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Tickets Still Available For Opening Day

Two-hundred and one days have passed since the Washington Nationals last played a regular season game in Nationals Park. And several factors, President Stan Kasten said today, explain why tickets still remain for the first chance to see the Nationals in 2009. The franchise has a threefold problem: It's coming off a 102-loss season. Its stadium no longer has the first-year honeymoon. And its customers -- like everybody -- are dealing with an economic recession.

When talking about ticket sales, Kasten said that seats, "but not many," remained for the opener. Breaking from his annual tradition, he declined to identify the number of season tickets sold this year at Nationals Park, saying only that sales had declined.

"I thought for now I'm going to continue to hold off, and for a couple reasons," Kasten said. "First of all, I will tell you, obviously season ticket sales are down. But I'm noticing more and more teams this year -- this team (the Braves) are one example -- that aren't releasing season ticket numbers. So I'm just going to hold off and see what other teams do. But we're aware that coming off 102 losses there's going to be a drop-off. Second year in a new ballpark there's going to be a drop-off. And then the big thing -- what's happening in our economy... So another reason to just hold off on season ticket numbers: We just don't know what to make of it all, and is this a short-term, month-long phenomenon that gets better over the course of the season as I hope? So I do not have a number for you today."

In 2008, the Nationals attracted 29,005 per game, for a total of 2.32 million. That was actually a drop from their first year in the District, when they drew 2.73 million. Following 2008 -- when the team had a base 22,000 season ticket holders -- the Nationals cut prices for season tickets in 7,500 of the stadium's 42,000 seats. Some prices in the lower bowl fell by as much as $15, bringing the average season ticket price to a $29-per-game average.

Data released by the Team Marketing Report, measuring the cost of taking a family of four to a sporting even, estimates the full experience at Nationals Park -- tickets, parking, beers, hot dogs and sodas are all factored in -- to cost $215.52, a decline of 4.7 percent from 2008. Still, the Nationals are just above the big league average, $196.89.

Kasten expressed optimism about group ticket sales and popularity of smaller ticket plans. He also said that sales for premier games -- series against the Red Sox, the Orioles, etc. -- are brisk. But it's the other games that will determine the big picture.

"What happens with the games that aren't those?" Kasten said. "That's what we'll have to take the course of the season to understand."

First pitch tomorrow is 3:05. Center field games open at 12:30 p.m., and fans are urged to come early.


Though White House officials have stated that President Obama will not throw out the first pitch for tomorrow's opener, Kasten still is not ruling it out.

"Truly, last I've heard -- I've heard two things recently, and they were directly contradictory," he said. "I'll know tomorrow. Maybe late tomorrow."


So who's the back-up? My speculative list starts with Frank Howard. It does not include Jim Bowden.


Your de rigueur note on a particular center fielder: Lastings Milledge, off to a 2-for-18 start at the plate (with nine strikeouts) is getting a day off today. Manny Acta, facing the daily battery of Milledge questions, tried to calm things down by reminding everybody that 1.) Milledge actually led the Nats in home runs and RBI last year, and that track record means far more than the small five-game sample size and 2.) he started slow last year, and picked it up in the second half. In other words: He's capable of overcoming slow starts.

"I'm gonna overcome it this year, too," Milledge said this morning. "You can bet that. Yeah, you get mad when you don't do what you're supposed to do. You know you're going to come around. It's just how long it will take and how long they'll keep running you out there and let you fail. But I know I'm a way better player than what I'm doing now. At the same time, I think I'm too good a player to be in this position now."

By Chico Harlan  |  April 12, 2009; 1:30 PM ET
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Next: Harris Leaves Game With Injury


Dang. Olsen lost his no-hitter.

Posted by: Ted_Striker | April 12, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

CHarlan: And this particular post couldn't have waited until after the game?

Posted by: BinM | April 12, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Chico, how 'bout doing a little research for us? How many MLB teams have sold out their home openers this year? You know the Marlins didn't, you know the Braves didn't. You were there for both of those. How many have sold out?

Posted by: nunof1 | April 12, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Why don't you do that essential, critical, ground-breaking research, nunof?

Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | April 12, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Willie pulled something on a swing - replaced by Gonzalez.

Posted by: BinM | April 12, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

I fail to see why any of you would have a problem with me asking the beat writer a simple question. Have not many of you done the same thing from time to time? What's the protocol here? Am I supposed to bow or curtsy before asking? Please enlighten me.

Posted by: nunof1 | April 12, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

I don't have a problem with it.

It's just that something that, if you REALLY want to know, you could find with about 10 minutes of clicking.

Let Chico work on the things you can't dig up on your own.

Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | April 12, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

I'm sitting here watching the game with my iPhone. 3G is great, but it doesn't really lend itself to doing that kind of research. Presumably Chico has better connectivity in the press box.

Posted by: nunof1 | April 12, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Manny- My problem with Millege is much more his fielding than his hitting. He is attrocious in the field and will cost us more runs than he gives us over the course of the season, even if he does find his stroke.

Even still, his plate discipline needs a lot of work at the plate. He led a team in HR with the most injuries in baseball, the fewest HR in baseball and the worst record in baseball. That's just as much a reflection on a bad team as it is Millege's hitting.

