- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 4, 2006

Joey Eischen noticed the difference right away.

The left-handed reliever for the Washington Nationals yesterday arrived at RFK Stadium and learned things change quickly now that Major League Baseball is selling the team to developer Ted Lerner.

“I was notified to take my golf equipment to a different storage facility and there will be no golfing,” said Eischen, who routinely practiced his putting inside the clubhouse before home games. “So I like that. Change of regime, change of everything. Somebody gave me a heads up. Somebody asked me, and I followed what he asked. They made me put my golf clubs in my truck.”

The players have long awaited a new owner. MLB has owned the team for four years.

Jose Vidro, a three-time All-Star who is the franchise’s longest-tenured player, said the announcement was the biggest step forward the organization has taken since he became the everyday second baseman in 1999.

“Hopefully, the plans are to bring a very, very competitive ballclub here and do what it takes to do it,” Vidro said. “I’m just happy that this happened because finally we feel that we’re the same as the rest of the league. We’re at the same level now, we have the people to back us up and be there for us.”

Slugger Jose Guillen may be happier about the sale than any player on the team. Guillen’s contract runs out at the end of the season. He has been negotiating a long-term extension with team president Tony Tavares, who then had been taking Guillen’s demands to MLB.

“Now we have some real owners that pretty much know about baseball and [can] give us what we need,” Guillen said. “… Fans are going to realize now that we’re not depending on Major League Baseball, we’re depending on the owners. This organization is going to turn around 100 percent from what it was.”

The team endured a vagabond existence for two years, playing some “home” games in San Juan, Puerto Rico, instead of Montreal in an attempt to generate revenue and to stay away from the near-empty stadium of its Canadian home. Vidro and catcher Brian Schneider went through the club’s lean times, when MLB publicly discussed the possibility of simply eliminating the franchise.

“From what I’m told, there’s going to be some changes right away. What those changes are, I have no idea,” Schneider said. “It’s just good to know that we’ve been in this situation for such a long time that we’re out of the tunnel now.”

Said Guillen: “You know when new owners come in the whole system changes. They’re always going to bring their people. Hopefully, he’s going to come in and do an outstanding job and make us happy here and put a good product on the field.”

Got a question about the Nats? Mark Zuckerman has the answers. To

submit a question, go to the http://www.washingtontimes.com/sports>Sports Page

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