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.