By James Wagner, Published: March 26
When baseball returned to Washington in 2005, it was with the understanding that the Nationals and the District would work together to build an academy that would help promote baseball among young people in the inner city, where interest and participation in the sport has been declining for years. Rough details were included in the lease between the District and the franchise for Nationals Park. But for a time it was unclear when the dream for the nine-acre plot of land in Fort Dupont Park in Southeast would become a reality.
But after years of fundraising, preparation and bureaucratic and construction delays, the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy is finally open. The ambitious, gleaming building that cost nearly $18 million welcomed its first class of children three weeks ago and will be officially unveiled Saturday at a ribbon-cutting ceremony before the Nationals’ exhibition game against the Detroit Tigers.
Part of the academy’s mission is also to involve the rest of the community. An area collegiate summer baseball team, the D.C. Grays, will use the academy as its home field this year. Two local high schools, private Gonzaga College High and public Anacostia High, already use the fields and indoor batting cages for practices and games. Players from both schools help with the children’s baseball instruction. Nationals players and coaches may also help out during the season. General Manager Mike Rizzo and shortstop Ian Desmond sit on the academy’s advisory board.
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