Pitch-perfect celebration on cards as Ireland honoured in Washington

Ambassador to take centre stage as capital’s baseball team celebrate Irish heritage

He has famously been lukewarm about his adopted city since moving to Washington DC from his native New York in January.

But on April 4th, president Donald Trump risked the ire of more than 40,000 baseball fans when he declined an invitation by the Washington Nationals to throw out the first pitch of the season at the capital's stadium.

However on Tuesday evening, Irish ambassador Anne Anderson will do the honours ahead of kick-off as the inaugural Irish Heritage evening takes place at the stadium.

She will throw out the first pitch shortly before the Washington Nationals encounter with the Arizona Diamondbacks at National Park.

The links between the Irish and Washington Nationals team run deep.

Like most US baseball teams, the Washington Nationals were formed in the years just after the American civil war. Between 1871 and 1920 more than 1,100 players who rose to the team’s professional ranks were Irish-born or Irish-American. Names such as Farrell, Donnelly, and Gilligan starred on the team of 1889.

Among the big stars of the time with Irish ancestry was New Yorker Mike Kelly who was sold for the then-record sum of $10,000 to Boston Beaneaters.

Jimmy Collins was the manager in the early days of the Boston Red Sox. His team defeated Pittsburgh in the very first World Series in 1903. Cornelius Alexander McGillicuddy, the son of Irish immigrants, managed the Washington Nationals and was to become the longest-serving manager in Major League baseball.

National anthem

Tuesday night's game will be the first Irish-themed event at the stadium with Irish food, drink and culture being showcased. The Irish embassy and Northern Ireland bureau in DC have been working with local Irish organisations in the run-up to the event. The DC Fire Department Pipe and Drums band, the Capital Celtic Irish band, and the Culkin School Irish dancers will be performing throughout the evening, with Dublin tenor Mark Forrest singing the Irish national anthem.

Several brands of Irish whiskey will be served in the stadium, part of the latest drive to promote it in the US. Whiskey accounts for more than 30 per cent of all Irish food and beverage sales to the US.

The US has become the main export market for Irish whiskey, with 58 per cent of all Irish whiskey produced ending up there.

The Irish Spirit Award which is presented to an individual who has provided outstanding dedication and service to the Irish and Irish-American Community, will be awarded to Pat Troy who emigrated from Co Offaly in 1962, and has been a central figure in the Irish-American community in DC and Virginia for more than 50 years.

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