Commissioner Bud Selig, in attendance at Nationals Park for today's season opener, insisted Washington will become a "great" baseball town once the Nats begin winning on the field.
"I have no doubts, and I mean this very sincerely," Selig said outside the press box during the sixth inning of what was already turning into a Phillies rout of the home team. "With a good, competitive club, this will be a great major-league market. It won't be a good one. It will be a great one. I have no doubt about that."
Selig, who oversaw the relocation of the Montreal Expos to the District prior to the 2005 season, has regularly praised the Lerner family and team president Stan Kasten for their approach to build the franchise from the bottom up, despite the fact the club has posted the majors' worst record each of the last two seasons.
The commissioner had no issue with the large number of Philadelphia fans who converged on Nationals Park for today's opener, likening the split allegiances among fans to traditional geographic rivals like the Cardinals and Cubs. It appeared about one-third of the 41,290 in attendance were cheering for the Phillies.
"I think it's great," Selig said. "I think it's great for the sport."
The commissioner also praised the two-year-old ballpark, built after prolonged and often nasty negotiations between MLB and the District of Columbia, but suggested it could be a little while before an All-Star Game comes to Washington. This year's midsummer classic will be played in Anaheim, with next year's game in Arizona. Kansas City is expected to host the 2012 game, with the New York Mets favored to get the 2013 game.
"The problem is, we have 22 new ballparks. I've got everybody after me for every year," Selig said, adding that "Washington deserves an All-Star Game."
If nothing else, the commissioner does appreciate the Nationals' unique ability to host the country's most famous fan on a regular basis.
"No matter how many Opening Days you've seen or how many times you've been with the President, there's just something electric about it," Selig said. "It's a great thing for baseball."