“Well, I think the explanation for that is that it was that is was out of compliance for the park service’s rules,” Mayor Muriel E. Bowser whiffed, when confronted this weekend by the very players who had been displaced.
It was a classic Washington scene, where the people trying to bootstrap themselves out of a bad situation get stomped by the very folks elected to support them.
“We never got an explanation for it or any kind of warning,” Paloma Benach, a 17-year-old southpaw and team co-captain told Bowser, after the mayor threw out the ceremonial first pitch Saturday to open the Little League season.
The crowd cheered after Bowser’s slow-mo high kick and a loping throw.
Paloma wasn’t letting her off the hook. “But it had been there for six years,” she said, cutting short Bowser’s inadequate answer. The kids didn’t want to hear about jurisdiction. They wanted justice.
They won’t get it. It’s one of those complicated, DC things, where the park is on federal land, but the National Park Service has a long-term lease agreement with the DC Department of Parks and Recreation to let them operate it.
The team started using the field back when Major Adrian Fenty got them the space and there was no more than a pop-up cage to separate balls from people.
The National Park Service and the public gardeners weren’t happy about the flying baseballs, so the sports community raised the cash to build a more robust batting area to protect the residents. They figured the new, $8,000 batting cages would end the fight. But six years later. someone decided all of it had to go.
City officials acknowledge it was a screw-up.
“We understand that the timing of the batting cage removal was unfortunate and its effects on the baseball programs,” said the spokesman for the DC Department of Parks and Recreation, Michael Tucker.
The department said that the National Park Service warned them last year that all the structures would have to go. The city and the feds went back and forth on it for nearly a year. But the razing of the equipment last week was a surprise to the players who showed up after school to practice for a big game.
“We had a game against the top private school in the area,” one of the team captains, Gabe Alexander, told NBC4 on Saturday. “And we showed up at the field looking to hit and get some work in before the game and we were able to get none in.” (They lost to St. Alban’s, 1-11.)
Sure, you can say this sounds like a small potatoes fight in the wealthy part of town, where powerful parents with connections and a voice agitate on behalf of their children.
Or, you can see this as the shortsighted lack of investment in the youth of the nation’s capital.
I’ve seen this up close. My boys are not baseball players but two of their lifelong friends are on that high school baseball team and we’ve seen how hard those parents have had to work to make baseball viable in the city. The dad regularly comes home covered in dirt from the fields he groomed himself.
We’re in a similar situation as hockey parents. Across town at Fort Dupont, we see the only indoor ice rink in the city neglected and underfunded, floated by a private organization of adults who don’t want the rink to die. This is ice where a few Olympic speedskaters got their starts. This is the city that’s home to Stanley Cup champions. And now it’s a city that just killed the long-embattled plan to rebuild the aging facility.
Our booming city is bursting with condos and bars, dog parks and bike lanes — it’s a playground for moneyed urbanists.
But I see them now in my Capitol Hill neighborhood with strollers that cost more than my first car and I know they’ll likely bolt for the ‘burbs once they get a taste of how little the city invests in its surliest population — teens.
These kids showed up at a DC Council meeting last week to demand that city leaders do more about the mental health crisis they see in their schools every day.
Their testimony got little response, some were cut off when they went over their three-minute limit, just as they were talking about the mental frailty of their classmates.
These are the moments when we see how much our nation is failing children of all classes and colors.
They’re going to be old enough to vote soon, y’all. And nobody holds a grudge like a teen.