NEW MLB COMMISSIONER ROB MANFRED VISITS NATIONALS YOUTH ACADEMY
February 05, 2015 by David Driver
Washington, D.C. — With the temperature near 50 degrees and a bright sun shining over Southeast Washington, D.C. Feb. 4, new MLB commissioner Rob Manfred made his first visit to the nation’s capital since he took office Jan. 25.
While touring the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, Manfred told one young player he was “offensively challenged” as a little league player in Rome, N.Y., in the 1960s.
But Manfred, a graduate of Cornell, told another young academy player he once caught the last out of a perfect game thrown by his friend at a little league game in Rome.
It was mostly a feel-good visit for Manfred, who is the 10th commissioner in MLB history after Bud Selig stayed on the job for more than two decades.
Manfred, in addressing the media after his visit, said he would not go into much detail about the dispute between the Nationals and Orioles regarding the rights for the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. The Orioles own MASN — which covers both teams — but the Nationals feel they should be seeing more of a profit.
“I am not going to say a lot about MASN since it is in litigation,” Manfred said. “I think in reasonably short order there will be a resolution to MASN, either by litigation being done or some other mechanism.”
Manfred also gave little insight into whether Washington will be awarded an All-Star game later this decade.
“We think of Baltimore and Washington as separate franchises and separate cities,” Manfred said. “That [proximity] would not be a factor in awarding an All-Star game to either city.”
Manfred said an announcement on future All-Star games will be made soon.
Manfred met with several coaches, mentors and young players at the academy. One of the mentors is Christine Jackson, who told the commissioner her father played baseball at Cardozo High in D.C. in the 1950s.
Jackson has written a book, “Pitch Black,” and like Manfred, she would like to see more inner-city youth take an interest in baseball.
“These young people have lost their interest in baseball,” Jackson told Manfred.
During his visit, members of the Georgetown University softball team practiced on one of the fields at the academy. Some of the players also give instruction to younger athletes, many of whom come from the surrounding neighborhoods.
“As commissioner, I will draw closer connections between youth baseball and MLB,” Manfred wrote in a letter to fans Jan. 25 — his first day in office. “I want to inspire children’s interest in baseball and help parents and coaches foster that passion.
“My top priority is to bring more people into our game — at all levels and from all communities. Specifically, I plan to make the game more accessible to those in underserved areas, especially in urban areas where fields and infrastructure are harder to find. Giving more kids the opportunity to play will inspire a new generation to fall in love with baseball just as we did when we were kids..”
The Nationals Youth Baseball Academy has been open for nearly a year, and shortstop Ian Desmond, who is on the board, is a regular visitor. In December, right-handed pitcher Aaron Barrett and utility man Kevin Frandsen met with some of the students at the academy.
“As a 501(c)3 organization, the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy is committed to improving the lives of at-risk Washington, D.C., youth living east of the Anacostia River,” according to a release by the team. “Completed in March 2014, the facility boasts eight classrooms, a teaching kitchen for cooking and nutrition lessons, three playing fields and a state-of-the-art clubhouse with a 4,800 square foot training space complete with batting cages.”
Manfred said he was impressed by the facility.
“The visit here is really important for me,” he said. “I actually lived here in the area when there wasn’t baseball in Washington. It is really important for the sport to have a team in Washington.”
He said he attended Orioles games while living in Washington in the 1980s and 1990s since there was no team in the nation’s capital.
Earlier on Feb. 4, Manfred met with local business leaders and Nationals corporate partners at the Nationals Partnership Summit, according to a statement from the team. Manfred served as the keynote speaker, and Washington principal owner Mark D. Lerner said, “Having served in a number of high-profile roles at MLB, Rob Manfred is perfectly positioned to seamlessly continue the leagues’ success.”
Those at the summit included Washington manager Matt Williams, general manager Mike Rizzo and members of the front office.
A lawyer by trade, Manfred reflected on his recent ties to the Baltimore-Washington region.
In his letter to fans Jan. 25, Manfred also wrote, “On the night of Aug. 14, 2014, I left a Baltimore hotel after being elected commissioner of baseball. As I began to reply to the overwhelming number of congratulatory messages coming in, it hit me that I’d just been entrusted to protect the integrity of our national pastime and to set a course that allows this great game to continue to flourish — now and in the years to come. Needless to say, I was deeply honored by the trust the owners placed in me.”