Take Back The Park

Considering Washington’s close proximity to the Philadelphia area, it really should come as no surprise that hordes of Phillies fans make the trip to Nationals Park when the two teams face each other throughout the year. The trip isn’t a long one. Tickets are affordable. And the Phillies have some of the most loyal (and rabid) fans in all of baseball. As such, the launching of the Nationals’ latest promotional campaigns comes as little surprise.

Sep 23, 2011; Washington DC, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg (37) warms up prior the game with the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE

Just over a week ago the team’s front office announced the launching of their “Take Back the Park” campaign. Fans have been given an opportunity to purchase tickets to the team’s first series at home against Philadelphia, May 4-6, in advance of the date when tickets for the entire season become available to the general public (which will be March 8th). Fans residing in Washington D.C., Maryland, or Northern Virginia are eligible for this pre-sale event, provided the credit card they use for payment has a matching billing address. Tickets through the “Take Back the Park” campaign became available as of Friday, February 3rd. Those interested can register and make their purchase by heading to nationals.com/ourpark.

While I applaud the organization’s efforts to drum up support for the team, particularly among the local fanbase. Sports in Washington have long struggled to develop a sense of loyalty from their fans. Sure, fans come out when the team is winning but none of the D.C. area teams has been able to break such a trend during any other point in their existence. However, I don’t know that insulting potential paying customers is necessarily the best way to go about such an effort.

Nationals’ Team CEO Andy Feffer was asked about the campaign during the team’s initial announcement 10 days ago. According to MLB.com’s Bill Ladson, he stated:

Someone asked me, ‘What do you think of Philly and Phillies fans and the series?’ I couldn’t be more direct. I said, ‘Forget you, Philly. It’s our fans, our time, our park and we are going to fill it with Nationals fans.’ We are going to do everything we can to ensure our fans here in Washington that first opportunity to make that happen.

Now, on its surface, those statements may not quite seem insulting. But to some Phillies fans, such as my counterpart over at That Ball’s Outta Here, Justin Klugh, insulting seems to be the best word. As Klugh wrote last week, Feffer is basically stating that he doesn’t want fans of the Phillies to come to Nationals Park to spend their hard earned money. It’s as if their money isn’t quite good enough. Of course, Klugh concludes that part of the nature of being a Phillies fan is being resilient. In other words, if they want to come to the games, they’ll find a way. He’s probably right.

Ultimately I don’t believe it was Feffer’s intent to directly insult anyone from Philadelphia or any fans of the team. In fact, he’s more likely trying to instigate a rivalry now that the Nationals appear to be on the verge of serious respectability in the NL East. Having grown up a fan of the Yankees in a family filled with Red Sox fans, I’ve long known just how much fun living within a great sports rivalry can be. And to be honest, those rivalries make things more exciting, more impactful, and more memorable each passing year.

So, Nationals fans, go out and buy your tickets in advance. Just be prepared when the calendar turns to May as you may find yourself sitting next to a fan of the Phillies, who might just be a little extra amped up for that particular series.

Topics: Nationals Park, Philadelphia Phillies, Washington Nationals

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