The Nationals And ‘Take Back The Park’

Posted by Kurt Smith on Friday, March 9, 2012
I love Washington Nationals CEO Andy Feffer’s passion and dedication to his team, but I’m not sure his answer to Nationals’ fans complaints about Phillies fans invading their ballpark was the smartest one.

The Nationals launched a “Take Back The Park” promotion a few weeks ago, in an effort to fill up Nationals Park with Nationals fans for the series against Philadelphia in May. Season ticket holders and fans with a Maryland or Virginia address on their credit card can order seats for this series before they go on sale to the general public.

Given that it was only one series, I’m guessing that this was an experimental feeler to gauge the fan response. It didn’t work out exactly as hoped…days after the pre-sale started, 9,000 tickets to this series were available on secondary markets. That’s about 3,000 per game that Phils fans can buy now, and 3,000 Phillies fans can make a lot of noise.

I can fully appreciate the frustration of Nationals fans. No one understands the feeling of opposition fans taking over their ballpark than Orioles fans. The return of St. Louis Browns-level futility to the franchise combined with a first-class and cheaper ballpark brings truckloads of Yankees and Red Sox fans into Camden Yards for games—so much so that hotel rates increase when the Yankees and Red Sox are in town. And it’s tough to hear “Let’s Go Yankees” chants in your home ballpark.

It’s not just the Orioles, though. The Brewers play 9-10 home games against the Cubs every year, and you can imagine what the crowds look like for those games. And anytime the Red Sox play the Yankees in either of their venues, you only hope that everyone goes home alive.

There is a life lesson to be learned here. The Nationals showed Phillies fans that they were rattled by them. Do you think this will make Phillies fans louder or quieter, knowing that their volume level rattles the opposition? Phillies fans don’t hate the Nationals, but the ones who travel three hours to see the Phillies play are rabid, dedicated fans, and they’ll gladly make noise if they think it will help the Phils achieve a victory.

Here is my idea for a better promotion for the Nationals. And Andy, if you’re reading this, feel free to use this idea free of charge. The Nationals (and Orioles, for that matter) should offer discounted travel packages to any Nationals fans who’d like to go to see the Nats at Citizens Bank Park in Philly. Pick one weekend game, buy 4,000 or so tickets, and give Nats fans an inexpensive chance to dish it out in the Phillies’ home ballpark.

I’ve long wondered why some radio station in Baltimore hasn’t tried gathering a group of O’s fans to go to a game at Yankee Stadium. As Andy Feffer has shown, the idea of opposing fans taking over a team’s home ballpark is clearly a sticking point with a lot of people.

I love that Feffer made a sincere and empathetic attempt to connect with loyal Nationals fans. As a disenchanted Orioles fan, I’m finding more reasons to root for the Nationals. But remember—Phillies fans may just end up paying for the Nationals next big free agent.

And who knows, that may just be Cole Hamels.


Tags: nationals park  washington nationals  philadelphia phillies 
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