DAVID GREENE, HOST:
All right. The Washington Nationals and Houston Astros play Game 3 of the World Series tonight in the nation's capital. Washington has dominated so far, winning Games 1 and 2 on the road. The Nats moved to Washington, D.C., from Montreal in 2005, and the team's first generation of homegrown fans has really grown up right alongside their team. Mikaela Lefrak of member station WAMU has more.
MIKAELA LEFRAK, BYLINE: Caroline Garland (ph) is going to tonight's ballgame with her parents, and she is so excited.
CAROLINE GARLAND: Yes, I love the Nats.
LEFRAK: The 13 year-old has already picked out what she's going to eat.
CAROLINE: A hot dog with mustard and ketchup and then peanuts and Cracker Jacks and lemonade. Those are, like, the classic baseball foods.
LEFRAK: Pricey, of course, but she doesn't care. She's going to wear her Ryan Zimmerman jersey. The first baseman has been on the team longer than she's been alive. He was the Nats' very first draft pick, right after the Montreal Expos moved to Washington.
CAROLINE: Whenever I think of the Nats, I think of him and he's - I think - I don't know, but I'm assuming he's a really nice guy. And I think he's - he just sums up the Nats team for me.
LEFRAK: D.C. baseball has had a bumpy past. The Washington Senators relocated to Texas to become the Rangers in 1972. And the city went without a team for more than 30 years. Fans of the sport would have to trek up to Baltimore to see the Orioles or just remember stories about the good old days.
MATT EISNER: It's just absolutely crazy to think about everything that this city has gone through in baseball to, you know, get to this point where they are today.
LEFRAK: This is Matt Eisner. He's been blogging about the Nats since 2012 when he was - get this - 8 years old. He's 15 now, and I caught him on the phone during his school lunch break. Eisner's mom got him into sports writing. If he wanted to stay up late to watch a game, he'd have to write a paragraph about it for her the next day.
MATT: Basically giving me baseball homework.
LEFRAK: That's the best kind of homework.
LEFRAK: Back then, he says, both he and the Nats were in their, quote, "elementary years." The team wasn't very good. And to add insult to injury, fans from the opposing team would often outcheer Nats fans at home games. D.C. has a lot of transplants with their own sports allegiances, and it often takes a wildly successful season to win them over for good. Eisner doesn't hold anything against these newer fans.
MATT: I don't really know what it's like to not have the Nationals. It's kind of taking it for granted, you know? But whatever the reason is that you're rooting for the Nationals, I mean, welcome to the fan base.
LEFRAK: The Nats have put a lot of work into growing its young fans. They have a spunky eagle mascot, Screech, and four racing presidents, too. This year, the team even introduced a junior broadcaster, 12-year-old Morgan Whaley (ph). Her interviews with players and coaches air at the games. Here's Whaley speaking with third base coach Bob Henley.
(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)
MORGAN WHALEY: Who is your best friend on this team?
BOB HENLEY: I don't know if I've got a bestie. I just - I think I've got a lot of good friends.
LEFRAK: But the biggest draw is the team itself. Sophie Zuckman is a 15-year-old baseball player. She looks up to the Nats for their skills and positive, confident attitude.
SOPHIE ZUCKMAN: I'm not very big. I'm, like, 5'3". There are a lot of pitchers in the major leagues who aren't very large, and they present themselves in a way that they're larger than they are. Like, it really shows their confidence on the mound, and I think I've learned a lot from that.
LEFRAK: She says she's crossing her fingers she'll be able to see her favorite pitcher, Sean Doolittle, in the World Series. But she still isn't sure if her dad will be able to snag tickets.
ZUCKMAN: We're trying to get standing room for Sunday. I told my dad he can take money out of my college fund and that would be perfectly all right with me.
LEFRAK: Regardless, she'll be watching from somewhere. And tonight, the Nats finally get to show off what they've been building for a very long time - a World Series-level team and thousands of screaming, cheering, homegrown fans. For NPR News, I'm Mikaela Lefrak in Washington.
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