Recalling Virginia’s attempts to get a baseball team

Yesterday, Mr. Irrelevant linked to Unrealized Concepts section of StadiumPage.com prompting many of us to poke around. There is a treasure trove of information about ballparks that never were in this site that dates back to 1998 (and looks it).

Over at The Nats Blog, Will Yoder takes a look at the proposed Virginia stadiums and reminisces about growing up in Arlington and being part of the pro-stadium movement. After the failed attempt to land a team for Washington, D.C. in the 1991 expansion, Virginia was seen by several prospective ownership groups to be more attractive to MLB since it was not as close to Baltimore as D.C. This continued up until 2004 when it was obvious that there needed to be a solution to the Montreal Expos situation.

When it came to Virginia baseball I was not active like Yoder in pursuing it, never doing anything more than posting a link on the early version of my Web site. Despite growing up in Vienna, I always preferred the idea of a D.C.-based team. In 1991 when baseball was expanding, I went to one of the exhibition games in RFK Stadium — the COMSAT Baseball Classic. Ultimately, Florida and Colorado got picked over William Collins bid (the team would have been called the Washington Nationals). I also went the next year, in a block W Senators cap, seeing the Phillies and somebody else, maybe the Red Sox. My dad even took my brother and I out of school one Friday so that we could see the Yankees and Mets at RFK Stadium, but it was canceled due to a muddy field after a day of rain. We did get to see Collins “retire” Frank Howard‘s #33 though. They said it was going to be hung up in RFK Stadium. I’d love to see DC Sports Bog dig up the story on that sometime.

As the ’90s rolled along, the cause of D.C. baseball all but died. Collins shifted his efforts to Virginia and nearly bought the Astros, but they got a last minute stadium deal to stay in Houston. I did not pay too much attention to the prospects of baseball here, because I was attending Penn State and enjoying the resurgent Yankees. My only trip to RFK during the time was for the 1996 HFStival — I looked to see if Howard’s #33 was hanging up anywhere and it wasn’t.

After graduating from Penn State and moving into Pentagon City, I started getting interested in the prospects of baseball returning. Two locations in Pentagon City were considered for a ballpark: a still vacant plot along Army Navy Drive between Fern and Eads Streets and the existing location of Costco. If I recall correctly, Cafrtiz owned the Army Navy spot and had no interest in parting with it for a stadium. My wife recalls that we got something about the potential for a stadium slid under our door. I knew neither of those locations, nor the proposed Rosslyn one next to the twin towers, were non-starters. They wouldn’t have been bad spots, if not for being outside of D.C. and Arlington County‘s complete disinterest in them.

I would have ultimately supported a Virginia team, probably with the same enthusiasm as I have now if it had been in Arlington or Alexandria, but probably not as much if it were located all the way out by Dulles Airport since I live inside-the-Beltway. Thankfully, it didn’t happen that way. I can’t imagine many people from Maryland or even the District would be crossing the Potomac to see a Virginia team in any of those locations. Washington has more cachet than Virginia and frankly, despite living in the commonwealth since I was 2, I think of myself more of a Washingtonian than a Virginian. As half-assed as MLB’s placement of the Expos was, at least they put them in D.C.

ADDED: Dave Levy of WeLoveDC has a write-up about it too.

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