- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Washington Nationals confirmed yesterday they will play the New York Mets in a charity exhibition game at RFK Stadium on April3, meaning the 44-year-old facility must be ready for baseball 11 days before the Nationals’ official home opener.

All proceeds from the 1:05p.m. exhibition will go to the Washington Nationals Foundation, a soon-to-be-established charity organization. The Nationals open their first season the following day at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park against the Phillies.

In other news, the team will play at least seven games this season on national television, three on ESPN and four on Fox. Two of the ESPN games are high-profile holiday contests, a Memorial Day home game against National League East champ Atlanta at 3:05p.m. and a July4 home game against the Mets at 1:05p.m.

The announcement of the Mets exhibition puts additional pressure on the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission to have the field ready well before the April14 home opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

What was originally conceived as a six- to eight-month project to get RFK ready for baseball now must be completed in a little more than two months.

Renovations were stalled as Major League Baseball shut down the club’s operations for a week in December when funding for a planned ballpark in Southeast and the future of the club was still undecided.

The Nationals’ first nationally televised regular-season game (ESPN) will be May1 at RFK against the Mets at 8:05p.m.

Fox will show the Nationals twice at home and twice on the road, starting with a July9 game at Philadelphia.

The Nationals also will appear on Fox on July30 at Florida, and will play two games at RFK on Fox against St. Louis on Aug.27 and the Braves on Sept.10.

The Nationals’ spring training opener March3 against the Mets also will air on ESPN.

Neither ESPN nor Fox has released its official 2005 schedule, but the national TV interest in Washington represents a significant step forward for the franchise compared to its final year in Montreal. The Expos did not appear at all on Fox, twice on ESPN and once on ESPN2 in 2004.

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