My baseball cap goes off to Bruce Adams, John Ourisman and the other members of our local Maryland communities who built Shirley Povich Field in Bethesda [Close to Home, Aug. 8]. My dream is to have a similar success in the District.
Ball fields in the District are in short supply, and the ones that do exist are, to use Adams's word, in "dreadful" condition. None of the D.C. public high schools has its own diamond, nor does the District have a summer league for kids 15 and older. Only one team is fielded for 16- to 18-year-olds, and that means that only elite athletes can play.
To change this situation, this summer I organized the Anacostia Mariners Amateur Men's Baseball Club to give young adults, especially recent high school grads and college students, the opportunity to play ball. Many of the players on the roster come from wards 6, 7 and 8 or are former D.C. high school players.
To bring more baseball to the District, my group reached out to community members, businesses and government for sponsorship. Part of the money we raised went to youth baseball and softball leagues. We donated cases of baseballs to the D.C. Babe Ruth League and to the D.C. Police Metro Boys-Girls Club's over-13 team, and we put up a batting cage at Eastern High School. In return, Eastern provided us with practice space.
During open practices, we gave anyone in the neighborhood of any age an opportunity to throw, hit and field. Unfortunately, we were unable to meet our goal of securing a home field. Although we obtained a field permit from D.C. Parks and Recreation, the high costs and additional requirements the department demanded were way beyond our budget. In the end, we played most of our games in Montgomery County.
If the District's residents, business and government leaders could work together, amateur sports such as baseball could help build better neighborhoods. We could establish a Clark Griffith Collegiate League team and call its members the "D.C. Dukes" in honor of Duke Ellington, our most celebrated native Washingtonian.
The Dukes would, of course, need a home field, and four locations suggest themselves as good possibilities:
U.S. Park Service land just south of the Mall, currently used for polo.
The D.C. Parks and Recreation's Randall Recreation Center diamond at South Capitol Street and the Southeast-Southwest Freeway.
This baseball field, if built, could be used in the spring by Howard University (which has no home field) and by D.C. Public Schools teams. In summer, youth and amateur teams could take over.
A modest start to bringing baseball back to the city would be to build batting cages, perhaps at Hains Point, Langston Golf Course or Rock Creek Park. The Washington suburbs have ball fields, leagues and batting cages, and the District doesn't. But the District has all the raw materials to change that, and in the story of Shirley Povich Field it has a model for how to make that change happen.
-- John Vocino
is a co-manager of the Anacostia Mariners and a volunteer baseball coach at Eastern High School.