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Naval Academy Baseball Classic scrapped due to territorial issue between Nationals, Orioles

The Nationals will not be returning to Annapolis for the Naval Academy Baseball Classic this spring. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

The Nationals have built a strong relationship with the military since baseball returned to D.C., culminating with last spring’s Naval Academy Baseball Classic.

The April 1 game, which ended in a 4-4 tie with the Boston Red Sox, was played at Max Bishop Stadium in Annapolis in front of 1,030 spectators, including 800 uniformed midshipmen. It was the first time Annapolis hosted an MLB team since the Houston Astros played an exhibition game against the Naval Academy baseball team May 4, 1987. Before this year’s game, the Nationals ate breakfast with midshipmen and officers, then joined the Red Sox for a tour of the Naval Academy grounds.

The Naval Academy Baseball Classic was slated to be held yearly through 2019, but due to a territorial issue with the Baltimore Orioles, the event will no longer take place, according to multiple sources.

Because the Nationals playing in the Orioles’ domain violates the MLB Constitution, Baltimore could have canceled last spring’s game. The Orioles instead agreed to allow the 2017 game to go on as scheduled, given its nature.

“[The Nationals] wanted to have a multiyear commitment but, because it was an agreement made in another club’s territory, it was then agreed that they could do the one year, but beyond that, that is really something that is in the Orioles’ territory,” an MLB official said.

“Ultimately it landed at our office that there’s an issue with a club doing something in another club’s territory and we had to resolve it,” the MLB official continued.

According to the MLB Constitution, which was amended in 2005 — the Nationals’ first season in D.C. — Anne Arundel County, where Annapolis is centrally located, is considered Baltimore Orioles territory. The MLB Constitution lists Washington, D.C., and Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William counties “and all independent cities bordering such counties in Virginia” as Nationals territories, where they can operate as the home team. No Maryland counties are listed as Nationals territories.

The Nationals and Orioles declined to comment, but the cancellation of the Naval Academy Baseball Classic marks the latest in a number of spats between the teams.

Before the Nationals moved from Montreal, Orioles owner Peter Angelos told a Baltimore radio station in 2004 that “there are no real baseball fans in D.C.” A decade later, Orioles manager Buck Showalter rankled Nationals fans when he said, “Our owner was kind enough to let them have a team here.”

The clubs have been bridled in a bitter dispute over Mid-Atlantic Sports Network television revenue since the Nationals’ arrival 13 seasons ago. The MASN deal was central to Angelos allowing MLB to move a team to the nation’s capital.

Since moving to D.C., the Nationals have made at least one trade with every MLB team, except one … their neighbors just 38 miles to the northeast.

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