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Diamond in the Rough

One of the secrets to the team's success, he said, will be tourists. Right now they come to the capital, tour the monuments, memorials and museums, and then, as the sun goes down, try to figure out what to do. There haven't been enough nighttime activities for families, he said.

"We just solved that," he said.


Glory days: The Senators take on the Yankees at D.C.'s Griffith Stadium in the season opener, April 17, 1956. Will today's Washington root, root, root for the new home team? (Evan Vucci -- AP)


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He stood in the overpacked central hall of the museum, where the names of great thinkers are chiseled into the marble -- among them, as it happens, Homer. The stage was as crowded as everywhere else in the room, and it took Mayor Anthony Williams a full 10 minutes to run through the list of everyone who needed to be thanked for their triumphant work. Williams is not a natural cheerleader and, despite the obligatory sound bites for the camera ("Baseball is back in Washington, D.C.!") he might well have been announcing a major new construction project, perhaps another convention center.

The presence of a couple of former Senators helped remind the people that this was about baseball. But of course it's about more than that. Revitalization of the Anacostia waterfront is a major part of the city's plans. The city expects the team to play three years at RFK Stadium and then move to a new, 41,000-seat ballpark off South Capitol Street near the Anacostia River. Hanbury says that baseball will bring an additional $31 million in revenue to the city annually. But he also says the city will need to build a fan base.

"We're going to need to build knowledge about baseball," he said.

Everyone must now bone up on the infield fly rule.

The sport of baseball, the skeptic must note, is rather serene by the visceral standards of contemporary entertainment. There are moments when the only movement on the field is the pitcher almost imperceptibly shaking his head at the catcher to decline the suggestion of throwing a curveball. There are moments when the pitcher will make such a desultory pick-off move toward first base that time itself will threaten to come to a standstill.

Washington, by contrast, is a city in a rush. Some fans will spend the entire game pounding out e-mails on their BlackBerries.

"Part of baseball's strength is that it's a game of episodes, not of constant flow," said Will. "The bad news is that it lets the workaholics slip the leash."

True baseball fans, like Aviva Kempner, will pay attention to the game. Kempner is the director of the documentary "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg," which she dedicated to the return of baseball to Washington. Yesterday, she sounded like someone who had homered in the bottom of the ninth.

"I'm in heaven. Can you believe this? Culturally deprived for 33 years. No more schlepping to Baltimore!" she said.

She doesn't like the violence in football. Baseball, she notes with a laugh, has more appeal for women.

"There's nothing like seeing a major-league baseball player in the current uniform. A lot of us women have crushes on baseball players. . . . They're nice, uh, well, a lot of the players wear them very tight. Leave the rest to your imagination."

Strange how that never makes it into the Sports section.


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