This team is hoping to make Washington the capital of baseball. Washington Nationals Baseball Club owns and operates the professional baseball franchise that represents the nation's capital in Major League Baseball. The team was founded in 1968 as the Montreal Expos (the expansion franchise was awarded to Charles Bronfman, whose family built the Seagram's distilling business) but struggled for many years to build a fan base in Quebec. MLB, which took over the team from Jeffery Loria in 2002, relocated the Expos to Washington, DC, in 2005. Real estate developer Ted Lerner purchased the team from the league in 2006.
Lerner's top priority, a new stadium for his team, was realized in 2008 with the opening of Nationals Park, a $600 million publicly-financed facility. The franchise had held home games at aging and antiquated RFK Stadium (once the home of the Washington Redskins) during its first three seasons in Washington, DC.
A native of Washingotn, DC, Lerner has long been associated with the city's business and entertainment scene. The Lerner family is a minority partner in Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Washington Capitals hockey team and the Washington Wizards basketball franchise. Lerner's ownership group bought the baseball franchise for about $450 million, making a handsome profit for the league: MLB paid Loria (who now owns the Florida Marlins) about $120 million for the wayward Expos.
Manager Jim Riggleman resigned abruptly in the middle of the 2011 season. The Nationals named bench coach John McLaren interim manager before giving the permanent job to former New York Mets skipper Davy Johnson.
Washington, DC, has had a rocky relationship with professional baseball in the past. The original Washington Nationals bounced around between upstart leagues in the late 1800s, and a National League franchise called the Senators folded in 1899. A different Washington team that joined the American League in 1901 originally called itself the Nationals but local fans rejected that name and unofficially called them the Senators instead. The franchise was officially renamed in 1956 but relocated to Minneapolis in 1960 to become the Minnesota Twins. A replacement Senators franchise was organized in 1961, but that club left town in 1972 to become the Texas Rangers.
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