The hidden beauty of DCPS baseball

Aaron Rosenthal

When I broke my wrist during the Jelleff basketball championship in early March, there were a number of thoughts racing through my head: (1) I don’t think I’ve ever jumped that high before, (2) I hope we don’t lose this game, (3) I shouldn’t care this much about rec basketball, and (4) I might have to miss my last season playing baseball. Even though spectators confirmed that my leaping abilities were impressive, we ended up losing the game, and the injury ultimately kept me sidelined for over a month.

Fortunately, I was able to make it back in time for many of our team’s competitive games, as our schedule was front-loaded with DCPS opponents.

These games aren’t fun for anyone. We usually win by over 20 runs in three innings. Opposing players usually end up cursing each other out as we repeatedly circle the bases. When any of our teammates get out, the dugout erupts with laughter and cheers. After an hour and a half has elapsed, we end the games by bunting and jogging to first base, waiting to be thrown out. It’s sad. And it feels like a total waste of time. But it’s not.

In past seasons, I have occupied the brain-numbing hour and a half at each game either by mindlessly playing or by practicing on the side. This year, I had the opportunity to just watch. Most times, I was bored out of my mind. But every so often, there were little things I noticed that made me realize the importance of playing in these games.

When we played H.D. Woodson, their catcher continued to uplift his teammates throughout the entire game. Despite getting blown out, a smile never left his face.

Against Ron Brown, I filled in as our team’s first base coach. Even when they were down by 20 runs, their first basemen kindly greeted every one of our players. Several times, he expressed that one day, their team would be like ours.

Roosevelt shocked us by beginning the game with back-to-back hits. Their dugout was arguably louder than ours has ever been.

During every DCPS game we play, there is evidence that at least one player on the other team genuinely wants to be there. That matters.

Wilson has won 26 straight DCIAA championships. We haven’t lost a DCPS game since the 90’s. But this doesn’t mean that things can’t change. In fact, the city’s Little League scene provides evidence that a shift could already be underway.

Mamie Johnson, an all-Black team from Ward 7, won the District championship last summer. The tournament has been held annually for 31 years. This was the first time that it hadn’t been won by either Capitol City or Northwest, two predominantly white leagues in Wards 3 and 4. When I played for Capitol City in 2012 and 2013, we routinely mercy-ruled teams from all other parts of the city. Against the teams from Wards 7 and 8, we would win by upwards of 30 runs.

In DC’s majority-Black areas, America’s pastime has long been an afterthought. Hopefully, Mamie Johnson’s victory is a sign that the culture surrounding baseball in the District is finally beginning to transform.

Regardless of how much of an inconvenience DCPS games feel like, the glimmers of hope I’ve witnessed demonstrate why they are a necessary investment of time and energy. When I was 12, no part of me could have ever imagined a team from Ward 7 winning the championship. And right now, the thought of losing our DCIAA streak seems impossible. But it’s not. To echo the sentiments of my head coach, nothing would make me happier than watching Wilson walk off the field as a team like Woodson or Ron Brown or Roosevelt gets to raise a trophy of their own.