Posted by: cheeseburger53 | April 12, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Who cares if they sell out or not? StanK can pretty much kiss it... Or did not enough Philly fans respond to his call to arms?

No wins.

Six losses.

And nothing particularly to be excited about on the horizon...

Why SHOULD people come out to see the Gnats? We strand more people than Gilligan's Island. Pitching? Horrific. Fielding? Even worse.

These clowns are supposed to be professionals. So far, I see no reason to spend a nickel to see these fools.

Posted by: randy_boyd | April 12, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Funny how the practices of other teams in releasing season ticket sales are somehow now meaningful to Stan. This guy is a real piece of work. Just reading the words quoting him makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit.

Anyway, May 4 should give us a pretty good indication of sales, if we don't have one by then. Hard to see too many walk-up sales for a Monday night in May against the Astros.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | April 12, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

So far, I see no reason to spend a nickel to see these fools.

Posted by: randy_boyd | April 12, 2009 4:27 PM

Ah, the quintessential fairweather. Wait til a team gets good before you start supporting them eh?

Nothing worse than a bandwagon fan.

Posted by: Barno1 | April 12, 2009 5:31 PM | Report abuse

In 2008, the Nationals attracted 29,005 per game, for a total of 2.32 million. That was actually a drop from their first year in the District, when they drew 2.73 million.

By Chico Harlan | April 12, 2009; 1:30 PM ET

The first year in the District the Nats were 20 games above .500 at 50-30 mid way through the season. What a shocker that they had better attendance then.

Posted by: Barno1 | April 12, 2009 5:32 PM | Report abuse


I have been a season ticket holder since the very beginning... Since you clearly don't have a clue... shut the hell up.

Posted by: randy_boyd | April 12, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

I tried to buy tickets a week ago from the Nats web site and the only thing I saw was a few $350 tickets in the Presidents section behind home plate. I passed.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | April 12, 2009 6:11 PM | Report abuse

I was a half-season ticket holder last year. I was placed out in left field even though I had purchased a half-season plan the last year in RFK. The reason why the Nats have less season tix holders is not only because of the economy or because they have a perennial loser. It is because there was no advantage to get a season ticket. You literally could walk up to the window the day of the game and get a better seat than my "season tickets". What was the advantage for being a loyal fan and putting down the $ to support the team? Nothing. That is why I and many others did not renew. The totals must be abysmal. The Nats have been sending surveys and emails like crazy trying to find out why. The why is that they have no concept of customer service and treating their fans special. All they care about is getting someone, anyone, into the seats. Even if they are Phillies fans.

Posted by: Favman | April 12, 2009 8:05 PM | Report abuse

We renewed our plan this year and got: Better seats than last year (yes, you can move your seats, which we did), the opportunity to buy seats to other games before the general public, the "full season ticket holder" price for all tickets bought beyond our plan. That last one applies to online and walk up tickets all season (can't be used in connection with other offers). For our tickets to the Red Sox game (the ones not in our plan), we got $68 tickets for $50.

Posted by: LurkerNowPoster | April 12, 2009 8:26 PM | Report abuse

Mark my words...1. This team will lose 100 games this season 2. Manny Acta will be fired before the All-Star Break 3. Nick Johnson will finish the season on the IR List.

Posted by: jcflowers228 | April 12, 2009 10:14 PM | Report abuse

It's not surprising to me that Biter Bill can't figure out how to get affordable tickets to the game tomorrow. A life spent sitting in front of a computer in your underpants and hating everything, you don't learn much...

Last Tuesday, I got nice $24 tickets for the game (for friends, I'm covered), I'm just glad they don't have to sit next to Biter Bill.

Posted by: mike8 | April 12, 2009 10:22 PM | Report abuse

It's nice to see Milledge spelled by a guy who is just a better baseball player.I don't know what Acta's(and some others,including Bill Ladson on is with Dukes,but he's not only a better athlete than most guys on the team.He has great baseball instincts,can work the count and doesn't do things like dive for a ball when no one is around to back him up.Let him loose;he could take charge and become an impact player.They almost seem afraid of that idea.

Posted by: seanmg | April 12, 2009 11:15 PM | Report abuse

There is an article about places to eat around the stadium After watching the Nat's play who still has the stomach?

These guys are so bad they need an animal act or maybe Congress explaining the bailout to the unemployed that shold liven up the crowd of vendors selling $10.00 hot dogs. Wait a minute did I say dogs that is the team not the food!~

Posted by: KBlit | April 13, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

I hope the Nats stay in town, but we need some real fans, DC does not have a sports identity, most of the baseball fans in DC are Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Mets, and Phillies fans. I do not see many Birds hats anymore. I am diehard skins fan too, but if you go to see the skins against the Giants, Steelers, Eagles, and Cowboys, most of the fans are cheering against the Skins. The problem with DC, there is too many transplants not from DC and many DC people are not into sports. Look at the lonely Wizards, what a sad sight, and nobody cares, my wife is from DC, she did know that we had a basketball team. We do have CAPS, DC has become the new hip city, we are more popular in New York City, our economy is better, this richest region in the US, but do not have the sports fan base like New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. Even Detroit has had some hard times, but they have great fans, look at the Red Wings, Pistions, and Tigers.

Posted by: nativeva1 | April 13, 2009 11:02 PM | Report abuse

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