This morning was not going well for me! I pulled into my parking garage at work thrilled I was twenty minutes early which meant I’d have enough time to do my time accounting (due today) and still get to the groundbreaking. I turned the car off and collected my things – no, wait, only my purse… to my horror, I realized I’d forgotten my backpack containing my camera and laptop (with all the video and notes from the previous night’s Lerner press conference!). I nearly decided not to go. Lucikly, a coworker lent me his camera, so I headed down to the stadium site.
Traffic near the stadium was brutal with construction trucks rumbling around and people streaming in to the VIP/Media parking lot near the groundbreaking. I wasn’t sure where to park – a man in a red Nats cap on the street pointed me toward the media lot, but once I saw the sign realized I didn’t belong in there. The nice lady checking where people were from told me to park in the street right there at the gate. Score! Luck continued my way as I was told I wasn’t late after all since Mayor Williams hadn’t arrived yet and therefore the program hadn’t started.
I watched everyone arrive and take the stage. I was thrilled to see Frank Robinson looking snazzy in his suit and take a seat on the stage. Brian Schneider and Marlon Anderson were also in attendance and would be on the stage. Screech was jiggling around on the opposite side of the stage, so I wandered over to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. I retook my position up front – having learned to stay by the photographers after the stadium unveiling. Unfortunately, I was unfamiliar with my borrowed camera (and really missed mine!), so didn’t get all the good shots I aimed for, but fared pretty well anyway.
My position was in the front to the left of the stage (facing it) – right in Frank’s line of sight. I noticed a lot of the crowd wearing red Nats caps that read, “Ballpark Groundbreaking May 4, 2006″ on the back. They looked like giveaways, but I never did find where they were being given away. Bummer – that would’ve been quite the keepsake!
The air of excitement was pervasive. The groundbreaking site also viewed like a “Who’s Who” of DC. We had new ownership AND the stadium was underway. Everyone mingled and shook hands prior to the ceremony getting underway. Nobody could have wished for better weather either – the sun shone down from clear blue skies. Great day! It actually got better for me personally. Hee!
DC Council Member Jack Evans, Nationals manager Frank Robinson, Mayor Anthony Williams, DC Council Member Carol Schwartz
The speeches were given. Charlie Brotman, PA announcer for the Senators, EmCee’d the event, promising to keep the speeches short or he’d blow his whistle on the speaker. Egads, I hoped not! I was standing directly in front of the speaker and my ear drum nearly shattered when he demonstrated his whistling power. Yikes!
Brotman read the “starting lineup”, introducing the significant political figures who had a hand in bringing baseball to DC, starting with Mayor Williams. He moved through to the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission, Mark Lerner, Tony Tavares, Frank Robinson, players Schneider and Anderson, Anacostia Waterfront Corporation, Clark-Hunt-Smoot construction company representatives, and finally new owner, Ted Lerner. It should be noted that when Frank Robinson was named, the crowd burst into the most energetic and hearty applause and cheers than any of the others. He is hugely respected and admired.
Fred Valentine and a couple other Washington Senators were introduced sitting in the front row of the audience. Next William Sonny Randall and James Tillman Sr., former Homestead Grays were introduced and stood to wave to the crowd. How fortunate I was standing directly in front of them!
Mayor Williams started off the speeches by kicking off his usual rhetoric on the economic benefits for the city. Immediately upon taking the podium, some people over in center field started chanting “Feed the needy, not the greedy” loudly and relentlessly, raising a cardboard sign. The Mayor continued on pretending he did not hear them, but the photographers all ran in a herd over to snap photos of the protesters. I remained cool and content where I was – kinda happy I had a clear shot of the stage with all the photogs gone! It was kind of funny to see all the photographers rush off at the same time. I can only imagine how irritated those on the stage must have been!
Alan Lu from the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission informed us we were standing in right centerfield. I tried to picture myself on the field in the future with the stands around me, but that was no easy task surrounded by dirt piles and cranes. It’s amazing that the chanting can’t be heard on the video posted at the Washington Post of the Mayor’s speech.
Eleanor Holmes Norton: [To Ted Lerner] “Once I found out you went to DC public schools, that’s all I needed to know. You’re one of us!!”
Linda Cropp: “Go Nats!” She was literally screaming with the most energy I’ve ever seen from her (yes, even more than in those legislative sessions). Remember I said I was standing in front of the speaker? I tried as hard as I could not to be rude and visibly wince as my eardrums vibrated with each scream. “Hip hip…” (Crowd yells back “HOORAY!”).
Sharon Ambrose: “Welcom to Ward Six! I welcome the Lerner family as part of the team.”
Jack Evans: “Welcome to our field of dreams! We had three goals – to get: 1) A team, 2) a stadium, and 3) an owner. Today we’ve accomplished all of them.”
DC CFO Natwar Gandhi: “The most important thing is the money! Yesterday we sold all of the bonds for a good price. Deliver [the new stadium] to me on time and on budget!”
Others who spoke were Bill Hall of the DCSEC, Jonathan Mariner, MLB VP of Finance, and Adrian Washington, President and CEO of the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation. Finally, Ted Lerner took the podium for a few brief comments.
The entire crowd and stage members were then directed to sing “Take Me Out to the BallPARK” (not ball game, but ball park).
The photographers all moved out of sight past the opposite side of the stage. I debated following them, but didn’t want to miss anything on stage so stayed put til the end of the stage portion of the ceremony. Then I wandered over in the direction of all the people. I was told to keep a path clear from the stage, so moved off a bit, only to find myself right in the “receiving line” as it were, if it were a wedding, so everyone was walking directly in front of me to the sandbox where the shovels were. Could I get any luckier?! Well, no, for at that moment when Frank Robinson stood in front of me, I realized I’d filled up the small memory card in the borrowed camera without a clue how to go through and delete photos. Panic!!
So while all these important people filed past directly in front of me, I frantically played with the buttons on the camera until I figured out how to scroll through and determine which of my precious photos were deemed suitable for deletion. Ack!! My coworker had warned me before I left that it was a small card and only held 64 photos. I should have known when I replied “oh, no problem” that I have a habit of snapping at least a hundred pictures at an event.
I figured I missed the actual “ground breaking” portion while fiddling with the camera, so I remained where I was with about 8 photo spots cleared on the card. Brian Schneider happened to walk over near me. I summoned some guts and said ‘hi’ (didn’t mention my blog) and shook his hand. I asked if he would mind if I took a photo of him and then had the brilliant idea of asking if he’d mind a picture of me and him together saying, “I’m a huge fan!” (couldn’t I have come up with something better and witty? Duh). He graciously agreed to it. I asked the guy next to me if he minded working the camera, and my day was made! While talking to him and afterward when he was approached by a fan for an autograph, I noticed he was carrying this book. Interesting! (The fan caused him to drop it and the jacket ripped – I felt bad for him!).
I also managed to get Marlon Anderson to pose for me!
I wandered off in search of those groundbreaking caps, but didn’t find them. I decided I should leave so I wouldn’t be gone from the office too long. Besides, I still had to run home and get my backpack for that press conference post on it and my papers for class tonight! First, I finally worked up the nerve to talk to Schneider and his wife without sounding like a stupid tongue-tied fan. Oops, flaw in the plan. He was being interviewed by 7 News and it looked like Fox 5 was in the queue to talk next. I wanted to ask him if he was friendly with Gary Bennett while he was here last year and maybe see if he had a way to contact him. I decided to leave instead. Brian Schneider and his wife were right behind me driving out of there and onto 395. He has good taste in cars ;-)