On gamedays, fans shouting “Go Nats!” on the Metro and in Nationals Park can be heard echoing throughout Washington. But for Nationals usher and Harbour Square resident James Mills, these team cheers are a part of his everyday work environment.
Mills walks six blocks to Nationals Park and up to his post between Sections 318 and 319 on the Gallery Level to be a “Goodwill Ambassador” for the fans, many of whom he calls his “buddies.” He views himself as a representative of the Nationals brand and always wears the Curly W with pride. During his walk to work, he is usually stopped about eight times each day by people asking about the team and offering words of support. Upon his arrival home after a big win, he could not be prouder to share all the details of the day’s events with his neighbors. “That great emotional high,” as he calls it, never died and keeps growing each season. As a lifelong baseball fan, being part of the action was an opportunity Mills could not pass up.
“There’s a shared feeling of ownership, a bond that wasn’t here before the team was here,” Mills said. “When [Bryce] Harper came in, when some of the new faces came in, everybody just jumped on board expecting wonderful things – and wonderful things happened.” Mills, who became a member of the Nationals family in 2011 after attending a career fair, says, “Getting to work here and watch baseball as opposed to being in the stands, you feel a little more like you’re sharing what’s going on, ”
As a retiree of the United States Department of Justice, Mills’ job as an usher is just one of the many activities he enjoys during his free time. He also volunteers for his church four mornings every week, as well as for the Kennedy Center during special events. “What a way to spend my time? Getting to know the things I like,” said Mills, who remains hopeful that maybe one day, the Nationals will add another thing he likes to his post – a lazy boy recliner.
By Megan Schneider