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"A Red-Letter Day"

Every once in awhile, it is a good idea to view your favorite team's Triple-A city as more than the home of your Brendan Harrises and Larry Broadways. And, when your favorite team's Triple-A affiliate is based on New Orleans, it is quite appropriate indeed.

With this mind in, the most meaningful Opening Day in the Nationals' organization might not be April 3 at Shea, or even the April 11 home opener at RFK, but April 6 at Zephyr Field. As's Jonathan Mayo recounts, New Orleans awaits a grand Opening Day celebration.

While the NFL's Saints and the NBA's Hornets (with one recent exception) have played out their home schedules in cities other than Hurricane Katrina-ravaged New Orleans, the Zephyrs---whose home park is in nearby Metairie---have been a constant. According to Mayo's article, Zephyrs' owner Don Beaver (who is also owner of the International League's Charlotte Knights, a partner and director of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and interestingly, a pitcher in the 1952 Little League World Series) promised two weeks after Katrina struck that the Zephyrs would return to the New Orleans area for the 2006 season.

The club worked to renovate Zephyr Field and entered into important community partnerships. As Mayo writes, one of the most meaningful efforts involves the West Bank Boys & Girls Club:

In conjunction with Opening Day, the Frank Foundation's Magical Builders ( organization will be coming to New Orleans to renovate the West Bank Boys & Girls Club. While not demolished by the post-Katrina floods most saw on TV, the club was greatly damaged by the hurricane. Many of New Orleans' citizens who were forced to evacuate relocated to this area, so the Club will be providing summer programs for a very large number of kids who would otherwise have no place to go.

"What this means is there's going to be over 250 kids in that neighborhood that at one time belonged to that club who will be able to come back home," [Southeast Louisiana Boys & Girls Club president and CPO Bobby] Smith said. "I call it their second home and, for some, it's their first home. It'll help return some sense of normalcy. We're extremely appreciative. It provides a needed service in the community."

Mayo reports that the plan is to hold a grand opening ceremony on the morning of the Zephyrs' home opener on April 6. He notes that the club is excited at the prospect in sharing in a celebration with and for the community:

"Our organization is taking the stance that we consider April 6, 2006 as big a day in Zephyrs history as there's ever been," [Zephyrs' GM Mike] Schline said. "We compare it to April 11, 1997 when the stadium first opened.

"That's how proud we are of this comeback effort. We are offering with a paid ticket for an adult, a child can get in for free. We're doing it as a 'Welcome home, thanks for staying in New Orleans' special. We want to pack the place. It's going to be fun. It's going to be a real positive night. We consider Opening Day to be a red-letter day for the city."

The Magical Builders' website contains a description of the West Bank Boys & Girls Club project, and Mayo notes that a gift registry will appear on the website in the near future. Many of us gave to New Orleans relief efforts late last summer; if we can spare a bit more, however, this is a good cause. At the very least, it's quite a bit different than MLB guaranteeing tickets for DC-area kids to watch sparsely-attended Wednesday afternoon games against the Brewers at the new ballpark.

In this case, the big club could certainly learn something from the farm.