Well, this isn’t fun.
Even after two months of a lockout, a full week of intense negotiations between MLB owners and players, and endless anticipation from players and fans, there is not an agreement on a new MLB collective bargaining agreement. Barring a miracle, the season will not start on time.
Everybody is playing the blame game on the failed negotiations. The situation is dire, and the future of the sport hangs in the balance. However, the lack of Major League opening day doesn’t mean there is no baseball to be watched. Let’s break down the ways Nationals fans in the DMV can enjoy springtime baseball while the MLB and MLBPA negotiate.
Rochester Red Wings
The Red Wings have been the Nationals’ AAA affiliate since 2021. Their roster contains some of the team’s most MLB-ready prospects, like the Nats’ #1 prospect Cade Cavalli, Jackson Tetreault, and Matt Brill. In addition to those three, experienced MLB veterans like Dee Strange-Gordon, Maikel Franco, Rusney Castillo, and Welington Castillo round out the Red Wings’ roster. The Red Wings will open their season on April 5 in Toledo against the Mud Hens, the Tigers’ AAA affiliate. Their home opener is April 12 against the Buffalo Bisons, the Blue Jays’ affiliate. Rochester plays their home games at Frontier Field in downtown Rochester, New York, only an hour and 10 minute flight from Washington. Buy Red Wings tickets here.
Not too many of the Nationals’ top prospects find themselves at the AA level, but as the minor league season progresses, younger players could be called up to Harrisburg to fill out their roster. The most notable Senators are lefty pitchers Matt Cronin and Tim Cate, and infielder Jackson Cluff. The Nats hope pitchers Cole Henry, Jackson Rutledge, and Mason Denaburg pitch their way into AA in training camp, but this is unlikely to be the case at the beginning of the year. The Senators are within driving distance of DC–FNB Field in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania is a two hour drive from Nationals Park and even closer to Nats fans in Frederick and northern Montgomery County, Maryland. The first Senators home game is also April 12, when they will play the Portland Sea Dogs. In addition, the Sens will be on the road in Bowie, Maryland from May 3-8, only half an hour from Nats Park. You can find tickets for games in Harrisburg here and Bowie tickets here.
Wilmington Blue Rocks
The Blue Rocks have a lot of the Nats’ highest-rated future stars on their current roster, including Cole Henry, Mitchell Parker, Drew Millas, and Drew Mendoza. In addition to those four, Rutledge and Denaburg should almost certainly make their way to the high-A club in 2022. You can also follow many of the prospects the Nats acquired at the 2021 trade deadline in Wilmington, notably Millas, Richard Guasch, and Seth Shuman. The Blue Rocks play at Daniel Frawley Stadium in downtown Wilmington, Delaware, conveniently located right off of Interstate 95 and only two hours from Nationals Park. The Blue Rocks open their season on April 8 in Wilmington, and then go on a six-game road trip to face the Aberdeen IronBirds, who play at Ripken Stadium just north of Baltimore. You can find tickets for Wilmington games here and Aberdeen games here.
Finally, a Nationals minor league affiliate local to the Virginian fan base! If you are excited to watch some of the Nats’ young, fresh-out-of-the-draft talent, checking out a FredNats game is a must. Pitchers Andry Lara, Jackson Rutledge, Mason Denaburg, infielders Jordy Barley and Darren Baker, and outfielders Branden Boissiere and Jeremy De La Rosa are all currently on the Fredericksburg roster, giving the team hordes of talent at the beginning of the year. Oh yeah, and don’t be surprised if Brady House makes his way to the FredNats out of Spring Training. I can’t wait to make the trip to Fredericksburg’s beautiful new ballpark this season, as it’s only an hour away from DC. Check out FredNats tickets here.
In addition, many MiLB games are streamed on MiLB.TV, which costs $9.99 for a season-long subscription. The Nats’ AAA, AA, and Low-A affiliates stream games on MiLB.TV.
Southern Maryland Blue Crabs
The Blue Crabs play in the independent Atlantic League, which is best known for being the MLB’s test dummy for rule changes like robotic umpires and banning the shift. Most players in indy ball are journeymen–last year, the Blue Crabs’ best player was Mat Latos, the former Major League starter. So far, the Blue Crabs haven’t filled out their roster completely. One name that stands out is Scotty Burcham, who played for the Israeli baseball team in the 2020 Olympics. If you think that you could be indy ball talent, you can try out for the team on April 9th. The Blue Crabs start their season on April 26 at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf, less than an hour from Nationals Park. Check out their website here.
The DC area is home to many high-ranking college baseball programs.
- The #21 Maryland Terrapins are one of the hottest teams in all of college baseball, taking down tough opponents like Baylor and Campbell to stay a perfect 7-0. At home this season, the Terps will play Penn State, Navy, Ohio State, and Michigan. Their stadium is on the UMD campus in College Park.
- The Georgetown Hoyas have had a middling start to the season, having beaten Norfolk State and Lafayette but dropped games to Wake Forest and Rider. The Hoyas will play VMI, Xavier, and Connecticut this season. They split their games between the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy in Southeast, Shirley Povich Field in Bethesda, and Prince George’s Stadium in Bowie.
- The George Washington Colonials are off to a rough start in the Atlantic 10. They have started 0-6 against tough opponents like South Carolina. The Colonials take on Dayton, St. Bonaventure, and William & Mary at home. They play home games at Tucker Field in Arlington.
- Like Georgetown, the George Mason Patriots haven’t been great out the gate. Still, they’ve beaten Presbyterian and Boston College. The Patriots have home games against VCU, St. Louis, and Fordham coming up. Their home stadium is Spuhler Field, on GMU’s Fairfax campus.
- After taking a series from Air Force, the Navy Midshipmen are flying high at 4-2. They’ll face Lehigh, Lafayette, and, of course, a home doubleheader against Army. The Midshipmen play home games at Max Bishop Stadium in Annapolis.
- If you’re willing to make the drive to Charlottesville, the Virginia Cavaliers are a must-watch team. Like Maryland, they’ve also started undefeated, highlighted by a weekend takedown of Cornell where they won games by football scores (24-9, 17-2, 19-1). Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and Virginia Tech are the Hoos’ best home opponents this year. Disharoon Park is on UVA’s campus in Charlottesville.
- Like Virginia, it takes a little bit of a drive to get to a James Madison Dukes game, but it will be worth it. The Dukes’ best player is Chase DeLauter, a superstar outfielder who is consistently rated as a top-10 prospect for the upcoming draft. Check out the Dukes against Stetson, Virginia Tech (to check out fellow top prospect Gavin Cross too…), and UNC Wilmington. They’ll also come to Maryland to face the Terps in May. Long Field is on the JMU campus in Harrisonburg.