The Washington Nationals wore Virginia Tech baseball caps last night in a show of support for the nearby university.
The Washington Nationals fell behind against a pitcher bound for the Hall of Fame and predictably ended up losing to the Atlanta Braves last night, 6-4. But what otherwise would have gone down as a routine April defeat by a young team trying to find its way was given greater meaning when the Nationals came out of the dugout wearing Virginia Tech baseball caps.
At that moment, playing baseball took a back seat to remembering the victims of the shootings in Blacksburg, Va., as the 17,791 at RFK Stadium responded with a loud ovation.
[Nats 3rd baseman Ryan] Zimmerman attended the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech’s arch rival. But when team officials approached the players during batting practice to ask them about wearing Virginia Tech hats, Zimmerman didn’t hesitate. “I was honored to wear it,” he said.
The idea sprang from an e-mail that Nationals fan Dave Lanham sent to team president Stan Kasten. Lanham, a resident of Calvert County, suggested that the team don the hats in tribute. Kasten liked the thought but didn’t see the e-mail until after his afternoon meetings.
With about 90 minutes before first pitch, Harolyn Cardozo, executive assistant to General Manager Jim Bowden, was on the phone calling sporting goods stores. She dialed the number to the Sports Authority’s store in Alexandria, and when she heard a voice, she had one simple demand: “Give me the smartest guy in the store who can get something done fast.”
Paul Schneider, a department manager, soon was scouring the store for Hokies hats. Cardozo asked for 40 of them and they needed to be at the stadium before the Nats took the field. Schneider found about 20 on the rack and discovered a box full in a storeroom. He talked his managers into donating the 38 hats of various styles, then jumped in his car to cross the Wilson Bridge and weave through rush-hour traffic to get to RFK.
Fifteen minutes before the first pitch, Major League Baseball gave the team approval. Schneider arrived at the stadium during the first inning, and the caps made it to the Nationals’ dugout in time for the team to take the field with them for the second inning.
A nice gesture. Interestingly, Kasten was president of the Braves for many years.
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