Washington Nationals look for attendance boost with Ruiz debut

A detail of a Washington Nationals hat is seen at Nationals Park on May 5, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
A detail of a Washington Nationals hat is seen at Nationals Park on May 5, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

This will not be the most anticipated debut in Washington Nationals history, and in fact when this player takes the field ending his month in the minors, the debut won’t even be long awaited. When top prospect Keibert Ruiz makes his first appearance in a Nationals uniform, plenty of eyes will be watching. Will it affect the attendance any?

For the Nationals, the future will be on display in full form in the series opener against the Philadelphia Phillies. In a system barren of prospects for years, the top two will be battery mates when the Nationals next take the field.

Josiah Gray will be on the bump, making his sixth start in a Nats uniform and looking for his first big league win. Ruiz will be his catcher, being recalled from Triple-A Rochester ahead of the game.

Two key pieces of the rebuild, front and center in Nationals Park. Will the Nats see an attendance boost?

A look at other Nationals debuts and how many fans packed the stadium to watch.

We have to believe the Ryan Zimmerman debut was chronicled somewhat. He was the first draft pick of the franchise and debuted the same year he was drafted. Social media and press releases weren’t what they are now, though. Zimmerman pinch hit for his debut, and made his first start the following night in front of 28,939 fans in a loss to the Phillies.

Maybe the first highly anticipated debut in Nationals history was that of pitcher Stephen Strasburg. Everything about him was documented. HIs late signing, his starts in the minors, his debut. An early June crowd of 40,315 gathered to watch him blow away 14 Pittsburgh Pirates in his first start.

Following that 2010 season where Stras made his debut, the Nats made a splash in free agency by signing Jayson Werth to a hefty deal. Werth will go down as the first big free agent the Nats spent money on. $126M over seven years headed his way. 39,055 fans headed to the gates to watch his debut with the Nats to begin the 2011 season. The game was the season opener which may have helped increase the numbers.

A year later another phenom made his first Nationals appearance. One, Bryce Harper, who first played on the road in Los Angeles, before coming home for his DC debut. In front of 22,675 fans, Harper took an 0-fer, in a game the Nats would lose to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

There are a lot of variables involved in each of these games. The Nats record, the day of the week, the time of game, school in session, public buildup, how much the team promotes the game, and so on. The Keibert Ruiz, Nationals debut comes in the midst of a losing season and during a pandemic. To this point, the Nats are averaging 16,848 fans a home game this year.

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How many will turn out to see the first game for the catcher of the future, and the first game for the battery mates of the next several years?