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The Nats Pick Up Trash, Part I

When I got to the Nats Great Trash Pick-Up by the Anacostia River, two things were immediately evident.

1) It smelled like the Anacostia River. ("Pretty intense right here; it's downwind," joked Nats Principal Owner Mark Lerner.)

2) There were no Nats.

Lots of kids, mind you. The kiddies of the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School were there, as was the Earth Conservation Corps. Eventually, the kiddies from Kimball Elementary also appeared. There was a lovely view across the river of the new stadium. There was plenty of trash within sight, boding well for the trash pick-up. But no Nats, not just yet.

Jason Simontacchi, with the ballpark rising artfully in the background. (By Sports Bog)

There were introductory remarks. The Jewish Day kids cheered at the news that Ryan Zimmerman was coming. (No kids, I know what it sounds like, but really, he's not.) They cheered for Lerner, who was being honored today with the school's first-ever "Lerner Family Students in Action Day" across the entire region.

There were also plenty of explanations for that peculiar smell. "It's got a really bad reputation for being really dirty, and it is dirty," explained Akiima Price, the Environmental Education Director for the Earth Conservation Corps. "Billions of gallons of untreated human waste," was a phrase uttered by ECC President Glen O'Gilvie at some point. ECC Anacostia River Keeper Service Coordinator Josh Burch gave the kiddies advice on cleaning things up; "if you see a pile of trash, kick it first," he said. Then he gave instructions for what to do if you found any needles.

To occupy myself in the meantime, I counted the hats of the kiddies. By my count, there were nine Nats hats, seven Orioles hats, six Yankees hats, four Red Sox hats, about 15 Jewish Day Lions hats, and a sprinkling of others. There were certainly far more AL East hats than Nats hats. This at a Nats event. Later, after the actual Nats had arrived, I explored this issue further.

"If you look around, there's a lot of them that have Orioles hats signed by Nationals players," Jonathan Cannon, the head of Jewish Day, observed, accurately. "We're a school that lets kids make their own choices."

"I'm just glad they're baseball fans," Lerner said.

Typical Washington spin. Luckily, Manny Acta wasn't having any of it. While tromping through the weeds as kids picked up trash, he signed an autograph for young Jonathan Silverman, aged 11, who was wearing a camoflauged Yankees hat.

"How come you don't have a Nats hat?" Acta asked him.

"What?" Silverman said.

"You heard me," Acta replied.

"I have one," Silverman said, nervously. "I didn't want to wear it today in case it got dirty."

"In case it got dirty, good excuse," Acta said.

(Just so the Nats PR people don't call me complaining: the manager was joking.)

When Acta left, I questioned Silverman, who argued that he actually was a fan of both the Yankees and the Nats, and that this did not pose a contradiction.

"But you're always wearing Yankees clothes," a classmate, Laynee Lichtenstein pointed out.

"I still might be a Nationals fan," Silverman maintained.

"He probably even has Yankees pajamas, Yankees underwear, Yankees socks, I don't know," Claire Mendelson said.

I think she just said that because she knew I was looking for humor. Even the 11-year-olds are on to me now.

By Dan Steinberg  |  June 5, 2007; 3:41 PM ET
Categories:  Nats  
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Next: The Nats Pick Up Trash, Part II

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