(it’s amazing how long it can take a franchise to recover from a mascot exposing his or herself to fans)
Despite featuring two of baseball’s more highly touted young stars in the form of hurler Stephen Strasburg and rookie OF Bryce Harper, the Nationals have struggled to fill their relatively new ballpark this season, a circumstance partially due to the Capitals’ post-season run. And, if you believe Washington (baseball) CEO Andrew Feffer — who differs from predecessors in that he’s not simply content to sell tickets to Phillies fans — DC residents simply aren’t used to having their own baseball team. From the Washington Post’s Barry Svrluga :
Tuesday, in Harper’s first game in Washington, 22,675 fans came to 41,000-seat Nationals Park. The following night, with hockey’s Capitals hosting a playoff game less than 21 / 2 miles away at Verizon Center, only 16,274 fans watched Harper rip three hits in a win over Arizona. When Strasburg made his first home start of 2012, 16,245 came to see it — more than 5,000 fewer than had witnessed any of his previous home starts.
Attendance at Thursday night’s game against Arizona was 19,656.
Feffer cites a well-worn list of obstacles to selling mid-week tickets early in a baseball season: iffy weather, school still in session, more competition from other sports. And the club still leans on the fact that it is still, relatively, a nascent entity. The Phillies have played, uninterrupted, in Philadelphia since 1883. The Nationals relocated from Montreal in 2005, becoming the District’s first baseball team in 34 years.
“There’s a whole generation that missed baseball for 30 years,” Feffer said. “It’s still a start-up. The biggest challenge, and probably the greatest opportunity, is building the fan base from the ground up. That takes time.”