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Scouting D.C.'s New Team

By Alan Goldenbach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 21, 2005; Page PG31

It's not clear who will own the team or how good it will be. But for many in the Washington area, that doesn't matter. Baseball is back, and that's enough.

In case you hadn't heard, Major League Baseball moved the Montreal Expos to the District, and the newly christened Washington Nationals started playing this month at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. It gives Washington a team for the first time since the Senators left after the 1971 season.

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The Nationals are coming off a 67-95 season in Montreal. Currently owned and operated by Major League Baseball, the Nationals are expected to be sold in the coming months. Details remain to be hammered out on a stadium planned for Southeast Washington. None of that has prevented the Nationals from generating a fervent fan base throughout the Washington region.

"I've been a hard-core fan all my life," said Don Plavnick, 60, who was born in the District and lives in Arlington. "People always said that baseball couldn't work in Washington, that the population was too transient. But it's a different city. It's not the Washington of old. It's twice the size. People are putting down roots. People have more pride in the city.

"It's the right time and the right mood for this city."

But is it the right team? Time will tell. After a new owner takes over, the Nationals -- if the new owner still chooses to call them that -- will begin to take shape and develop a personality.

Now, the team is stocked primarily with young, unproven players, along with a few recent, lesser-known free agent signees and a couple of veterans looking for their last chance to sustain a major league career.

"What you're getting is a team that's young and talented," said former Expos general manager Omar Minaya, who left the team in the offseason to go to the New York Mets. "There is a good nucleus of good veterans and good, young players. The nucleus is very strong. Now it's just a matter of building around it."

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