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A Trip Beyond Memory Lane

"No, I'm going to wear this when we come down to Washington to see a game," Street replied. They talked shop until Evans cut in to tell Street he would bet 50 chili dogs from Ben's Chili Bowl in Northwest Washington for 50 Philly cheese steaks.

Someone called out that the Phillies had just taken a 2-1 lead.

Anthony Williams, Nationals
Anthony Williams, Nationals
Mayor Anthony Williams and about 200 fans headed by bus to Philadelphia to watch the Nationals play in the season opener. (James A. Parcell - The Washington Post)

"Uh, can we make that 25?" Evans said.

"No matter what happens in this game," Street said, "there are no losers in this room. This is a big win."

There were, however, a few signs of vintage Philadelphia: As Williams was speaking to a crowd, Phillies fans on a higher deck called out "Expos [stink]" -- a reference to when the Nationals played in Montreal.

"Man, we waited 34 years for baseball, and it takes just 34 minutes and they're all over us," said Matt Winkler, who owns a D.C.-based communications business.

Across the park from the mayor were members of the Nats Fan Club, who got off the bus and climbed up to Section 208 on an upper deck.

On the way to Philadelphia, they had been talking about Washington's near misses: the time the San Diego Padres were so close to moving that "Washington" baseball cards were printed up for them, and another time when D.C. baseball boosters solicited seat deposits for an expansion team that never came.

"I don't think I ever got the money back," said John Sweet of Laytonsville.

And they had wondered what they would feel when the first batter came up: Some thought they'd feel like adolescents again; others wondered whether they would cry.

Then it finally came: Wilkerson singled to right.

In the mayor's section, Williams gave Orange a high-five, then called out to Evans: "Jack, that's it -- the first hit!"

And, in Section 208, Dave Lanham turned and remarked that Wilkerson seemed to be working out well in place of Endy Chavez in the leadoff spot.

That was it. He didn't cry tears of pent-up emotion at the historic moment. He was just being a fan again.

"Once the hoopla's over, it's kind of back to a baseball groove," said Lanham, of Prince Frederick. "Just worrying about what happens between the lines, instead of what's going on outside the lines."

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