WASHINGTON - Barring a miracle, there won’t be any players on the 40-man roster working out on Monday at the home of the Washington Nationals in West Palm Beach, Florida.
But five years ago today, on Feb. 28, 2017, there was a ceremony that laid the groundwork for the Nationals to leave their less than modern spring digs in Viera.
“The Nationals and Astros cut the ribbon on their new shared Spring Training facility, the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, FL. Commissioner Rob Manfred [was] on hand for the inauguration of the state-of-the-art $150 million facility,” according to baseballreference.com on that event in late February of 2017.
Washington had trained for several years in Viera before making the move to West Palm Beach, a distance of about 115 miles to the southeast.
After that ceremony in 2017, the Astros won the World Series – however tainted – the following October while the Nationals captured their first Fall Classic as well, two years later.
Another connection: pitcher Brad Peacock grew up in West Palm Beach, went to West Palm Beach Central High, and was drafted by the Nationals in the 41st round in 2006.
He made his Major League debut for the Nationals in 2011 and then was with the Astros from 2013 to 2020.
The right-hander pitched in two games for the Boston Red Sox last season.
Feb. 28 has another historic significance for baseball in the Washington area.
Hall of Famer Judd Wilson, a star player and manager in the Negro Leagues, was born in Remington, Virginia in the southern end of Fauquier County, near the Culpeper County line, on Feb. 28, 1896.
He played for several teams, including the Baltimore Black Sox and the Homestead Grays, who played many games at old Griffith Stadium in D.C.
A veteran of World War I, Wilson died in Washington in 1963 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, according to baseballreference.com.
Wilson was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2006.
Another Hall of Famer from Virginia died on this day in 1963: Eppa Rixey was born in Culpeper, played at the University of Virginia and won 266 games. That was the most by a lefty until Warren Spahn came along.
Rixey spent most of his career with the Reds and died in Cincinnati on Feb. 28, 1963 – the same year he went into the Hall of Fame. He also played for the Phillies and twice led the league in losses in a season and one year led the league in wins.