My car broke down last week. A 1994 Volvo station wagon which used to haul us around as kids, and eventually became my transport to and from college, finally bit the dust. Now it sits in my driveway waiting for its inevitable future as a tax deductable donation or to be junked for parts. Among the scratches and the wear and tear a family car turned teenage ride collects, one thing remains on the fender, a "Play Ball in Virginia" bumper sticker.
It's a sticker which, in a lot of ways, describes a large part of my life. I spent almost all of my upbringing either on the diamond or thinking about it. I grew up to start this blog which is now a huge part of my life. You see, growing up in one of the biggest cities in the country, and the most powerful in the world, it was incredibly difficult not to have a true hometown team. When my mother approached me with the chance to help volunteer with a grass roots organization, Virginians For Baseball, aimed at bringing a club to the local area, it didn't matter that I was just 12 years old, I signed up right away.
My friends and I made signs, got signatures, and attended local rallies. It was really my first glimpse into anything political, which of course is something I've come quite accustom to living in the District. I watched as grown men and women were brought to screaming matches about a child’s game. There were those who felt that bringing a stadium to Arlington, in the Crystal City area, would massively increase traffic and lower the overall quality of life in the area. Then there were those like my mother and I who knew what great passion and community the sport of baseball can bring to an area, and wanted nothing more than to grow our passion in our own back yard.
Fast forward a decade, and the area does have its baseball team. I love the Nationals, and I think it's going to be great for the District and the Navy Yard area once the team blossoms into its full potential. Nats park is pretty, it has its flaws and I'm not going to say it can't be improved. But overall, I think everything turned out for the best. However when pictures like the one above (found Via SB Nation DC), surface it makes me wonder, what if?
What if I could have literally walked to baseball games when I was in high school? What if the stadium was in Arlington or Norfolk and had a completely different ownership? What if Arlington had a professional sports team, what would my hometown look like today?
The vacant lot in Crystal City where they planned to build the stadium is still there today, although I heard there are plans to build a new shopping center there...because shopping centers draw less traffic year round than baseball stadiums. I often wonder if those who passionately argued with inappropriately screamed at my mother go to Nationals games today. Those who desperately wanted to keep the evil of a baseball stadium out of their back yard.
I hope they do.
Ultimately, between RFK and Nationals Park, I finally got one of my biggest childhood dreams, a hometown team. The bad memories and the loss of innocence from those rallies are still there, but they are easily outweighed by the great summer memories of baseball in Washington.
To be clear, "Arlington Towers" are brick apartment buildings built either during or right after World War 2. From teh air, they are big X shaped buildings. They went condo in the mid-80s with big catch in the fine print: they buildings were built on leased land, and the sale of the apartment units did not include anything about the leased land. Back then, they had something like a 60 year lease left. Clearly to tear them down, you'd have to buy out the current owners/tenants.
I would have loved a stadium in Roslyn, one propsal was to tear down Arlington Towers and put it there. Good roads, metro, it would have been nice. I'm not a big fan of the park on South Capitol street, they didn't even keep a good view of the Capitol dome, a world-class landmark. Perhaps the area around the park will be developed over time -- the Great Resession clobbered most of the developers who would have normally put in the restaurants and bars that it really needs.
My brother worked for one of the guys who were trying to bring a team out to Dulles, putting the stadium where there is a rock quary, next to the silly CIT building. THAT would have been a disaster, even if Metro ever gets built out here, there is no real road infrastructure. Its in the middle of nowhere.
Probably no location could be worse than where the Redskins play. It takes hours to get out of the parking lot after a game.
@fishtoprecords I don't recall seeing a proposal to tear down the twin towers at 1000 and 1100 Wilson Blvd., but the apartments next to them were seen as a possible site.
Good job, Will, you prompted me to write up <a href="/http://www.yurasko.net/wfy/2011/02/recalling-virginias-attempts-to-get-a-baseball-team.html">my own take on the Virginia baseball movement</a>.
I was part of a huge campaign to get DC a team when baseball was talking about expanding back in the 1980s. "Baseball in '87" was the rally cry. There were "Baseball in '87" buttons, "Baseball in '87" T-shirts, and "Baseball in '87" savings accounts. But, sadly, we did not get baseball in '87. We did get willy yoder though - and perhaps that was a necessary step on the way to getting a team.
As I also worked in variousl volunteer levels to bring baseball back to DC, I am glad the franchise returned to DC proper and we have the Curly W back on the hats and unis. Had they gone to VA, the talk was the team was to be called Virginia (Fury) and that would have not quite brought the past DC baseball tradition and would have fragmented Maryland fans to Baltimore.
@AlanFG Very true...the name Nationals is far better than fury...although i feel like both sides could have thought of a bette rname
Umph. This would be DIRECTLY across the street from where I work now. I could literally stroll out of work ontime and walk to a game and get there early.
Granted, I only hop the yellow from work, switch to green and get there in 15 minutes as it is now, and I'm very very very happy that the two teams I love the most actually play in the city they represent, as opposed to those other turds in Maryland and Loundon. There's something so much more than this to having the stadium within perfect view of the Capitol dome. Eventually, probably with my kids, we'll be taking the short trek from the stadium to celebrate a championship on Capitol Hill. That's something.
Good Article. What a struggle it was to get a team. Earlier today, while looking for something else at the bottom of a drawer in my office, i came across a relic from this struggle: a lapel pin saying "Say Yes to Baseball." It certainly would have been nice to have the team so close - but in many ways it is better that the Washington Nationals are really in Waashington.