The Washington Nationals are the official team of Washington DC and have competed in the East Division of the American Major Baseball League since 2005. They are nicknamed the “Nats”. The team is an amalgamation of the Montreal Expos and the Baltimore Oriole franchises.
The team has never played in the World Series and is yet to get league win under their belt. However, hopes remain high for the team; with plans for a new stadium finally being put into practice.
Origins of the Nationals
The foundation of the Washington Nationals is connected to the Montreal Expos. The team joined the National League in 1969, at the same time as the San Diego Padres. The first decade of the team’s history was somewhat grim, with them losing almost every league for eleven years. This trend was eventually bucked with the famous baseball strike of 1981, which saw the season cut short and allowed the Expos their first taste of victory as league winners.
This victory may be largely explained by luck, reflected by the fact that the team did not win another league again that decade. Another strike in 1994 saw another season cut short and, again, the Expos were doing well before the cancellation, but this time it was a case of the team being stopped in their tracks before they could win.
The successes before the strike could not be continued and, after season after season of disappointment, the team was eventually bought in 2002 by the Major Baseball League.
To compound matters, in 2005 a vote was cast over the future of the Expos. Subsequently, despite opposition from the owner of the Baltimore Orioles, the team was relocated to Washington.
Baseball in Washington before the Nats
The decision to move the Expos to Washington does not reflect Washington’s rich baseball history. The Washington Senators is the most famous team in the area, and they participated in the American League from its establishment in 1901 until 1972. As a reflection of their pedigree, in 1924 the team won the World Series, a feat far out of reach of the current team.
Like the present franchise though, the team was transferred – this time to Minnesota in 1961 for what proved to be a fairly fruitless decade. The team only finished one season on top, and eventually folded in 1972. It was the gap in Washington baseball that followed which eventually led to the transfer of the Montreal Expos to the area.
Links with the Baltimore Orioles
The Baltimore Orioles had been the only team in the Washington area since 1972. It is not surprising, therefore, that the proposed move of the Montreal Expos was met with opposition from the Orioles’ bosses.
It would of course mean competition with another team for fans and television contracts. A lawsuit was duly filed by Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, but it failed and the Expos were set to begin playing in the area from 2005.
His attempts were not in vain, however, and a deal was put in place to protect the native Orioles. All of the broadcasting rights for the new Nationals team were handed to Angelos, who formed the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network to manage the two team franchises together.
This was a move that would infuriate fans of the Nationals, as it turned out that very few of the Nationals’ games in the first two seasons were available on cable.
The first game for the newly formed team did not go particularly well. Proceedings opened with George W Bush throwing the ceremonial first pitch on 4th April 2005. Despite gallant efforts from batters Brad Wilkerson and Kenny Lofton, the team lost to the Philadelphia Phillies 8-4 and set a worrying precedent.
Fortunately, the Nats reclaimed some face two days later, beating the Phillies at home 7-3. Then, the first proper season game took place on the the 14th April at the RFK Stadium, the Nat’s home ground at the time.
A record 45,596 people were in attendance to watch the home side beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-3. The season continued in a relatively positive fashion, with excellent performances from batters Vinny Castilla, Brad Wilkerson and Ryan Zimmerman, allowing the Nats to finish with an 81-81 record (admittedly in last place in the NL East).
The season begun with an attendance that almost matched the record breaking figure of the first game of the previous season. This match also went better than the opener, with the Nationals beating the New York Yankees 3-2. The unorthodox approach of inviting 36 pitchers to the spring training had evidently paid off, giving rise to the future stars Mike Bacsik and Micah Bowie.
However, a massive run of injury put paid to the Nats, and they were forced to draw on every available resource for players. It did not prove to be enough, and as the season unfolded, the Nets looked set to break records, but for all the wrong reasons.
They almost lost 120 games in one season, a record number that had stood since 1962. Despite losing hitter Cristian Guzman to a thumb injury, they managed to turn the season round before it was too late. It was never going to be a spectacular season for the Nats but they salvaged some pride to finish with 91 losses and 71 victories in the NL East.
Despite these decidedly indifferent seasons, the Washington Nationals entered the 2007 with their sights set on the National League East Title. It would have been the first time they had taken the title since relocating to Washington, but the pre-season was marred by a shake up both on and off the pitch.
The manager Frank Robinson was replaced with Manny Acta, who soon decided to allow many of the team’s key players transfer for no fee or as part of exchange deals. Having lost Jose Guillen, Henrinto Elgrevos and Alfonso Soriano, the team attempted to fill the gap with some impressive signings. These included Smitri Young, Alex Escobad and John Patterson.
The team performed terribly in the early stages, going 1-8 down and soon slipping to 9-25 after an eight match losing streak. They were hit seriously by injuries in the bowling and batting camp, as the disabled list grew to an all-time high.
With their confidence well and truly dented, the team lost a record breaking 120 games in one season, their embarrassment only saved by a 11 from 15 win run. Needless to say, as a result, expectations are not exactly high for the forthcoming campaign, but who knows what the crazy game of baseball will throw up?
Tickets and Seating
Tickets are available from the Official Nationals Website or direct from the ticket booth at the stadium. Prices for field level seating range from $325 down to $47. The most expensive seats are the Presidential Seats and the price includes a parking pass in Nationals Park garage, a full gourmet buffet meal, a complimentary waiting service and access to the Stars and Stripes Club, the President’s Club and the PNC Diamond Club. These tickets can only be purchased by calling 202-675-6287.
For $170, PNC Diamond seats are available, which include the same benefits as the Presidential seats, but with a food credit voucher instead of a buffet. Club level seats are priced from $55 to $65 for single games. Mezzanine Level tickets are priced from $35 to $27, depending on the position relative to the field. Terrace and Gallery level tickets run from $24 to $5 for Upper Grandstand Seats. See the Nationals Official Website for a plan of the stadium for the different priced seating bands.
The Nationals Park also includes suites which are amount the best in Major League Baseball. Prices start at $400,000 annually and include all the benefits one would expect for such a price. The suites are tastefully decorated with marble counter-tops and leather seating and include private toilets and high definition TV screens to watch the replays on. In addition to the in-game concierge service, the suite price includes access to the private Nationals Club bar and membership to the Nationals Business Network.
New Washington Stadium
In 2004, it was announced that a publicly funded stadium would be constructed to accommodate the Nationals’ transfer into Washington. The project cost in excess of $611 million and is set to open on the 30th March 2008.
In addition to the 41,000 capacity baseball stadium, a massive commercial district is being constructed and has been dubbed the Ballpark District. The revenue from shops, offices and new residential development around the club is hoped to flow back into the city’s economy, and justify the cost of the ground to the public.
The park was constructed with the image of DC in mind, the exterior being built from the trademark limestone and glass that many of the city’s iconic buildings share.
Getting to the stadium
As the ground and the area is developed, access to the park has been of primary concern. The majority of the new buildings feature massive underground parking facilities and all season ticket holders have been allocated permits for these.
The organisers intend for more people to make use of the public transport links, and have expanded the Navy Yard Green Line Metro station to accommodate up to 15,000 commuters per hour. The Waterfront and Capitol South sations are both well within walking distance of the stadium. There are also proposals going ahead to establish a water-taxi to service the park from the banks of the Anacostia river.
- Washington Nationals
- RFK Stadium
- 2400 E. Capitol Street
- S.E. Washington, D.C. 20003
- Tel: (202) 547-9077
- Web: Official Nationals Website