Now in her seventh year as a host and reporter at MLB Network, Lauren Shehadi is coming home to cover her first All-Star Game. The McLean native, who co-hosts the weekday morning show “MLB Central” alongside Mark DeRosa and Robert Flores from the network’s Secaucus, N.J., studio, can’t wait for what amounts to a dream assignment, including some time with friends and family, beginning this weekend in D.C.
“All my greatest baseball memories are from the nation’s capital or around the Beltway,” Shehadi, 35, told The Post in a recent phone interview. “It’s kind of like a full-circle moment for me. I remember [American] Legion softball games, being on travel teams where you have five games in a day. All of my favorite memories that molded me into a baseball fan happened in and around D.C., so being able to cover the game of all the greats there is really special for me.”
Shehadi grew up in McLean and attended Langley High School, where she played softball for the Saxons. Her earliest sports memory was watching the Redskins defeat the Broncos in Super Bowl XXII with her dad, Michael. She traces her baseball fandom to Sept. 6, 1995, when she watched Cal Ripken Jr. break Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played streak at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
While her job at MLB Network requires her to follow all 30 teams, Shehadi remains a die-hard Orioles fan. Since 2005, she has slowly adopted the Nationals as her second team. Shehadi said her favorite places to watch a game are Camden Yards and Nationals Park, and she’ll try to catch the Orioles and Nationals when they’re at Yankee Stadium or Citi Field.
“I live in New York City,” Shehadi said. “Here, you’re down the line — you’re Mets or Yankees. Or in Chicago, you’re White Sox or Cubs. There’s no ‘I kind of cheer for both teams.’ In the nation’s capital and in Baltimore, you are able to cheer for either team. If both teams went to the postseason, I would cheer for both. We didn’t have a team in D.C., so we adopted the Orioles and they gave us so many great moments. When the Nats came to town, it kind of slowly trickled over to that side.”
Shehadi will fill a lot of roles during all-star week in D.C., where many Nationals fans loathe the Orioles. She’ll serve as the in-game reporter for Sunday’s Futures Game, which will be called by Greg Amsinger and Harold Reynolds, and emcee the Legends & Celebrity Softball Game that follows. On Monday, she’ll host a town-hall chat with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, and on Tuesday, she’ll handle pregame and postgame interviews. Shehadi’s biggest challenge may be fulfilling her family’s ticket requests and ensuring her mom, Mary, has a good time.
“She has a list of people she wants to meet,” Shehadi said. “That’ll be a little thank you for all she’s done so far.”
Shehadi, who graduated from the University of Florida and worked at TV stations in North Dakota and Florida before joining MLB Network in 2012, counts Orioles outfielder Adam Jones and Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer among her favorite players to interview. Her greatest All-Star Game memory is watching former Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton hit 28 home runs in the first round of the 2008 Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium.
“You didn’t have to be a fan of the team,” she said. “You were a fan of the display. The Home Run Derby is just a show — pure entertainment. It allows for moments like that that you can never forget.”
Shehadi wouldn’t offer a prediction about where Manny Machado, who could be traded before the All-Star Game, ends up, but she has some advice for where his new team should play the Orioles star in the infield.
“I know he wants to win. I also know he wants to play shortstop,” she said. “In my opinion, you want Manny Machado happy, so let him play shortstop.”
As for the Nationals, Shehadi is confident Manager Dave Martinez’s club will turn things around in the second half.
“I think if you were to ask 10 people to name the most talented team in the National League, on paper, I think eight might say the Washington Nationals, but for some reason they haven’t been able to put it all together,” she said. “I’m not sure why. It doesn’t really make sense, because on paper the names are there. That’s not to say they won’t put it together; I think they will. I think they will actually win the East and play deep into the postseason. Over 162 [games], talent wins. It just does.”
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