The Washington Times - April 6, 2009, 10:51AM

The Nationals are taking steps to reconnect baseball with District families.

First, they have invited each of the 12 District Public High School Baseball Teams to have one practice, with use of the field and the indoor batting cages at Nationals Park during the rest of their high school baseball season. Three high schools — Roosevelt, Dunbar and Cardozo — havve already scheduled practices at the major league ballpark.

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Then, the team has invited all D.C. high schools to pick one home game “from a list of available dates” to be their school’s night at Nationals Park, which means free tickets for all students and faculty members, with a pre-game program recognizing the school.

Finally, the team has designiated the athletic departments in all D.C. public high schools as the recipient of the 2009 Baseball Equipment Drive in partnership with the Baseball Tomorrow Fund. Fans may donate new and “gently used” baseball and softball equipment during the first weekend in May in a series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Also, a $5,000 grant from the Baseball Tomorrow Fund will be shared among the high school athletic departments.

District Mayor Adrian Fenty, at a press conference Saturday at Nationals Park before the Nationals-Orioles exhibition game, said the program will be help “create a whole new generation of baseball fans.” If nothing else, it will get kids — and probably some of their family — into the ballpark, and maybe once they are there, they will see enough to put baseball on their radar screen. That’s what we are talking about here — finding a way to get baseball back into the consciousness of a city and many of its residents who have no connection to the game, particularly an absence of more than three decades from Washington.

Councilman Harry Thomas called on all of Major League Baseball to follow suit with similar programs. “The Nationals are doing something that all of Major League Baseball has to do,” he said.

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