By Andrew Linker
Still Going Strong
There were some doubts during the winter of 1986-87 as the construction of an all-aluminum ballpark was continuing on Harrisburg’s City Island for a new minor league baseball team.
Harrisburg had not had a pro team since 1952 when the old Senators went bankrupt and folded. Thirty-five years later, pessimism crept into the city newspaper’s sports department.
A couple of predictors there gave the new team two years, maybe three, before folding. Just like its long-ago predecessor.
Their reasoning: the ballpark’s location would drive away fans, that people from the West Shore would not cross the Market Street Bridge toward Harrisburg, and folks from the East Shore would not think of going halfway over the bridge toward the West Shore.
Turns out those prognostications were off – way off. The Senators, despite semi-regular flooding of their field and the initial skepticism of some, have thrived.
Season No. 30 is fast approaching, easily the longest stretch of consecutive seasons of pro baseball on City Island since the original Harrisburg Ponies first played there in 1890.
While the Senators no longer dominate on the field as they did throughout the 1990s as the Montreal Expos’ Class AA affiliate, they continue to develop the Washington Nationals’ best prospects.
They also remain one of the most stable franchises in the 12-team Eastern League with a gem of a ballpark – thanks to a sparkling, $45 million makeover from the original, all-aluminum design – and, perhaps most important, deep-pocketed, local ownership.
That should be enough to keep the Senators around town for at least another 30 seasons.