Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Many wonder what took so long. Others are just happy it is finally here. Many in the Washington area are elated Major League Baseball is returning to town after an absence of more than three decades.

“It’s great to finally have a team here,” Bud Bower said in front of a Reston electronics store. “It’s long overdue. We should have replaced the Washington Senators years ago. That they have dragged their feet for 33 years in unconscionable.”

Bower, who turned 65 yesterday, travels up Interstate 95 to Camden Yards in Baltimore for two or three games a season, but he will likely attend more games in the District with a club much closer to his Northern Virginia home.

Randy McMillan, 51, also plans to take in more games with his children and grandchildren. McMillan, who works in publications, is thrilled the Montreal Expos are moving to Southeast Washington even if he doesn’t like all the wrangling it took to make it happen.

“I am a little upset the way [Baltimore Orioles owner] Peter Angelos blackmailed D.C.,” McMillan said outside the DuPont Circle Metro station. “The population and the income we have around here can easily support a team. It should have been here a long time ago.”

Sue Nesbit doesn’t pay much attention to sports, but the 50-year-old Manassas resident said she is pleased about the expected financial boon for the city.

“We don’t have a baseball team here?” Nesbit said after walking out of a doughnut shop on DuPont Circle. “If it brings in revenue, I am all for it.”

While most were excited about a team in town, some didn’t like the Anacostia site. Centreville resident James O. Graham, 26, would have preferred the team going to Northern Virginia and a ballpark near Dulles International Airport.

“I am mad it didn’t come to Northern Virginia,” Graham said at Reston Town Center. “This whole metro area lives on the outskirts and commutes to D.C. There is no reason they couldn’t put it out here where we live.”

But Bower is happy stadium traffic won’t further clog busy roads near his Reston home.

“I am glad it didn’t go to Northern Virginia,” he said. “It would have made traffic a mess.”

And McMillan has concerns about attending games at the Southeast site at rush hour.

“The only thing I worry about is traffic,” the Alexandria resident said. “If a chicken truck turns over here, it stops traffic for hours. The city isn’t ready for that kind of traffic.”

While there was joy about the franchise move in Washington, the feelings up north at Camden Yards, where the Orioles were playing the Toronto Blue Jays in a doubleheader, were mixed.

George McSwain brought his 4-year old son to the park along with a sign that read, “Thank you very much MLB for ruining the Expos.” The word “Expos” was crossed out and replaced by “O’s.”

“I am irate about it,” said McSwain, 29, from North East, Md., in Cecil County. “Washington already lost two teams. I think it will cost us 20,000 fans a night. Once Angelos sells the team, there is not a lot we can do. We could lose the team to another city.”

But Dave Murray, who has been an Orioles season ticket holder for 19 years, doesn’t believe the sky is falling in Baltimore. The 70-year-old Beltsville resident grew up as hardcore fan of the original Senators.

“Washington deserves a team,” Murray said. “A Washington team is not going to hurt the Orioles too much. Even though a lot of people from Washington come here, this is a Baltimore thing. It is shorter for me to come here than the new park. I am going to stay with the Orioles.”

And now that D.C. has a team, the city will have another sight worth seeing along with monuments and museums. Los Angeles native Carlos Gutierrez was downtown yesterday and pleased to hear he will be able to see the national pastime in the nation’s capital.

“It’s great,” said the 35-year-old technology consultant, who visits Washington about four times a year. “It will be good for the city. It will be an attraction to me when I am in town. When I am in San Francisco, I go to [SBC Park]. I would love to see a game here.”

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