The first home game is scheduled to come on tax day, April 15. The last is more than five months later, by which time Washington just might feel like a baseball town again. In between will be 79 more games at RFK Stadium that mark the District's return to the major leagues after an absence of more than three decades.
Washington's new baseball franchise, the former Montreal Expos, is tentatively scheduled to play its first game at RFK Stadium against the Arizona Diamondbacks, opening a three-game weekend set from April 15-17. The team's 162-game schedule, obtained yesterday, is still subject to change because baseball officials are trying to make sure the Expos minimize the number of times they play at home on the same day the Orioles play in Baltimore. Orioles owner Peter Angelos was the primary opponent of moving the Expos to Washington.
Any changes, though, are likely to be minor. The home opener against Arizona should come 11 days after the Expos are scheduled to begin the season -- April 4 in Philadelphia. It begins a seven-game homestand against the Diamondbacks, the Florida Marlins and the Atlanta Braves.
Team officials are trying to finalize a deal this week for a means to sell tickets, either through Tickets.comor Ticketmaster. An announcement about how to sign up for season tickets will almost certainly be made by early next week, Expos President Tony Tavares said yesterday, and fans will be able to put their names on a list immediately.
Tavares said the team will then evaluate whether to sell mini-season ticket packages, likely by mid-December. Single game tickets likely won't go on sale until February. But Tavares said keeping a significant portion of RFK Stadium available for single-game purchase is important to him.
"I want this team to be accessible to everyone," Tavares said. "It's a delicate balance. You don't want to oversell and end up with too many season ticket holders so other people can't get in. You can probably handle 20,000 [season tickets]. After that, you get nervous."
Tavares said he expects RFK Stadium, when it's reconfigured for baseball, to hold about 44,500 fans.
The Expos' longest homestand is scheduled from May 30 through June 12, a 13-game stretch in which they'll tentatively face Atlanta and Florida -- rivals from the Expos' division, the National League East -- before hosting interleague games against Oakland and Seattle. The longest road trip is 12 games from Aug. 9-21 with three-game series in Houston, Colorado, Philadelphia and New York against the Mets.
Every National League team will visit Washington at least once this season -- including Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants Sept. 20-22. The American League teams that come to Washington will be Oakland, Seattle and Toronto. The Expos are not scheduled to face the New York Yankees, Baltimore or the World Series champion Boston Red Sox in the regular season.
The last home game of the year is scheduled for Sept. 25 against the Mets, and the team completes the season with a seven-game road trip to Florida and Philadelphia.
The first spring training game is tentatively scheduled against the Mets on March 2 at New York's training complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
In other Expos matters, Tavares said the search for a general manager will likely continue into next week after MLB official Bob Watson declined the job Wednesday. Watson's decision was based, at least in part, on the fact that the team -- which is owned by the other 29 major league clubs -- is up for sale, and any front office job could be temporary.
"We had a couple of conversations and we have a couple of other names," Tavares said. "We're going to try and make contact with people [Friday]."
An industry source said yesterday that Pat Gillick, who served as a GM with Toronto, Baltimore and Seattle, almost certainly won't be the Expos' GM. Gillick has said in the last two weeks that he would like the job despite its tenuous nature.
Several former general managers could be considered, including Dan Duquette, who ran the Expos and later the Red Sox; Jim Bowden, who served as GM of the Cincinnati Reds for more than 10 seasons; and former Los Angeles Dodgers GM Kevin Malone.