WASHINGTON — On the same day that the Washington Nationals introduced Dusty Baker as the seventh manager in franchise history, owner Ted Lerner made a rare public address across town, accepting a lifetime achievement award from the Urban Land Institute Washington.
The business development mogul, now 90 years of age, was toasted by celebrities like George Will, Ted Leonsis, Bud Selig, Rob Manfred and Wolf Blitzer. But rather than reflecting on his life’s work, Lerner focused many of his comments on the future, particularly with regard to the Nats.
“I never could have dreamed of owning a baseball team,” Lerner said. “And I never could have imagined over my life that I would build over 20 million square feet of commercial and residential space, and very few people would know my name.
“I guess I have a different approach to real estate development than Donald Trump. And I’m fine with that.”
Lerner, a D.C. native, talked about his start in sports and business, serving as a Redskins game day usher at then Griffith Stadium in downtown Washington. Many decades later, on July 24, 2006, Lerner and his family became the principal owners of the Washington Nationals, owning 90 percent of the team’s shares.
Lerner kept things light-hearted, finding wry humor in his team’s 2015 demise and the subsequent controversy surrounding his team’s managerial search.
“When they originally told me I would be receiving this honor, they were kind enough to schedule the dinner for November, thinking that I and the Nationals would be busy in late October.
“Dusty [Baker] was going to be here tonight, but we couldn’t come to an agreement on the seating chart,” he added with a grin. “I’m teasing, of course. We’re very excited for the Baker era.”
He also shared a more heartfelt reflection of his team’s failings in 2015.
“As you can imagine, I’ve come to believe in the words of former baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti: ‘Baseball is designed to break your heart,'” he said. “Of course, I also believe the words of Bob Feller: ‘Every day is a new opportunity. That’s the way life is, that’s the way baseball is.'”
Looking ahead, Lerner spelled out his philosophy for business as the Nationals head into one of the most important offseasons in franchise history: the best is still yet to come.
“Keep building in every definition of the word. Build a better city. Build a stronger communities and build stronger families. Build for future generations,” he said. “But I’ll keep working to build a better baseball team, too.”
[H/T to Washington Business Journal]