For a while it looked like our country might be without its favorite pastime this spring. A work stoppage in major league baseball raged on through the early part of 2022, delaying spring training and Opening Day as a result. Yet, as morale dwindled among fans the two sides struck an agreement on March 10 to end the lockout and move forward with the 2022 season.
Originally, Opening Day was set for March 31 but the new target start date is just a week later on April 7. The games missed in the first week will be made up throughout the season. In light of how labor disputes have gone in the past (the MLB didn’t have a World Series in 1994 following their last strike) it could have been worse. That said, a shortened or canceled season would have been difficult to swallow from a fan’s perspective, considering we’re not too far removed from the 2020 Covid-shortened season.
Another extended work stoppage could have hurt from a business perspective as well. MLB ballparks are the centerpiece of their neighborhoods — not unlike Nationals Park — and we’re coming off back-to-back seasons where things have been off. No fans in 2020 and limited fans for parts of last season certainly hurt the restaurants, bars and retail. Now, as restrictions are easing and things are becoming more normal, a work stoppage would have really felt like a punch in the gut. Instead, we’re gearing up for what should be the biggest sports month in years.
With baseball squarely in the picture and serving as a backbone of sorts, April also features marquee events like the men’s and women’s Final Four (April 1-4), Masters Tournament (April 7-10) and NFL Draft (April 28-30). Additionally, the NBA regular season ends on April 10, followed by the start of the postseason on the April 12. The final month of the NHL regular season runs until April 29, as well.
The Nationals open their season at home with a series against the rival New York Mets. New at the stadium this year is the BetMGM sportsbook, located right next to the centerfield gate. Inside, you’ll experience 40 crisp televisions, betting windows and kiosks and a full food and beverage menu. Open seven days a week, BetMGM is the first retail sportsbook connected to an MLB stadium. If you’re at a Nationals game in person, you can use the BetMGM app from your seat
What surrounds BetMGM and Nationals Park is part of what makes it so alluring. You can be at a sportsbook one minute, then getting the best latte around at Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery the next. On gameday, The Bullpen is a tried-and-true staple, as is Walters Sports Bar, named after former Washington Senators pitcher Walter Perry Johnson. On baseball off days, you can rely on Mission Navy Yard. Over the years, I’ve seen some of the best college hoops watch parties over there; they definitely do it right and have a good vibe. After one Virginia win in 2020 — right before the pandemic, unfortunately — the entire bar was embracing and singing the school’s signature tune “The Good Ole Song.” You would have thought you were in Charlottesville.
Other notable spots for fans of out-of-town teams include Hamilton’s Bar & Grill where Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin fans are always welcome; Dirty Water, a Boston sports bar that even does its own podcast; and Ivy and Coney, a neighborhood spot dedicated to Chicago and the Midwest that understands the importance of having a game’s sound on.
Wherever you decide to take in the great sports month of April, try to truly appreciate it. Two Aprils ago we had no sports and plenty of big questions. Last April, we thought we were taking steps forward but then eventually went back. This time there’s still plenty of uncertainty around us but sports are a great escape, as well as the ultimate unifier.
Dirty Water: 816 H St. NE, DC // @dirtywaterdc
Hamilton’s Bar & Grill: 233 2nd St. NW, DC; hamiltonsdc.com