Fans expect the first winning season since the team arrived in 2005. Taxpayers want the Navy Yard area to become the entertainment and residential complex promised after $600 million was spent on the stadium.
After a very long wait, it appears both finally will come to fruition. Who knows, maybe Teddy will finally win a race?
Pitcher Stephen Strasburg will open the season Thursday against the Chicago Cubs. Fellow phenom Bryce Harper probably will join the team before the All-Star break. If several injuries from training camp don't result in a poor start, the Nats should contend for a wild-card berth.
Surely, Jayson Werth won't follow his .232 D.C. debut last season with another bad season. Maybe he won't hit .296 like he did when he was surrounded by stars in Philadelphia in 2010, but the Nats have more in the lineup to help Werth, and the pressure of a big contract should be gone. A .270 season with 25 home runs and 90 RBI seems reasonable.
This season is why Nats officials have pleaded for patience. Those 100-loss seasons resulted in a strong farm system. Strasburg and Harper are just the start. A couple more years and hopefully the Nationals are a World Series contender. Then again, the Washington Capitals showed building through the draft doesn't always work.
Meanwhile, the Anacostia waterfront behind the stadium is finally devoid of the concrete plant that long welcomed visitors into town. A stream of restaurants and entertainment venues along the riverfront stretching to the Navy Yard should arrive within a few years and perhaps bring with them the All-Star Game. Just like Camden Yards turned a downtrodden area in Baltimore into a fan haven, Nationals Park will convert its neighborhood into more than half empty buildings.
This season has been nearly a decade in the making. Surely the area's fans, long derided as underwhelming, will show this is a baseball town. The average attendance of 24,877 may rise to 30,000 or more. The $5 game day seats will be filled with more than scattered bargain hunters, die-hards and families. Afterward, fans soon may be able to have a postgame brew and burger before heading to the Metro.
It began with RFK Stadium filled for the return of a sport absent for a generation. It continues with a mixture of grandfathers and grandsons watching a team that managed a 80-81 record last year.
Maybe, just maybe, Washington will have itself a real contender after the Redskins' frequent burnouts, the Wizards' consistent collapses and the Caps' tease.
And it will be a sweet moment for Washingtonians.