- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Like the rest of his teammates with the Nationals, Jamey Carroll is excited finally to be able to call Washington home.

If only he had time to figure out exactly where home is going to be.

“I really have no home yet,” the infielder said. “As of right now, I don’t have a place. I haven’t been there long enough to see anything.”

Carroll is hardly alone in his predicament. Most everyone associated with the Nationals, from players to coaching staff to the front office, is scrambling to find housing on the eve of the club’s historic home opener at RFK Stadium.

It’s not that there isn’t housing available. It’s that no one has had time to look.

The Nationals’ only other trip as a team to the District came a week and a half ago, when the club played its only exhibition game at RFK. Total time spent in town: 19 hours, with sleep and a ballgame taking up the entire schedule.

“It was the hotel, the stadium and then we were gone,” Carroll said. “So there wasn’t any time to check out places.”

Now that they’ve finally arrived for an extended stay — tomorrow night’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks kicks off a seven-game, eight-day homestand — Washington’s players have a chance to get settled in.

They’ve been hearing for months about their new home from fans, media members and the handful of players who have been here before. But until they actually set up shop in town themselves, most have no idea what to expect.

“Everyone in D.C. is happy that baseball’s back, and we’re happy too,” pitcher Esteban Loaiza said. “But we really don’t know what it’s like, during the season or during the offseason. It’s our first experience there.”

Nationals officials have done their best to help. Rob McDonald, director of team travel, has spent much of his spring researching neighborhoods and apartments and has become an invaluable resource for players who know nothing about the area.

It’s no easy task for McDonald, who was with the franchise in Montreal the last three seasons but says this year’s situation is even more challenging.

“In Montreal, you knew kind of where you were going,” he said. “You could say it was around the corner from certain landmarks, and you kind of knew the area. This is all new. Guys don’t really have a point of reference.”

And how well does McDonald know the area?

“Personally, I’ve only been there like four days,” he said with a laugh. “So I have no clue.”

McDonald researched different parts of town and presented the players with options. Ultimately, most chose to live in Old Town Alexandria or Northwest Washington. A couple of people, including some members of the coaching staff, picked Bethesda.

“We’re going to live in Alexandria — it’s not as pricey,” said Carroll, who’s in only his third full season in the major leagues. “I mean, I’d love to be in D.C., and there’s still a possibility, but with our situation right now, we’ll probably start out in Alexandria.”

Of course, it’s one thing to decide where to live. It’s another to pick a place without ever actually seeing it in person, like Loaiza, who along with several teammates has chosen to rent an apartment in Northwest near the National Zoo.

“I saw brochures and pictures on the Internet,” Loaiza said. “And I think [second baseman Jose] Vidro’s wife went to go see it before they picked it and said it was real nice. My agents looked for it, too, and did all the paperwork, so it’s all worked out.”

Zach Day was one of the lucky few who actually got to go house-hunting during the winter. The 26-year-old pitcher was in Washington for three days in January to be a part of the club’s uniform unveiling, and he and his wife used their free time to look for an apartment in Alexandria.

Still, Day says he knows very little about the place he’s about to call home.

“Nothing. Zero,” he said. “I mean, I was there for three days for the uniform unveiling, but that was it. I haven’t toured anything or done anything there in the past. So it’s all going to be new.”

It’s still going to be a couple of days before players get a chance to check out their surroundings. Following today’s game in Atlanta, the team will fly to Dulles International Airport, then take a bus to the team hotel. They aren’t likely to check in until after 8 p.m. Everyone on the roster is required to attend a welcome home luncheon tomorrow and will head straight from there to RFK for the game.

Finally on Friday, the Nationals have a day off, which makes that moving day for most players. Or in Carroll’s case, house-hunting day.

“My wife and I are planning on checking things out,” he said. “She’s looking to go before the game Thursday. Hopefully, we’ll be in someplace by the end of the week.”

Few players plan to make Washington their year-round home. That’s not a knock on the District, just a fact of life in the major leagues, where most players prefer to spend their winters in their original hometowns or in warm-weather locations.

“Very few people live in the places they actually play,” said Day, who grew up in Cincinnati and makes his permanent home there. “I mean, some guys are probably going to buy a place if they know they’re going to be there for a few years. But even now, nothing’s for certain on this team.”

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