community or the Red Sox have in Boston or the Yankees have in New York. For better or worse, sporting teams can bring a city and a region together. They are something for the city to be proud of. Even when the Orioles are not doing well, the people of Baltimore are proud to call the team their own. They are proud to go to Camden Yards, proud because it is a beautiful ballpark and a great place to watch a game. And the people of Washington deserve no less.

Fittingly, the man who used to own the team that the Senators became, the Rangers, has come to town, and he wants a ballclub in the city just as badly as the rest of us. Bush understands what a baseball team could mean for the city. Now if only he’d put his money where his mouth is. The President should press Congress to help the city win a franchise.

The effort has been made before, unsuccessfully. Seemingly every season, the Montreal Expos threaten to move, and Washington, D.C. is always on the short list of places they could go. But a quick glance at the standings after Opening Day show that they’re still in Canada, and we’re still without a team here in D.C. There are a bunch of questions that need to be answered before we could get a team here, not least amongst them concerning where said team would actually play its games. One group of investors would like to move a club to Northern Virginia, yet call them a D.C. team. Another group conceives of a stadium in downtown D.C., in the tradition of the neo-classic stadiums that have been built recently. This approach would make more sense, as it would bring a team back to the city, and help to continue the restoration of downtown.

Bush could be the man to help make this all happen. He could run his new tee-ball league on days when the home team is playing away games. I didn’t vote for the guy, but I wouldn’t mind it if he owned my city’s baseball team.

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