- The Washington Times - Monday, September 24, 2007

Washington Nationals fans showed little emotion yesterday for the team’s final game at RFK Stadium, or even for a win, but lots of enthusiasm for starting next season in a new stadium on the banks of the Anacostia River.

“It is good, but it is not Griffith” Stadium, said Glenn Orlin, 56, of Bethesda, said of the 46-year-old RFK. “This new one should be one of the best.”

Mr. Orlin, who watched the Washington Senators play in the long-gone Griffith Stadium, would know. He set out in 1985 to see all 300 major and minor league baseball stadiums.

The Nationals, who finished their third season in RFK since the franchise relocated from Montreal, yesterday defeated the Philadelphia Phillies, allowing them to exit the stadium with the narrowest of cumulative winning records — 122 wins to 121 losses. The crowd yesterday of more than 40,000 was the team’s largest of the 2007 season.

When the 2008 season begins in April, the Nationals are expected to be in their new $611 million stadium in a revitalized section of Southeast. Construction on the steel-and-glass, 41,222-seat park is on schedule and expected to be complete by opening day.

Beyond the enthusiasm for the new “Baseball District,” which is expected to include shopping, dining and other amenities, fans showed some nostalgia for RFK, despite its chipped and faded glory.

“I hate to see [RFK] go,” said Ron Ranere, 63, of Huntingtown, Md. “I never got to bring my son here.”

Mr. Ranere said the old ballpark, best known as the home of the Washington Redskins during the team’s championship era, had a way of getting fans involved.

“It has that feeling of togetherness,” he said.

The ballpark, on East Capitol Street Southeast, was once called D.C. Stadium, and hosted the Senators from 1962 until 1971, when the franchise departed. The city was without a major league team until the Nationals arrived.

The 46,000-seat stadium also hosted major league All-Star baseball games in 1962 and 1969.

At least the end of baseball era there included some good bargains and souvenir possibilities.

At the start of the three-game homestand against the Phillies, merchandise in the Nationals Team Store was sold at half price.

Fans could also buy a “Final Series at RFK” scorecard. The first 35,000 fans for the game Saturday night received a 2007 team photograph.

Game programs yesterday had a “Final Game at RFK” seal on the cover, and the first 30,000 fans through the gates were given “Great Baseball Moments at RFK” T-shirts.

Former Senators star Frank Howard threw out the first pitch.

Soon after the final out was made in the 5-3 win, the grounds crew dug up home plate, which will be replanted in the new stadium.

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