By: Shawn Fleetwood
The Fredericksburg Nationals are set to kick off their much anticipated inaugural season this May, after the team’s originally scheduled debut season was postponed last year following the emergence of COVID. The 2021 season will be the 43rd season for the franchise and 16th season as an affiliate of the Washington Nationals. However, it will be the first under their new name, the Fredericksburg Nationals.
According to the team’s website, the season will include 10 home series consisting of 60 games and 10 road series consisting of 60 games, with the Nats facing off against teams in the newly formed Low-A East League. Series will be comprised of six games each, stretching from Tuesday to Sunday each week.The season will officially begin on May 4 and conclude on Sept. 19, with game times yet to be announced.
UMW students have voiced their enthusiasm for the inaugural season, citing their excitement about having a local sports team so close to home.
“If I could go to a game, I most likely would,” said Jacqueline Huppuch, a senior English major. “I have been a baseball fan for all my life and I am excited that I don’t have to go far for a game.”
Paige Honaker, the marketing coordinator for the Nationals, says that fans will have a lot to look forward to at games, noting different events planned for the season.
“I hope we are able to give our fans a very well-deserved return to normalcy after the year we have all had,” she said. “We have planned a great season full of theme nights, giveaways, drink specials, food specials and so much more. We’re so fortunate to be building a new fan base with a staff that has worked in minor league baseball for years.”
Honaker also expressed her excitement about having a local sports team in Fredericksburg. “Virginia doesn’t have professional sports teams like other states… we have been loyal to DC teams,” she said. “Now Fredericksburg residents can have their own home team to root for. I think we are doing the community justice by making as many elements as personal as possible like our logos that include the downtown church steeples or our family of local business partners.”
Fans, however, should still expect to see some COVID-related restrictions when attending games, according to Honaker.
“Due to capacity restrictions set by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, we are currently limited to 1,000 fans inside the ballpark,” she said. “By May 1 we should be at 30 percent, which is closer to 2,000 fans. Additionally, all fans inside the ballpark are required to wear masks.”
“I am planning on attending at least a couple of games,” said Ryan Kohler, a senior computer science major. “What I’m looking towards the most is probably the social atmosphere of a baseball game and being able to enjoy a good day with some friends.”
Both Huppuch and Kohler spoke about how the new team could positively impact the Fredericksburg area. “There would be something else fun to do in the area,” said Huppuch. “Despite some people who feel disgruntled by changes, The best part about the sport (baseball) is how it brings people together. It also provides job opportunities, too.”
“My hope is that a local baseball team would positively impact the community by bringing in some more entertainment to the area as well as some more jobs,” said Kohler. “I also hope that some students from UMW will use the games as a way to get out, and meet each other after a year of lockdowns.”
The Nationals will play their first home game on May 11, facing off against the Delmarva Shorebirds. Further information regarding the 2021 season schedule can be found on the Fredericksburg Nationals’ official website.