Can't bear the suspense of waiting for Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig's decision on where to relocate the Montreal Expos? It could be Washington's new Jack Evans Stadium or Virginia's Stadium of Tomorrow on the Highway of Broken Dreams. Or it could be Las Vegas and its proposed What Happens Here, Stays Here Stadium. Or the Peter Angelos-Monterrey, Mexico,-backed Festival de Beisbol Stadium?
Can't take it anymore? Then watch some kids playing baseball: Young Washington kids -- fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders -- innocent and happy.
I found it all on a sunny Thursday afternoon in Southeast Washington at Jackie Robinson Field, where the homeside Kimball Elementary School team was playing Simon Elementary in the six-team Field of Dreams league. It all looked right: Kids competing in a league that incorporates academics and baseball, playing on once-abandoned dust patches converted into neat little ballfields.
This "why not" concept was turned into reality by former Montgomery County Council president Bruce Adams, whose ability to raise money matches his love of baseball and children.
"I'm committed to these kids, to see them learning baseball, having fun and growing as students," said Adams, who started the program three years ago after the completion of Bethesda's Shirley Povich Field, named for the late Washington Post columnist.
Adams is one of a number of Washington area baseball lovers who believe the game has a future here even though youth participation has declined since the Senators left town. There are many others, including John McCarthy, who for the past 10 years has run the Home Run Baseball Camp, plus a school/baseball project at Garrison Elementary in Northwest and a similar project in the Dominican Republic.
"The kids are interested in the game, but the culture in town has drifted to basketball and football," McCarthy said. "We're trying to make the game fun and improve the skill level."
Then there's former Stanford and minor league pitcher Brendan Sullivan, who with his former St. Albans classmate Rob Elwood runs Headfirst Baseball -- camps, clinics and leagues throughout Washington and Montgomery County.
"We work with a couple of thousand kids a year," Sullivan said. "The game is alive here."
McCarthy and Sullivan do this for a living, but no kid gets turned away if they can't afford the program. Adams, who had solid support from D.C. Parks and Recreation Director and soon-to-be deputy mayor Neil O. Albert, will run a free Field of Dreams camp this summer. He also got other corporate and individual sponsors to back the project, including Major League Baseball, which contributed $32,000. He admits a major need to serve older kids, as well.
After Simon Elementary School shortstop Don Whitaker leaped to make the final out in his team's 3-2 victory over Kimball, Keith Albert, the league director/umpire/pitcher-to-all, called both teams to the middle of the diamond.
"I see a future here," he told the kids. "Hold your heads up; one team went from the bottom to the top, but you're all winners. Remember that."
If you want info on the Field of Dreams Camp, call Adams at 301-652-4019; McCarthy at 202-237-8311; or Sullivan at 202-625-1921.
A Change of Scene
After enduring sneers from thin, young hipsters in black silk Zegna shirts when we gather at the bar at Zola to talk Senators and grouse about Selig and Angelos, the Baseball Gang will meet Thursday night at Shirley Povich Field in Bethesda before the Clark C. Griffith Collegiate Baseball League game between the host Bethesda Big Train and Baltimore Pride. The game begins at 7:30, but we'll begin to yak down the first base line at 6:45. Just say you're in the Baseball Gang, and they'll let you in for free, because unlike Zola, they appreciate us. It's Washington Post night, as well, and we'll buy plenty of hot dogs, with former Senator and Howard baseball coach Chuck Hinton joining us.
Back to Minicamp
The Redskins are back at it this weekend, in a three-day minicamp that featured hot new running back Clinton Portis wearing his much-desired number 26, thanks to the graciousness of defensive back Ifeanyi Ohalete. Al Capone would call that "teamwork." About 10 days of voluntary Organized Team Activities remain before Coach Joe Gibbs gives his players a break until training camp begins at Redskins Park.
The media were permitted to view the first 20 minutes of practice this week, but OTAs will remain closed. Gibbs has expressed concern about the number of people who cover the team compared to when he last coached here in 1992, calling the size of the media coverage "sort of unmanageable." You know what else has been unmanageable for the Redskins since 1992? Donovan McNabb. And why does it seem the Redskins cut linebacker Jeremiah Trotter about once a day?
Meantime, at Thursday's Washington Post All-Met luncheon, new Redskins cornerback Shawn Springs received the Washington Post's "Better Late Than Never" award for becoming a key starter at Ohio State and the Seattle Seahawks after being overlooked by The Post for All-Met honors at Springbrook High School 10 years ago.
"I loved high school sports," Springs said. "You played for the love of the game. But how time flies."
Time flies? Shawn, you're 29, not eligible to muse.
* Is that the Richard Hamilton driving the Detroit Pistons into the NBA Finals the same Richard Hamilton who played for the Wizards? And didn't Rasheed Wallace play here? And wasn't Ben Wallace discovered by Wes Unseld? Why does this happen? Don't bother answering; I know what you're going to say.
* Enough whining about the Stanley Cup finals between Tampa Bay and Calgary. If you're an objective sports fan, the excitement and quality of play, led by the Flames' superstar, Jarome Iginla, has been terrific. The NBA playoffs, meantime, offered intensity but dismal shooting, particularly in the East. Low TV ratings for the NHL? Who cares? Do you know anyone who has been polled, or counted, in a sports TV rating?
* Finally, you have to love Navy's grit getting to the NCAA lacrosse finals Monday before losing, 14-13, to Syracuse in front of a crowd of 43,898 fans at M&T Bank Stadium. Unfortunately, goalkeeper Matt Russell separated his right shoulder with eight minutes left in the game.
Have an opinion, or question? Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or come to the game Thursday.