A big-league player again

Times Staff Writer

After more than three decades without a major league baseball team, Washington has its own again. Together with nearby Baltimore, it has enough sports lore (some of it new) to lure even the most gun-shy fan. Gun-shy? Well, both towns have loved and lost sports teams. The hapless Washington Senators baseball team moved to Arlington, Texas, after the 1971 season, and the Baltimore Colts football team decamped for Indianapolis in 1984. Washington's broken heart appears to be healed now with the Nationals, formerly the Montreal Expos. Three cheers for the red, white and blue.

On deck In the offing for the nation's capital: a $580-million stadium south of the Capitol. Planners hope it will be completed in time for the 2008 season. It will be near the Anacostia River.

Post-game grub Fans cannot live by hot dogs alone. A couple of favorites in the district: Georgia Brown's, 950 15th St. N.W., (202) 393-4499, http://www.gbrowns.com . The restaurant dishes up Southern-style cuisine. It's a hangout among the politeratti, but not out of reach of the rest of us. Entrees $18-$25. Tunnicliffs Tavern, 222 7th St. S.E.; (202) 544-5680. Simple but tasty fare that won't break the bank (burgers and eggs) right across from the Eastern Market. Dinner entrees $13-$22.

Home bases Three very different places to stay. In the district: St. Gregory Luxury Hotel & Suites, 2003 M St. N.W.; (202) 530-3600 or (800) 829-5034, fax (202) 466-6770, http://www.capitalhotelswdc.com . "Luxury" is a stretch, but this is still a well-appointed 154-unit hotel where many of the suites have a kitchen. A real value for Washington. Doubles from $149. Hay-Adams, 800 16th St. N.W.; (202) 638-6600, fax (202) 638-2716, http://www.hayadams.com . The place to stay when you're in need of a luxury fix. Just across from the White House. Doubles from $289.

Out in the Virginia 'burbs: the Wingate, 3940 Centerview Drive, Chantilly; (571) 203-0999, fax (571) 203-0998, http://www.wingateinns.com . Five miles from Dulles airport (free shuttle service), clean, comfortable and, best of all, inexpensive, even serving continental breakfast. Doubles from $89.

And just up the road in Baltimore … There's Oriole Park at Camden Yards, considered the best of the new old-fashioned stadiums and a swell place to watch a ballgame. (For details, baltimore.orioles.mlb.com.) The ballpark designer, HOK Inc., is the creative force behind the new Washington stadium as well. The Orioles are also off to a good start, last month rocking the New York Yankees' world (but who hasn't?) to the delight of the capacity crowd. And even when the game's over, the legends live on.

Nosh-ville star Boog's Barbecue, at Camden Yards. There is better pit barbecue, but none of it comes quite this way: in front of one of the world's prettiest ballparks, where former Orioles first baseman Boog Powell stands (really, he towers) and signs autographs, then acts surprised that you're thrilled. The barbecue is good, but he is better. Sandwiches (beef, pork and turkey) from $7.25.

Getting there Reagan National is the closest to downtown D.C. of the three airports that serve the Washington area. Nonstop service is available on Alaska. Dulles, in suburban Virginia, is about 25 miles from downtown Washington. From LAX, nonstop service is offered on American and United. Restricted round-trip fares to either National or Dulles begin at $208. Baltimore Washington International is about 35 miles from downtown Washington. Nonstop service from LAX is offered on United and Southwest; restricted round-trip fares begin at $376.

Catharine Hamm Times Staff Writer

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