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The Nats Pick Up Trash, Part II

So let me set the scene at Anacostia Park this morning. Across the river, the new ballpark rises artfully as a backdrop, complete with authentic, if muted, construction noise. From out of the river, interesting odors waft over our party. A smattering of trash flits about on the surface of the river, tempting us to come clean it. The kiddies from the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School and Kimball Elementary are being instructed on proper river-cleaning techniques, while waiting anxiously for the arrival of actual baseball players. And then the bus pulls up, and out pour the Nats: Manny Acta and Brian Schneider and Winston Abreu, Jason Simontacchi and Tony Batista and Ronnie Belliard. Although, little buggers that they are, the kids don't seem entirely satisfied with the crowd.


Ronnie Belliard, helping clean the Anacostia River. (By Sports Bog)

"Do you know Alfonso Soriano?" one youngster asks Manny Acta.

"Do you know if Austin Kearns is coming?" asks another.

Still, the kids mob the players, who are now perched perilously close to the river. Media persons stomp through the wetlands in an attempt get the best angle. Kids ask the Nats to sign their sneakers, their shirts, their Nats hats, their Red Sox hats and their Orioles hats.

"C'mon, let's move this way, students, please," requests Nats Senior VP of External Affairs and Other Stuff Al Maldon, attempting to begin the river-cleaning. "The players are going to be here for a while."

The players say they don't think they'll be picking up garbage. Meanwhile, behind me, team owner Mark Lerner--who is being honored with "Lerner Family Students in Action Day"--already has a pair of trash-removal gloves in hand.

"He's very excited about the gloves," daughter Lauren is saying.

"I'm a good trash-picker-upper," Mark Lerner confirms. "When we lived in Maryland, I was a maniac with picking up trash."

"His attention to detail, it applies to the whole neighborhood," son Jonathan says.

"He would pull over driving home to pick up trash in the neighborhood," Lauren expounds. "It's there; someone has to pick it up."

Apparently, when walking the dog, Mark Lerner would bring along an extra plastic bag, to pick up trash. I can honestly say that I've never met someone as vocally devoted to the leisure-time pursuit of trash removal. At this point, I notice that despite their expectations, the Nats actually are picking up trash. One of Tony Batista's young crew members asks for his e-mail address; Batista responds by offering the student his cell phone number.


Tony Batista, leading a trash brigade. (By Sports Bog)

"He say he wants to talk to me," Batista explains to me. "I don't have e-mail, I don't know too much computers."

I ask the young trash remover, Jonathan Prigal, about the e-mail request.

"Baseball players and athletes are my idols, so I want to have their e-mails," he tells me.

"Or their IM," adds Daniel Kravitz.

"Who wouldn't want to have a baseball player's e-mail?" Cole Aronson agrees.

Meanwhile, Batista has jumped right in, scooping up piles of twigs and trash with both arms and dumping them into garbage bags. "Look, like this," he's telling the kids. "Work with me, work with me."

The autograph hunt continues, with the kids asking the same players for multiple autographs on the same items. When they're done with that, they begin asking random bloggers for autographs. They attempt to pronounce Winston Abreu's last name, reading off his jersey; "my first name is Winston, that's more easy, right?" he tells them, as one student asks whether he's related to Bobby.

Some players and kids, who had wandered a bit further afield, now begin returning, with branch-cutting type devices. One kid is carrying a bicycle tire.

"I cut something," observes Jason Simontacchi. "I don't know what it was. A weed? With this being a green day, I wasn't sure if I wanted to cut down something for a photo op. You'd get sued."

Brian Schneider is interviewed by a local TV crew; he says that Mark Lerner is off in the weeds, "getting down and dirty right now."

Two Giant Racing Presidents and Screech appear; "look, it's my buddy screech," says Lerner, who is by now out of the weeds. Apparently, his trash party had found both a softball and a baseball during their trash pick-up. 'It's a sign!' Mark Lerner reportedly said upon seeing the baseball.

The softball was retrieved, but the baseball was out of reach.

By Dan Steinberg  |  June 5, 2007; 4:42 PM ET
Categories:  Nats  
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