PHOTOGRAPHY BY PATRICK MCDERMOTT
For more than three decades, one of the great ironies of American sports was that the nation’s capital didn’t field a team at the highest level of the national pastime, Major League Baseball. The Montreal Expos moved here in 2005 and were renamed the Nationals, but the All-Star Game had yet to make its return, due in part to slow development around Nationals Park.
That changes on July 17, when the Midsummer Classic will be played in D.C. for the first time since the Washington Senators (who moved and became the Texas Rangers in 1972) hosted in 1969. The District has gone all out, with a series of cultural exhibits to augment the game itself. Start at the family-friendly GEICO All-Star FanFest (opening July 13 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center), where you can take cuts in the batting cage, learn about how grounds crews maintain fields, meet hall of famers like Rollie Fingers and Dave Winfield, and check out the World Series trophy, among other activities.
The stunning Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, meanwhile, puts on Leveling the Playing Field, an exhibit about the political side of sports that digs into Jackie Robinson, the pre-integration Negro Leagues, and more. And the Library of Congress gets in the swing of things with Baseball Americana, featuring artifacts such as scouting reports filled out by legendary Brooklyn Dodgers GM Branch Rickey and rare clips and interviews from Robinson, Babe Ruth, and others.
Finally, visit the Navy Yard, the booming Southwest D.C. neighborhood around Nationals Park. (See our pregaming guide below.) “It’s changed a lot around the stadium,” says longtime Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman. “They’ve turned a once not-so-glamorous area into a pretty fun one.” Pro tip: If you can’t score tickets, you can still get a bird’s-eye view of the All-Star festivities from the Top of the Yard, the nearby Hampton Inn’s rooftop bar.