Baseball is Back!

All politics is local, as the old saying goes. So let’s take a look at the biggest local political news this week — and apply it to our larger election at stake.

Two weeks ago I penned a column about the return of baseball to Washington — the “real” return, now that Nationals Park opened on Sunday night. The new ballpark was a triumph by all accounts. Traffic less than feared, the stadium a hit with fans, Metrorail flowing well and, best of all, the Nationals won.

Lest anyone forget, it was a bold political stroke that made it possible — a smart move by former D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, who had the foresight to realize that Washington thirsted for baseball, longed for it. And the new ballpark served as the capstone for his vision.

I had breakfast with the former mayor a week before Opening Day. He was in fine form, ready to take in the first game in the Nationals’ new home. He recounted for me the days leading up to the City Council’s decision on whether to fund the ballpark. His plan wasn’t popular, but he stuck by it. He can smile now — those long, arduous debates now behind him.

Just think: When Tony Williams and his aide Mark Tuohey — then chairman of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission — hatched their plan to build a ballpark in Southeast, the site was an industrial zone, a virtual wasteland, written off long ago by developers and the city.

All that’s changed now. Take a walk down by the new ballpark, around the corner from the new U.S. Department of Transportation, and you’ll see a new part of the city being born before our eyes. As Tuohey exclaimed, “The stadium sparkles, the neighborhood will sparkle!” Williams’s former planning director, Andrew Altman, who helped Williams develop the Anacostia Waterfront plan, is now planning czar in Philadelphia, hoping to do for Philly what he and Williams have done for the District.

Williams’s bold political move made history, and the sense of victory was palpable on Sunday night. The atmosphere — cold for late March, but no one cared — was electric at Nationals Park. Everyone came together in unison to celebrate this new second home for the city from spring to fall. Civility was in the air and everywhere. Nats fans cheering, clapping, laughing, loving being together, loving being in their new capital city home baseball stadium, together.

This is what life is all about. Work hard all day, but in the evening put down your differences and find common ground in healthy activity! Build camaraderie and civility.

So that’s the week in local political news. The question remains for the presidential campaign: Who on the campaign stage is the bold leader to take us into new territory? Stay tuned for my upcoming interviews with the presidential candidates themselves ... and together we’ll see who’s cut out to run the bases and head for home.


Kathy Kemper is founder and CEO of the Institute for Education, a nonprofit foundation that recognizes and promotes leadership locally, nationally and in the world community.