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Baseball's buzz returns to D.C.
09/29/2004 9:30 PM ET
WASHINGTON -- Steve Achhammer grew up as a big fan of the Washington Senators. He followed the team closely, despite its lack of success on the field, and became a die-hard fan. That's why the team's move to Texas after the 1971 season proved so painful.

"I was heartbroken," Achhammer said.

The Baltimore Orioles were about 30 miles up the road, but like many Washington-area residents, Achhammer didn't convert right away. It took him years to become an Orioles fan, but he eventually did. Now, however, with Wednesday's announcement that the Montreal Expos are moving to Washington for the 2005 season, Achhammer will still root for the Orioles, but the team that plays in the District of Columbia is getting his attention first.

"I'm glad they're back," Achhammer said. "I've waited a long time for this. Everybody thought they'd be back in a couple of years. I thought we'd never have a team again."

Achhammer lives in Silver Spring, a Maryland suburb just outside of Washington that's closer to the District than Baltimore. He works as an athletic director at the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville, near Silver Spring, and said it will be a little easier to follow the Washington team from now on.

Quentin Olson also lives in Silver Spring and left no doubt about what he'll be doing when Washington starts play next spring.

"Now I will toss over the Orioles and see the Senators or whoever they'll be," Olson said. "There's a real draw to having your own team in your own city."

But Olson said he's followed the Orioles for so long and been to, and impressed by, Oriole Park at Camden Yards so many times that he'll still go there on occasion.

"I like Camden Yards," he said. "I thought they did a great job with that stadium."

There's some areas that are midway between the two cities and apparently conducive to fans rooting for both teams. That's what Laurel resident Eric Land plans on doing.

Land lives in the town of Laurel, about 30 minutes outside of Washington and around 20 minutes away from Oriole Park at Camden Yards. He grew up in Baltimore but won't have any problem following both teams.

"I'll root for both, absolutely," Land said. "I have a longtime attachment to the Orioles, but in my mind, the Senators were stolen from Washington. This was a place that always had baseball and is ancient in baseball lore. After all, how many teams beat the Yankees in 'Damn Yankees?'"

Land said he's already planning on trying for tickets to the team's home opener, whenever it may be played.

"There's no question that two teams can be supported here," he said. "Right now, the team owners have to make an honest effort to put out as good a product as they can [in Washington]."

Land works in Washington as a trade analyst, just four subway stops away from RFK Stadium, where the team will play for its first three years. He said the return of baseball has been the talk around the water cooler and the real buzz in Washington for a long time.

"People are extremely excited in Washington," Land said.

Arch Webster is a retired school principal who lives in Silver Spring and whose first games were at old Griffith Stadium and loved to watch players like Mickey Vernon and Roy Sievers. Webster said he thinks the Washington team will have a strong fan base from Virginia and the District -- with fans North of the Beltway still going to Baltimore.

"I don't think there'll be a big shift at all," Webster said. "But winning brings people, and people will come to see a good team. The bottom line is if you have a good product, fans will watch."

Terry Gans also followed the Senators while growing up in Washington. He often went to games at Griffith Stadium and RFK Stadium and tried to become an Oriole fan. It took at least five years, but Gans also joined the Baltimore faithful.

He just recently moved to Rehoboth Beach in Delaware and will be curious to see how the new team does.

"I didn't think I'd ever see it," Gans said. "It's well deserved and overly due."

Shirrel Ogden lives in Washington and often went to games at RFK while playing football at nearby Howard University in the late '60s and became a fan of the Senators after coming to college from Buffalo.

Ogden, like other District fans, wasn't too worried at first as he thought a big market like Washington's wouldn't be without a team for long.

"I was very surprised," said Ogden, whose sons Jonathan and Marques play for the Baltimore Ravens. "I thought, like everyone else, that they'd get a team within a few years because this is such a large market. I think it's wonderful for the people. I really do believe it will be a economic boom for Washington."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.