Lani Silber Weiss isn’t used to signing baseballs.

But absent any actual prospects, the Fredericksburg Baseball president and team ownership received star treatment as the incoming Nationals’ minor-league affiliate opened its Caroline Street store Friday afternoon.

Scores of fans, many decked out in Washington and Potomac Nationals gear, crowded the sidewalk outside Executive Plaza for a 2 p.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony. Once inside, they were able to peruse stadium diagrams, test a swiveling club-level seat, and purchase merchandise ranging from T–shirts to bumper stickers.

“It helps bring the whole project to life,” Weiss said. “We’ve been talking about things, but we’ve been doing it from a distance. Now we have a physical presence here.”

The Caroline Street location benefited both parties. The City of Fredericksburg owns the building, the first floor of which had been empty since the School Board moved to its current facilities. Fredericksburg Baseball needed to drum up interest ahead of an anticipated stadium opening in April 2020.

“It just increases the excitement and makes it seem more imminent and real,” said Bill Freehling, Fredericksburg’s director of Economic Development and Tourism.

Weiss said Fredericksburg Baseball is planning a fall event to unveil the team’s new name, along with visuals depicting uniforms, hats and a logo. The team has already reserved 1,700 season tickets through its Founders Club program, which requires a three-year commitment in exchange for preferential seat selection.

Kenny Jones is among that number. The Fredericksburg resident attended the ribbon cutting with his daughter Addison, 10. Jones, a lifelong minor league baseball fan, noted that the stadium site in Celebrate Virginia South is no more than a five minutes’ drive from his house.

“It’s going to be one of the best stadiums in minor league baseball, a brand new stadium,” Jones said. “I’m excited about their passion for it, you know they’ll invest in it.”

In recent years, as the team’s negotiations with Prince William County came to a standstill, owner Art Silber and his family scoured Northern Virginia for potential suitors for the Carolina League affiliate.

“Both my daughter, my son and I agree that the best thing that happened to us is that none of those things worked out,” Silber said. “Because now we’re in Fredericksburg.

“The difference is that there’s a unique sense of community that exists here that you don’t find in other parts of Northern Virginia. We were in Woodbridge for 34 years. Nobody takes pride in being from Woodbridge.”

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Joey LoMonaco: 540/368-5045

jlomonaco@freelancestar.com

@joeylomonaco

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