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Diane Headlee a favorite in Nationals pressbox

September 26, 2018

Talking with reporters who cover baseball in Washington, you might get the impression that Diane Headlee is as much a part of what makes Nationals Park special as watching Bryce Harper or writing about Ryan Zimmerman.

The retired schoolteacher, part of the stadium crew since the building opened in 2008, works outside the fourth-floor pressbox, welcoming reporters and redirecting curious or lost members of the public who wander in off the elevator.

Before Nationals Park, she’d already worked three years as an usher at RFK Stadium.

“Ienjoy being there,” the Ohio native said even when games are delayed or run into extra innings and it means she gets home in the early morning hours.

“It is not really a grind because I enjoy it,” she said. “Any of my dealings with the Nationals have been positive. They are very good people to work with.”

She rarely misses a game, and over the years has become a confidante and go-to resource for the print reporters and others who work in the Shirley Povich Media Center.

“I love Diane; she is the best to work with. Always a smile, always a hello,” says Leesburg resident Ben Trittipoe, an official scorer who has done games at Nationals Park since it opened in 2008. “She helps me feel better after long drives to the park. She takes care of us.”

“Diane has provided as much good will as (anyone at Nats Park) who deals with the public on a daily basis,” said Phil Wood, a broadcaster and program host for Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN). “I’m sure she was everyone’s favorite teacher during her career in education for her ability to listen, and her genuine empathy. Everyone’s friend.”

Headlee’s job with Contemporary Service Corporation (CSC), based in Upper Marlboro, calls for her to arrive at least two-and-a-half hours before the game and she is usually not cleared by supervisors to leave until one hour after the last pitch.

For a doubleheader earlier this month she arrived at Nationals Park at about 1:30 p.m. and got to her Maryland home about 2 a.m. after the two games.

Headlee rubs shoulders on a daily basis with many members of the media, some of them more famous than most. One of the most notable is columnist and bestselling author George Will, who wrote a book called “Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball.”

“He is very congenial, very nice and very easy to talk to,” Headlee says.

Headlee’s goal is to make the day as smooth as possible for media members who are telling stories about the ups and downs of the athletes on the field below.

But the retired teacher, now in her 70s, has her own story of athletic success.

Headlee played basketball and softball at Ohio State in the late 1960s, before Title IX in the early 1970s gave women more of an equal footing in athletics.

After graduating, she moved to Washington suburbs and began coaching and teaching physical education. She received her master’s in secondary education for Bowie State University.

She was the women’s basketball coach for two years at American University in the early 1970s and then was a teacher and coach in Prince George’s County, Maryland, for 30 years before retiring.

She played AAU basketball in the 1970s and once drove from the D.C. area with another hoop team to New Mexico for a tournament, played two games and drove back.

Headlee has also excelled as a long-distance bike rider.

She has gone on trips with a Vermont-based company of about 10 days in length to Canada, The Netherlands, Croatia, Germany, New Zealand and Italy. This past summer she went to Alberta, Canada. Bike trips in the states included jaunts to Florida, Mississippi, the Carolinas, New England and Arizona.

Headlee keeps in shape with rides on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, sometimes the same day before heading to Nationals Park for a night game. “I try and do about 20 miles a day,” she said.

Headlee enjoys showing visitors to the Nationals Park pressbox a display honoring the late Shirley Povich, a long-time writer for The Washington Post.

Another highlight a few years ago was getting to meet Sherrod Brown (D), a senator from her home state of Ohio. “I was very impressed with him. He took the time to talk and that impressed me,” she said.

Headlee has her own athletic stories, but her job is the gatekeeper for the print media.

“I think we are lucky to have her,” Trittipoe said.

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