Play Ball!

Yesterday I wrote about the cosmic significance of the end of February and the beginning of March: Spring is imminent, if not in the air locally where you happen to be. The biggest sign of spring here is Florida is Spring Training. Baseball teams have been training here for the last couple of weeks, preparing for the 2005 season, and today will be the first spring training games where major league teams play each other. At 1 p.m EST, ESPN will treat us to the first televised game of the spring, between the New York Mets and the Washington Nationals, the team formerly known as the Montreal Expos.

Baseball, like spring, is about renewal and new opportunities. Every year, each team starts off with a clean slate. No team has a cleaner slate than the Nationals, after their lengthy au revoir to Montreal. The Expos had been rumored to be on the move for the past several years, due to poor attendance and low revenue opportunities. This year, it finally happened, so the Nationals players will no longer have to worry about long "homestands" in San Juan or other exotic locations.

I had mixed emotions about the team's move. On the one hand, Montreal had repeatedly failed to show any capacity to support the team. On the other, having grown in up Kansas City, I know the bitterness that comes when the team that you love is stolen away. We moved to Kansas City in the early 1970s, after the Athletics had moved from Kansas City to Oakland, but there was still a deep and abiding loathing of Charlie O. Finley for moving the team, especially since they had sucked every year they were in Kansas City but suddenly became good after moving to Oakland. This led to a strong rivalry between the Royals and Athletics in the mid-1970s as the Royals went from expansion team to contender. That feeling of rivalry wasn't really displaced until the playoff battles against the New York Yankees in the late 1970s. It was only then that the Yankees became the most hated rival team in Kansas City, rather than the Oakland Athletics.

Still, in the end, this is probably better for the Nationals franchise and for the team's players. The long goodbye to Montreal is over, and the twice-jilted nation's capital once again has major league baseball.

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