Dear Ace, When the D.C. Council rejected a potential lease for a new baseball stadium in the capital, Virginia seemed poised to scoop up the Nationals. Hours later the council overturned its decision, and goodbye Major League Baseball in Virginia. Is all hope lost for big league ballgames in the Commonwealth?—Homer Hungry
Let Ace put it this way, Homes: Between Congressional steroid hearings and D.C. stadium negotiations, not even Jack Bauer could keep Major League Baseball out of our nation’s capital.
That’s bad news for you and other Virginians who have long dreamed of a Major League franchise to call your own. Despite being home to eight successful minor league teams (the Norfolk Tides drew more than a half-million fans last year), Virginia has never had a MLB team, and is the largest state in America without a major pro sports team.
Ace spoke with Jerry Burkot, a member of the Virginia Baseball Club, the partnership that has lobbied for MLB in Virginia since 1993. He said that a young, educated, affluent populace would make Northern Virginia the most viable market for Major League Baseball in the Commonwealth.
Unfortunately, Burkot’s partnership fell painfully short of that goal during MLB’s 1994 expansion, again in 1996 and most recently in 2004, when Virginia got the old, “It’s not you, it’s D.C.” from that dirty tease Major League Baseball.
“I think eventually you’ll get something down in the Tidewater area—basketball or hockey—but so much of the population and wealth is in Northern Virginia, and Northern Virginia is always wedded arm-in-arm with the District. In hindsight [the Expos] might wish they had come to Virginia, but as long as there’s major league professional sports in the District, a Northern Virginia team isn’t viable,” Burkot says.
But don’t fret, Homie, there just might be joy in Mudville. Burkot suggested that Charlottesville would be the perfect market for minor league baseball. All we’d need is a stadium, which Burkot suggested could be funded by John Grisham, a well-known baseball lover who erected the state-of-the-art Little League fields in Covesville and is rumored to have financed UVA’s Davenport Field, too. “I’m amazed it hasn’t happened already,” Burkot says.