- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 20, 2004

There is still no ratified ballpark financing. Major League Baseball owners, bogged down in legal wrangling with Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, have delayed their approval of baseball coming to the District. But the days of anonymity are over.

The Washington Nationals will be born Monday.

Team and District officials yesterday scheduled an announcement of the new name for the former Montreal Expos franchise for noon at Union Station. The event will come with presentations of newly designed caps and logos. Uniform designs, however, are still not completed.

Leading the event will be team president Tony Tavares, general manager Jim Bowden and District Mayor Anthony A. Williams. Nationals officials yesterday were feverishly seeking out players on the current roster and Washington Senators alumni to attend the announcement and celebrate the rebranding.

The Washington Times first reported the team’s renaming to Nationals on Nov.5.

The color scheme for the uniforms, according to industry sources, will employ red, blue, white and gold, with red and blue forming the base colors.

Commissioner Bud Selig wanted to resurrect the Senators name, used periodically by Washington’s first American League franchise and exclusively by its second. But Selig acquiesced to the objections of Williams, who felt Senators was inappropriate given the city’s lack of voting representation in Congress.

“I know I was in favor of the Washington Senators, because that’s what they used to be called,” Selig said. “But I guess that’s just not going to happen.”

Nationals was the primary name of the first Washington club between 1905 and 1957, a period that included a 1924 World Series title. As it was then, the club’s popular nickname undoubtedly will be shortened to Nats.

The renaming will highlight a frenetic series of events set to occur over the next three weeks. With the unveiling of team hats and logos, the much-anticipated Nationals merchandise will begin to go on sale Monday. Soon after MLB announced in September its intent to relocate the Expos to Washington, plans began to have merchandise on sale for the holiday shopping crush.

The D.C Council, meanwhile, is set to take its first vote Nov.30 on financing for a planned ballpark near the Anacostia River waterfront in Southeast. The vote was delayed after council chairman Linda W. Cropp insisted on creating a formal search for private financing. Full ratification of the financing must happen by Dec.31.

No later than Dec.6, MLB owners will vote to approve the move from Montreal to Washington. That vote should have taken place two days ago, but the measure was tabled as Selig and his deputies have yet to complete negotiations with Angelos on a compensation package. Angelos is pushing for a hefty package of benefits that would include guarantees to his annual local revenue and future resale value for the Orioles, as well as an equity take in a new regional sports network

Assuming those events go as planned, MLB executives then will hasten the process to find the Nationals’ new owner, perhaps by early January. The club has been owned by the other 29 MLB teams since February 2002, and much of baseball is all too eager to see it return to a traditional ownership structure.

Selig had intended to let the new owner pick the name to replace Expos, and that owner will still have the right to replace Nationals. But marketing and sales concerns dictated the choice arrive much sooner.

Season ticket sales also continue to race along, surpassing 11,400 seats yesterday. The sum represents more than 920,000 tickets over the full 2005 campaign.

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