- The Washington Times - Monday, April 4, 2005

These are, indeed, heady times.

Major league baseball returns to Washington today. In this city, where decisions are made that affect billions of people around the world, baseball doesn’t amount to much.

Cerebrally, we know that, anyway.

But many people lost a piece of their hearts when the Washington Senators played their final game in the District in 1971.

That piece will be restored when former Senators Mickey Vernon and Del Unser throw out the ceremonial first pitches today in Philadelphia, when the Nationals line up outside the visitor’s dugout at Citizens Bank Park for the national anthem, when the first Nationals batter steps up to the plate for the first pitch.

For those boys and girls who grew up with baseball in Washington and now are grown men and women, it will be a chance to reconnect with innocent times.

Sure, there is hardly anything innocent about baseball, now or then, but the script for today is not a version of “Eight Men Out.”

No, this is a “Field of Dreams” day. No steroids, no Peter Angelos, no ballpark financing talk today. Just baseball.

This is a day for fathers and mothers to tell their sons and daughters about the heroes of their youth, a day for their children to get a first glance at the heroes of their times.

It also is a day for sons and daughters to take a moment to remember the parents that brought them to the ballpark and introduced them to a game that connects the generations.

That connection had been severed in this town for 34 years.

There was the illusion it had been healed by the team 35 miles up the road.

If there is one thing for which we can thank the Baltimore lawyer, it is for making clear to everyone in Washington that the Orioles were not ours.

The owner up there declared there are no “real baseball fans” in Washington; what he should have said was that there are no “real Orioles fans” in Washington. There were only customers, numbers passing through a turnstile, figures to add to television ratings.

For those Nationals fans fortunate enough to be able to be at Citizens Bank Park today or at the home opener at RFK Stadium on April 14, walking through the turnstiles will mean far more than it did at Camden Yards.

For those watching on television or listening to the radio, it will mean more than any Orioles game that found its way over the airwaves in Washington.

Many will remember for years to come where they were when they watched or listened to the first Washington Nationals game, and perhaps someday they will pass it on to their children, as is the custom of baseball.

“The first big-league game I ever saw was at the Polo Grounds,” former major league pitcher John Curtis once said. “My father took me. I remember it so well the green grass and green stands. It was like seeing Oz.”

Toto, we’re home.

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