- The Washington Times
Saturday, September 27, 2008

It was supposed to be fan appreciation night Thursday at Nationals Park for the Washington Nationals’ final home game, but there weren’t many fans left to appreciate by the time the game was called off two hours after it was scheduled to start.

The Nationals still should hold a party or something. This franchise should appreciate every one of the 2.4 million fans who showed up at the new ballpark this year. It should appreciate every one of the fans who made Nationals Park a great place to watch baseball, even bad baseball.

This franchise should appreciate Shelton Adams. Everyone in the press box certainly does.

Adams has been a fixture at every home game since 2006. He usually can be found in Section 310 - within earshot of the press box - and he makes his presence known by standing up and announcing every pitching or batting change to the crowd around him.

Adams rises from his chair, walks down several steps, faces the crowd, raises his right arm and says with gusto, “Your attention please … for your Washington Nationals … doing the pitching … No. 59 Steven Shell.”

If there is a pinch hitter, Adams will pronounce, “Your attention please … batting for the pitcher, No. 59, Steven Shell … No. 2, Roger Bernadina.”

His inspiration? The late, great Baltimore Orioles public address announcer Rex Barney. Adams started going to Orioles games in 1982, and he said he attended every home game from 1990 to 2005. After Barney passed away in 1997, Adams started making his own public address announcements in the stands at Camden Yards.

Once baseball came to Washington, Adams started the announcements at RFK Stadium, and he now is part of the atmosphere at the new ballpark.

“I learned my technique from Rex Barney, one of the great announcers,” Adams said. “One time at a game I was sitting next to a guy who didn’t know who was pitching, and he asked me, so I stood up and announced it to everyone.

“Some people get annoyed, but most people like it,” Adams said.

“I like him,” said Georgette, the usher in his section. “He’s really good.”

In between his announcements, Adams keeps meticulous score of every game as he has done since 1986.

“I wasn’t too good at it when I started, but over the years I’ve gotten better,” he said. “I still have all my scorecards from 1986. I started when the Indians played the Orioles on April 7, 1986.”

Adams is the kind of fan who helps create tradition at a ballpark. There have been many forgotten players who have worn the Orioles uniform, but Baltimore fans during the “Orioles Magic” days will never forget Wild Bill Hagy and the way he used his arms to spell out “Orioles.” In Brooklyn, Hilda Chester, who rang a cowbell at Dodgers games, is every bit a part of Ebbets Field history as Pee Wee Reese.

Shelton Adams gives Nationals Park a little personality.

Adams, 55, spent most of his youth at Forest Haven, a children’s developmental center in Laurel that has since been shut down. He said he got a high school degree from McKinley High School and works as a mail clerk for the Department of Health and Human Services. He lives alone in the District, and much of his life is committed to his love of sports.

He would take the train up to Baltimore for years to watch the Orioles at Memorial Stadium and then Camden Yards, buying partial season ticket plans and relying on single sales for the rest of the games. “I went to 81 home games a year from 1990 to 2005,” Adams said. “Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray were my favorites.”

His favorite now is Ryan Zimmerman.

“I like him a lot,” Adams said. “And I like the Nationals despite their poor performance. I have more good times at Nationals games than Orioles games. But they have to do a combination of things - build through the farm system and get some free agents. They need to do what the Yankees do - spend some money.”

Adams certainly makes his financial commitment to Washington sports. He has season tickets for 41 Nationals home games and buys single game tickets for the rest. He still goes to a good number of Orioles games and also attends about a dozen Wizards games and 25 Capitals games each season - with an occasional Maryland football game and Redskins and Ravens games when he can.

He gave me an example of his call at a Capitals game.

“Capitals penalty, No. 8 … Alex Ovechkin … two minutes for hooking. Time of penalty 8:48 … to give the New York Rangers a five-on-four power play!” Adams boomed in a demonstration.

Last winter Adams didn’t make it to many Wizards and Capitals games because he was sick with gout.

“I’ve got diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney problems,” he said. “But other than that I am healthy and can function.

“I’m healthy enough to call a game.”

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