By Bill Behring, Special to the EagleApril 7, 2011
FORT BELVOIR, Va. - It was a cold, drizzly morning when members of Fort Belvoir Little League gathered at the grand staircase entrance of Nationals Park as guests of the Washington Nationals during the season's opening ceremony March 31.
But the weather didn't seem to matter for Belvoir's Little Leaguers. For them, the big day represented so much more: they had a day off from school, received Nationals T-shirts and caps, and had an up-close meeting with the Nationals starting lineup.
Upon their initial entry with a parent, players kept busy by looking around at the stadium and all the amenities it offered. At 11:30 a.m., players bid farewell to their parents, who had already received tickets to attend the game.
The loading dock door magically raised and the kids disappeared deep within the recesses of the stadium on their way to the centerfield wagon gate for a 45-minute wait. The players, while well-behaved, showed a few signs of boredom while waiting for their big moment.
While there, military personnel carried down the huge American flag, some two-hundred-feet long I would guess, for display during the Navy Band's heartwarming rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Shortly after the anthem's conclusion, Nationals' mascot Screech, along with the home team's starting seven - Ian Desmond, Jason Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Larochse, Michael Morse, Rick Ankeil and Danny Espinosa - made their way down the runway to wait for their official introductions.
Belvoir's players disappeared onto the field with four young ladies as their escorts, where they waited for the Nationals to make their appearance on the field.
The Nats came out in spectacular fashion, bursting through the fog and over the red carpet to shake hands with the children on their way to the foul line before the game's official start.
When the smoke settled, the Little League players returned to the runway, where I asked if any of them had fun.
It was a dumb question, seeing as I received a resounding "Yes!"
I helped the Nationals staff break the children up into three groups to catch the elevators where their parents waited.
Even as the day ended on a low note for the Nats, who lost to the Atlanta Braves, 2-0, Belvoir's Little League players definitely experienced a high one.