Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Washington Nationals - Hope out of Controversy?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Washington Nationals - Hope out of Controversy?

Article excerpt

For months I followed the story of baseball's return to Washington, D.C., with mixed emotions. Having played baseball for 15 years and being in my eighth year of coaching Babe Ruth and Little League teenagers, I could be considered a serious fan. Of course I wanted Major League Baseball back in the District after 34 years without it - but not at the expense of a high-priced stadium deal that might deprive Washington's depressed neighborhoods of more important programs for schools and youth, and certainly not as a hostage of what many perceived to be Major League Baseball's arrogant demands.

But the City Council approved the new stadium package and opening day at the old RFK Stadium arrived Thursday. Even though my feelings about the stadium deal had mellowed, I had no plans to attend. No plans, that is, until an hour-and-half before game time when, suddenly, I felt I heard the call of that lonely ticket with my name on it. I jumped in my car and headed for the stadium. My success at such spontaneity in the past is legendary among family and friends. When I came to D.C. many years ago, my goal was to experience Washington history - and I've found myself in the presence of several presidents at different ceremonies. I've been to assorted marches and openings and even a long-ago parade for the Super Bowl winners - the Redskins.

So that late afternoon of the Washington Nationals' home opener began to feel like one of those events I shouldn't miss. The "what ifs" - especially on a tight budget - are what give spontaneity its excitement. Yet I've learned to follow my intuition - if it's right, I'll be there. What's there to lose, a 10-minute drive home?

Standing outside the Metro, throngs filed past me as I shyly held up one finger, quietly repeating, "I need one ticket, anyone got one ticket?" Occasionally I'd catch a sympathetic "Sorry!" glance. But most were so focused on the long security lines and getting in to see President Bush throw out the "first pitch" that I was invisible.

After 10 unsuccessful minutes, a young policewoman appeared at my side, smiled, and said, "Tickets are not to be bought or sold here, so since you are not doing either maybe you would like to move along." I smiled back, thanked her, and did just that.

But not far along. Across the rush of humanity, my trained eye spotted a group of African-American teens huddled around several adults who were handing them tickets. I knew this might be the place to find an extra one. Sure enough, one youth hadn't shown up and one of the adults offered it to me free. As I walked away a little stunned, I heard the adult in charge say, "What! You gave it to him?"

Feeling guilty, I returned and offered to pay for it. The group leader smiled and said that wasn't really necessary. He told me this was a group of 13-to 15-year-old Little Leaguers and he was their coach, Mike McManus. …

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