Sherwood's Notebook: Play Ball… Y'all

A lot is going on.

First, the fun stuff.

Opening day for the Nationals is Monday against the Miami Marlins.

Your Notebook took in a Nats spring training game last week in West Palm Beach, checking in with local fans at the team’s new Florida ballpark.

“This is very nice,” said retired federal worker Roy Redmond, a Virginia resident, looking around the 6,500-seat stadium that is shared with the Houston Astros. Workers rushed to get it completed in less than 18 months, laying out a first-class locker room for players and party decks, private suites and grassy picnic areas for fans. There’s a 360-degree view of the field from the main concourse, just like at Nats ballpark here.

It’s a major change from the previous, small-town facility in Viera, Fla. But big and new and shiny do come at a cost.


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Redmond, the fan from Nokesville in suburban Virginia’s Prince William County, was a regular at Viera, too. The new place “is not as folksy or homey,” he told us. “But we’ll keep coming.”

As the Washington Nationals get ready for Opening Day Monday, more and more of the new merchandise at Nats Park is targeting the team's many female fans.

Redmond and his wife Trish were in seats behind home plate as the Nats were preparing for a game against the New York Yankees. The ballpark was filling up. Baseball was in the air.

Silver Spring resident Ann Henson also was in the seats. A resident of Leisure World, she had driven down with two close friends. She and her husband, Larry, had been fans of the Nats since their arrival a decade ago. But this trip was the first without her husband, who died in January.

“This is part of my grief therapy,” she said, looking around the ballpark. “This is a beautiful space.” With the season set to open, Henson said she expects the Nats to make the playoffs again, but worries they don’t yet have a closer able to carry the team. And she and many others who follow the team from Florida to the home field in Washington will be watching every pitch Monday.

■ Play ball policing. It’s a truism that public safety is a cornerstone of local politics everywhere.

The D.C. Council just wrapped up its third and final hearing on whether to confirm interim Police Chief Peter Newsham as Mayor Muriel Bowser’s next chief. The final hearing by Judiciary and Public Safety Committee chair Charles Allen, the Ward 6 member, on Friday lasted 11 hours. More than 80 witnesses signed up. The previous two hearings were held in the community, but this was the chance to hear from Newsham himself.

Some council members attended all or part of the hearings, and several council members left and returned to ask specific questions of Newsham.

He got some aggressive questions from Allen, as well as at-large Council member David Grosso. Newsham is expected to be confirmed easily when the council votes within the next few weeks, but we’re hearing it won’t be unanimous.

■ Election Day daze. In recent years, the D.C. Council primary elections have been held in April, June and September. It’s been a mash-up of dates to comply with federal rules that final ballots must be mailed overseas to military and government personnel within a time frame to be counted with all the other ballots.

Right now, the 2018 primary for mayor and council seats is set for Sept. 4. But candidates planning to run in that primary had better pay attention to the D.C. Council, as the date could change again.

Council member Allen’s Judiciary and Public Safety Committee oversees the Board of Elections, and he has introduced a bill to permanently move the city primaries to the month of June, beginning with next year’s elections. The new date would be June 19. If it passes, that means mayoral candidates like Mayor Bowser may have to announce sooner than they had planned.

“As the chair of the committee with oversight, I take the risk of violating federal election law very seriously,” Allen said when introducing his legislation. “Moving the primary date to June gives the Board of Elections the time it needs.”

Allen noted that the June 19 date would be just after the school year ends, avoiding conflicts with closing ceremonies and other activities. It also doesn’t impinge on Memorial Day or Labor Day.

The current council members and Bowser won the last primary held on April 1, 2014. (We’ve heard all the April Fool jokes, thank you.) In addition to being a joke date, it meant that then-incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray, defeated by Bowser, remained in office until Jan. 2, 2015. Whatever date the city chooses, and whoever is elected, we hope there’s not a lead time like that ever again.

■ Get on the bus, Gus. Our neighbors in Montgomery County are getting a new rapid bus transit system. The county held an online contest to see what its name would be.

The winning name was “Flash.” It got 463 votes against “Rapid” (370) and “Swift” (382).

But we were intrigued with the 300-plus other write-in names for the bus system. There were the predictable grumpy ones like “Waste of Money” and “Doomed to Fail.” There were some that were fun to say: “MoCoGo” and “HoCoMoCo GoGo.”

But we liked these also-ran ideas: “Bussey McBusface.” “Quicky & Hustle.” “Bust-a-Move.”

And finally, my winner, “The Full Monty.”

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

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