On Friday morning, representatives from Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Washington Nationals joined Mayor Bowser, Councilmember Charles Allen, Payne Elementary students, and Capitol Hill Little League (CHLL) ball players to announce a $25,000 investment in the baseball fields at Payne Elementary (1445 C St. SE).
in addition to the grant, the project includes a service project. Volunteers will make a variety of improvements, including netting upkeep, debris removal, installation of bat and helmet racks, and cosmetic repairs. A homeplate plaque will be placed on site, dedicating the field.
The project is part of the MLB’s first Fall Classic Legacy Initiative, which funds community projects in communities that host the World Series. The Houston Astros unveiled plans for a waiting room space just for teens being treated at Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers on Wednesday.
CHLL player and Payne second-grader Nicholas Guthrie spoke at the event, keeping his sentiments brief and pointed. “My name is Nicholas,” he said. “I play Capitol Hill Little League, and I’m glad that this field is going to get changed into a better field. Thank you, MLB.”
Established in 2011, CHLL serves a growing baseball community, offering baseball and softball playing opportunities to nearly 700 kids aged 5-16.
Councilmember Allen thanked the local residents who have stepped up to lead CHLL and the businesses that sponsor the teams, saying the league builds the community.
“Every weekend when you just hear the sounds on ball fields and all around our neighborhood and our city, you know that CHLL is working hard and giving these boys and girls just an incredible experience as well as a great education in one of our favorite games,” he said.
Payne is located in the heart of the CHLL boundaries and has been one of the primary fields used for practices and weeknight and weekend games for the nine years the league has operated. During the school year, students use the field during regular school hours and aftercare programming.
Field About ‘Never Giving Up’
Gregory McCarthy, Washington Nationals Sr. Vice President of Community Engagement, said that the team had multiple connections to the field, as Payne Elementary is a Grand Slam School, part of an MLB program that advances STEM education in the classroom through baseball. CHLL is also part of the Team UP program that supports and promotes kids playing baseball in the region.
“Boys and girls, use this field. Play on it,” McCarthy said. “Learn about the values that your Washington Nationals have displayed in the last few months: discipline, loving your brothers and sisters, coming back playing hard and never. Giving. Up.”
“Never giving up. That’s what the field is about,” he said.
CHLL President David Fox said that the league and players feel a strong bond with the Nationals team. Noting that from 2005-2007 the Nationals played at RFK Stadium, located a few blocks away from Payne, Fox said CHLL now plays in the shadow of Nationals Stadium at the new Ryan Zimmerman Field.
“Our players, when they put on their uniforms —their Nationals jerseys and their caps— it means something,” he said. “They feel like they’re part of the team, sharing the community with them.”
Fox said that building strong community and being good neighbors are core league principals, and so an opportunity to give back and improve the green spaces at the schools used by the league and attended by many of its players is incredibly important to them.
MLB Vice-President of Social Initiatives Melanie LeGrande said the Nationals chose the project. “We went to the Washington Nationals and asked them, what is the most important project that you want to invest in as part of this initiative?” she said at the event. “They said CHLL, and Payne Elementary School. So, thank you all for being so special.”
Mayor Bowser first outlined her expectations for the Nationals this weekend. “I am looking forward to a big win tonight and tomorrow –and Sunday if necessary, to make sure that we’re bringing home the World Series to a Championship city,” she said.
The mayor praised the Nationals for their community involvement, and for increasing the number of children playing baseball.
“You heard how important sports is to your life: it teaches you discipline, how to play by the rules, how to keep fighting stay in the fight, and at the end of the day how to be good sportsman, win or lose, because it’s the game and we’ll live to play another game,” she said.
“In our city for the adults it also teaches that sport brings people together, across all eight wards, across our whole region, people who have never met become fast friends because we’re celebrating a fun game,” she said.
“So let’s play ball.”