News & Politics

"Post" is Back on the Ball

The "Post" sports section has been sending interns to cover the Nats. Now a new writer is putting the paper back in the game.

Photograph by Erik Uecke.

The Washington Post has given the Nationals baseball team and its fans short shrift for the past few years. Many big-city dailies that cover a hometown major-league team assign two reporters to cover a season spanning eight months and more than 180 games. The Post devoted one reporter to regular game-day coverage.

“When that reporter needed a break,” says a public-relations agent with another team, “the Post would send an intern. They would drop the ball.”

So to speak.

This season, the Post is finally doubling up. James Wagner, a sports-crazed local kid, is joining Adam Kilgore to buck up coverage of a squad that’s predicted to break out of the cellar and compete for the pennant. “It’s too much for one guy to cover,” Wagner says.

It’s too much for one paper to cover. The Post has to compete with the Washington Times, the Washington Examiner, and a host of digital websites that give fans a smorgasbord of news and opinion.

“There are a lot of good independents doing a lot of great writing,” says Dave Nichols, who’s trying to build his District Sports Page into a website that can beat the Post on news and nuance. But Nichols has a day job as a litigation manager for a major law firm, and his bloggers are part-timers. Few of them have the time or resources to cover all 162 regular-season games, especially the 81 away games–which makes the Post the dominant player.

The Post has the muscle to throw two reporters into game-day coverage. Dave Sheinin pens some of the sweetest profiles in the business. Tom Boswell is still among the preeminent baseball columnists around. But Wagner, 25, has the potential to give Nats fans the best coverage yet.

“Being Latino and a Spanish speaker,” Wagner says, “I can break through language and cultural barriers.”

Wagner graduated from Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, but he spent years living in countries where his father was posted as a Foreign Service officer. In Nicaragua, Wagner’s dad fell in love with and married Ruth Villavicencio; Wagner and his brother and sister grew up speaking Spanish. The family spent years in Venezuela, and Wagner sometimes visits family in Nicaragua.

Four of the players on the Nationals team come from South or Central America. Three of them–Jesus Flores, Henry Rodriguez, and Wilson Ramos, the catcher kidnapped in the off-season–are Venezuelan.

“I know where they come from,” Wagner says. “I have them covered.”

This article appears in the May 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.