Washington Nationals owner Mark Lerner recalls what a thrill it was to attend the 1962 All-Star Game at age 8, and he can’t wait for his club’s ballpark to host the 2018 edition.
Asked Monday whether he has any memorabilia from that Midsummer Classic more than a half-century ago, Lerner replied: "I don’t know if I still have anything. I have the memory, though. It’s crystal clear."
What Lerner said he’s known for months became official Monday, when new Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that Nationals Park will host the 2018 All-Star Game, the fourth consecutive year that event will be in an NL city.
"What I would say about the Nationals’ bid was that their facility, the support of the city, the development that had gone on around the ballpark were all important factors in terms of awarding the game," Manfred said at a news conference before attending Washington’s opener against the visiting New York Mets.
His predecessor, Bud Selig, helped bring baseball back to the nation’s capital in 2005, moving the Montreal Expos to Washington, then installed the Lerners as the new owners a year later.
Lerner said Selig told him in May 2014 that Washington would definitely be getting an All-Star Game, although it wasn’t until the end of last season that the particular year was settled on.
"There was no question," Lerner said, "Commissioner Selig wanted to give us the game."
Manfred said the development that’s been going on in the neighbourhood around Nationals Park, which opened in 2008, helped seal the deal.
"I lived in Washington for almost 15 years. I remember what this area was like before this ballpark was here," Manfred said. "So the impact on this community is the first thing that comes to my mind."
Cincinnati will hold the All-Star game this year, followed by San Diego in 2016, then Miami in 2017.
When Miami’s turn was announced in February, MLB said leagues will continue to alternate who bats last, no matter what city is host. So the AL will bat last in the 2016 game at San Diego and in the 2018 game at Washington.
It’s the fifth time Washington will host baseball’s All-Star Game, but the first since 1969 — which Lerner said he also attended.
Bringing the event back was important to his family.
"It’s something we’ve wanted since Day One," Lerner said. "It was a high priority."
Nationals left fielder Jayson Werth, who is starting this season on the disabled list, called the All-Star Game’s arrival in Washington "a big deal for the organization and especially, I know, for the Lerner family. They’ve been pushing hard to get that here for a while now."
Werth also said he considers it "a sign to the world — to baseball — that this place is for real."