Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Outfielder Nook Logan can’t quite picture himself roaming the grass of the Washington Nationals’ new Southeast ballpark just yet. But he knows it won’t be long before he can.

“I was here in October and I just saw cranes,” Logan said as he toured the ballpark construction site with teammates and reporters yesterday. “Now you see all this. It’s a lot.”

What Logan sees is the steel framework of the stadium, erected just over the last two months above a vacant dirt plot along South Capitol Street near the Anacostia River. Favorable weather has helped the between 360 and 375 daily workers stay on schedule in their efforts to complete the ballpark by Opening Day 2008, construction officials said.

Logan and teammates Ryan Zimmerman and Mike O’Connor fought off sub-freezing temperatures to meet with construction workers yesterday during a stop on the Nationals Winter Caravan.

“It’s come along a lot faster than I thought it would,” said O’Connor, a District resident and Ellicott City native who grew up attending games at Baltimore’s Camden Yards. “It’s starting to look like a real stadium.”

Third baseman Zimmerman checked off a list of his favorite ballparks in the major leagues and said he expects the Nationals’ stadium to be unique.

“It’s going to be a bit more open and has some things that no other place has,” he added.

A lack of snow and relatively warm weather through most of the winter has helped construction, though recent rains have been a nuisance and workers were forced to take yesterday morning off because of high winds.

“The weather’s been good … the temperatures have been very favorable,” said Ronnie Strompf, a senior superintendent of the project. “We’ve been very lucky. Normally our winters last about six to eight weeks, and I think we’ll be pretty much out of winter four weeks from now.”

As soon as next week, the construction team will assemble the light towers for the ballpark. Most heavy construction should be finished by July, when workmen will begin laying the playing field.

That’s when Logan may start to imagine some things.

“I hope to have stories, if I get to play in it,” Logan said. “I hope I can tell my kids, ‘I played in the first game at that ballpark.’ ”

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