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District of Champions
Washington, D.C.’s rich pro sports history dates back to the Washington Olympics baseball team in 1871.
Washington, D.C.’s rich pro sports history dates back to the Washington Olympics baseball team in 1871, one of the first professional clubs in the country. The tradition of the ceremonial first pitch was born in D.C., when President William Howard Taft took to the mound at the Washington Senators’ opening-day game in 1910.
D.C.’s love of sports has only grown since, with six professional teams calling the city and region home: the Redskins (NFL), Nationals (MLB), Capitals (NHL), Wizards (NBA), Mystics (WNBA), D.C. United (MLS) and DC Defenders (XFL). But despite a plethora of talent and loyal fanbases, Washington, D.C. endured a championship drought lasting 26 years.
That all changed when the Capitals became NHL champions in 2018. Not only did star player Alex Ovechkin and the team bring the first victory parade to D.C. since the Redskins’ 1992 Super Bowl win, they also turned the tide for Washington sports franchises.
Fast forward to 2019, and the Mystics became WNBA champions for the first time. They were followed three weeks later by the Nationals, who won their first-ever World Series championship with maximum drama, defeating the Houston Astros in Game 7. Before the champagne bottles finished popping, Washington, D.C. had become the “District of Champions.”
Two players who helped make it all happen are Mystics small forward Elena Delle Donne and Nationals shortstop Trea Turner. The past three seasons since Delle Donne joined the Mystics have been dubbed the “Delle Donne Era” because of the impact the two-time MVP has had on the franchise, while Turner earned respect for his resilience by playing through the pain with a fractured index finger that required surgery after the World Series.
Elena Delle Donne
“D.C. is an awesome sports town,” said Wilmington, Delaware, native Delle Donne, who has a connection to the D.C. area through her mom’s family. “My wife [Amanda Clifton] and I live on the water, so we have a boat that we take out in the summertime. Being able to eat and walk along the waterfront in Georgetown or Old Town Alexandria is special,” she told #FlyWashington.
“I love to eat,” she adds. “It’s hard to name just one place but Pop’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream, Il Porto Ristorante, and Carmine’s are among my favorites,” she said. When friends come to visit, they’ll head to Daniel O’Connell’s, which is “a really fun Irish restaurant and bar.”
The Mystics made a huge trade to acquire Delle Donne from the Chicago Sky in 2017, and the 30-year-old has certainly lived up to expectations. Winning the WNBA championship “felt so good,” she said. “Not only did it feel amazing to bring this franchise its first title and another championship to D.C., but also to win with such an amazing group of people makes it that much more special.”
While many WNBA stars play in China or Europe to supplement their income during the offseason, Delle Donne stays in the U.S. so she can help care for her sister, Lizzie, who has cerebral palsy and autism and is deaf and blind.
“Lizzie is such an inspiration to me,” Delle Donne explains. “If I wasn’t playing professional basketball, I’d probably be doing something where I could work with people with special needs,” she explained. “I’d want to work in a field where I was able to help bring awareness to the awesome personalities and hearts of the people in that community.”
Giving back is extremely important to Delle Donne. “As a professional athlete, I have a unique platform to raise awareness for causes close to my heart,” she said. “A few years ago we started the Elena Delle Donne Charitable Foundation, which raises funds and awareness for individuals with special needs, Lyme disease research, and animal welfare.”
When it comes to travel, the Bahamas are her go-to spot. “I took a truly amazing trip with my wife and our close friends to Exuma after winning the championship that I will never forget,” she said. Next on their bucket list are Australia and Italy. “Given my family’s Italian heritage, it would be a dream come true to go to Italy.”
Having grown up in the relatively small Boynton Beach, Florida, Turner appreciates how much there is to do in D.C. “It’s a great food city, plus you have the monuments and history here,” he said. While he doesn’t have a lot of time to spend with family and friends during the 162-game MLB season, Turner loves taking out-of-town guests to new restaurants when they visit. “I like going to Georgetown because they have a little bit of everything.”
The 26-year-old is part of D.C. history since the Nationals won the World Series, and he described the victory as a dream come true. “It was just a crazy ride from the beginning of the year to being crowned World Series champions,” Turner told #FlyWashington. “I had a lot of fun enjoying it with the special group of guys we had in the locker room.”
Even chilly November weather didn’t stop thousands of people flooding Constitution Avenue for the team’s victory parade, with many fans waving “Fight Finished” banners. “The parade was probably the most special moment,” Turner recalled. “I didn’t know what to expect when we showed up, but it was bigger and better than anything I pictured in my head. I felt like the crowd went on for miles...it was humbling to see the amount of people who came out to support.”
Spring training for the reigning champions kicks off late February in Turner’s home state of Florida, but until then, he’s been making the most of the offseason by traveling to sunny climates. “I love the beach and warm water. I have been all over ― Cuba, Japan, the Netherlands, etc. ― I like to see new places. My wife has a travel bucket list so I guess I do too!” he laughed.
When he is not playing or globe-trotting, Turner tries to give back to the community as much as possible. “My wife and I are in a position to help out all sorts of people in multiple places, and we love to bring smiles to their faces anyway we can. We worked with the Jimmy V Foundation (for cancer research) and Inova (providing world-class healthcare for all) this year.”
“We also worked with fans to raise awareness and donations for pediatric cancer through a season-long stolen base campaign. We’ve had a blast hope and to continue to do philanthropic work in the future.”