There was no joy at 1338 Half Street in Southeast Washington yesterday, no sense of baseball-inspired elation inside the Washington Sculpture Center that stands on the site of the proposed ballpark.
Reinaldo Lopez and Patricia Ghiglino, husband and wife, artist and business woman, sat on the second floor of their yellow brick dream, scanning the front-page photograph of jubilant grown-ups in red baseball caps cheering the news that the basket-case Montreal team would be opening next season in the nation’s capital.
The 60-year-old Lopez looked at the picture before him and dismissed it with a wave of disdain.
“It looks like a bad Cowboy movie to me,” he said on this sun-splashed day in the city. “They are stupid people in red hats. They are ridiculous, pathetic. They are old men trying to be 15 years old again.”
There was no rancor in the voice of Lopez, only a hard-earned sense that his life did not count in the city’s grand quest to secure a baseball team.
His is the tiny voice that is being muffled by the developers, land speculators, city officials and a public eager to embrace baseball again after a 33-year wait. His is the tiny voice that has no sway in the celebratory atmosphere.
Everywhere Lopez turns, they are talking baseball and the idyllic plans that have been drafted on this portion of the Anacostia River waterfront.
They are not speaking of Lopez and Ghiglino and the other little people who have scratched a living out of this forgotten stretch of the city. They are not speaking of those who will be told to part with their properties and businesses in order to accommodate the wealthy.
“We are invisible,” the 53-year-old Ghiglino said. “We do not exist.”
Lopez and Ghiglino are merely names on a property listing who can be told to go away with a check in the $600,000 range. That check will not begin to compensate their 11 years as owners of the building. It will not tell of all their work and sweat. It will not tell of all the upgrades they have put into the building. It certainly will not tell how they turned down a $2.5million offer for the property two years ago.
Theirs was an easy decision then, if you must know.
This was their piece of the city, you see, and they wanted to be around after the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative was completed. They wanted to be there in the good times, because they had been there in the bad times, working amid the drug dealers on the street corners and the heroin addicts in the alleyways.
But now, they do not know where they will be, or if they have a business and a future in a city that has ignored them. They just know with unsettling certainty that their building sits between N and O streets, in what amounts to shallow left field of the proposed ballpark, in pop-up territory.
“I am very pessimistic,” Lopez said. “We have no money. All our money is invested in this place. This is like reverse Robin Hood to me. They are taking from the poor and giving it to the rich.”
Lopez concedes he is not sure what to make of the city-wide baseball party. He is a person of culture and art whose works include the stone lions that grace the William Howard Taft Memorial Bridge on Connecticut Avenue.
“Art is forever,” he said.
The same cannot be said of stadiums.
Lopez and Ghiglino say they have received no correspondence from the city. They only know what they know from reading the newspapers, and what they know reads like a life sentence.
Lopez considered the artistic potential of the newspaper photograph taunting his being.
He said the least the city could do is send him a baseball cap to commemorate the taking of his property and studio.
“I want to look as ridiculous as the people in the picture,” he said. “I also want a baseball bat.”
He could use the bat to start the razing process of his yellow brick dream.