WASHINGTON – City officials,waving red caps from the old Senators team were sure Wednesday that baseball will return to the capital,but they were unsure of one major detail: the team's name.
Mayor Anthony Williams said in an interview after a festive news conference to announce the team's move from Montreal that the decision will be left up to the Expos' new owners. The team will begin playing at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in April,pending formal approval by the D.C. Council and Major League Baseball.
Williams said he doesn't think the team should be called the Senators. Referring to the District's lack of voting representation in Congress,he said,“Give us two senators and I'll be happy to call it the Senators.”
Paul Strauss,the District's so-called shadow senator,a lobbyist for voting rights,said if the team is called the Shadow Senators that he would volunteer as the mascot.
Williams said he thinks the Grays would be a good choice,nodding to a grassroots movement to name the team after Washington's old Negro League franchise.
Daryn Cambridge,23,of Arlington,Va.,was passing out literature at the city's press conference and urging people to support the Grays.
“The Negro Leagues were monumental in the fight for desegregation,and the Grays were a highly exceptional team in the Negro League,” he said. “It would be unprecedented in the history of baseball to have a team that's in honor of the heart of baseball.”
Longtime D.C. broadcaster and Comcast Sports executive Andy Ockershausen said the Grays is a bad name. He preferred a different historic baseball name. “It doesn't make any sense,” he said. “We should be the Nationals. We're going to be the Nats.”
Washingtonians interviewed Wednesday couldn't agree on a team name either.
“It reminds me I don't even have a vote in this city,” said Shirley McKoy,54. “I'd rather have a vote than a baseball team.”
Stephen Lawson,30,a lawyer,said,“I'd love to see them called the Senators. But I don't think it's going to happen because citizens are disenfranchised with the name.”
Robert Turner,34,a lobbyist,said the name should be “something unique to D.C. that doesn't offend too many people,” like the Monuments or the Potomacs.
Robinson said the team's new owner should ask fans to name the team,just like when the Washington Bullets basketball team was re-dubbed the Wizards in 1997.
Turner said one of his friends suggested the team be called the Gridlock. “For the traffic and the Congress,” he said.
Some just said baseball in the District is long overdue. The city hasn't had a team since the Senators left for Texas 33 years ago.
“This city caters to all sports,” said Adrien Robinson of Germantown,Md.,a suburb. “You got people from every race,religion – everything – in this city,and they will support it. Why do we have everything else but no baseball?”
Lawson said he has been to one Orioles game since relocating to the District from Durham,N.C. He said there will only be “a little impact” on the Baltimore Orioles,located just 40 miles to the north.
“I don't think it's going to be as bad as the owner thinks,” Lawson said.
Brian Yourish,of Northwest Washington,said he has nothing against baseball,but a team would be better placed “in a city that doesn't have a half million people and whose schools aren't failing.”
As a volunteer for a youth outreach program,Yourish said he gets to see the shortcomings of the school system firsthand.
Yourish said the team's move from Montreal represents a reason he's not as interested in sports anymore – loyalty often takes a back seat to money.
Shannon Anderson,who just moved to Washington,said her home city of Portland,Ore.,was also trying to lure the Expos,but city officials decided baseball couldn't be a priority with looming budget cuts and under-performing schools.
“It just seems like a bad use of public resources when there's so many other things cities should be spending money on,” she said.