Stephen Strasburg had yet to throw a Grapefruit League pitch, much less receive a minor league assignment, when the Potomac Nationals unveiled their first ticket package geared for last June’s No. 1 overall draft pick.
Though the five-game plan is not officially dedicated to Strasburg—the P-Nats insist they have no inside information regarding which jersey the organization’s unofficial savior will wear in his pro debut—there is no mistaking who Washington’s high Class A Carolina League affiliate is selling with their “$15 Million Plan.”
In a carefully crafted press release, Potomac announced that for as little as $40, fans can receive a ticket to Opening Day and four other P-Nats games of their choice, a flex plan that they can build around Strasburg—or at least the prospect of a Strasburg arrival. If (God forbid) Strasburg skips the Carolina League altogether (bite your tongue), fans will still be able to use the flex plan to attend games of their choice.
“You get Opening Day tickets guaranteed. If he starts in (low Class A) Hagerstown or doesn’t come here at all, you could still see the top talent in D.C. come play for us,” Potomac vice president/general manager Jonathan Griffith said. “It’s kind of why we’re putting a number with it ($15 million) and not a guy’s name (Strasburg). If you put a guy’s name on it, it would guarantee his arrival. And as a minor league team, you can’t guarantee a guy’s arrival.”
But Stephen Strasburg sure would look nice in a Potomac Nationals jersey. Even as the snow continued to pile up in and around the Nation’s Capital, rumors of Strasburg debuting just 40 minutes south of Nationals Park had already created a buzz.
A pair of local media reports speculated that Strasburg would debut with Potomac this spring. That was enough to get the P-Nats’ ticket-office phones ringing, as sales have been brisker than normal for this time of year.
“More people are signing up early for their ticket plans,” Griffith said. “We’ve been feeding off of whatever is being reported.”
A Difference Maker
Griffith isn’t rooting for Strasburg to fall on his face in spring training. But a stumble by the kid, or enough of a hiccup to delay his big league arrival and send him to the Carolina League, would certainly be appreciated by the folks in Potomac.
“I would never want to see him not do well,” Griffith said. “Would I want him here? Without a doubt. It would increase our sales. Wherever he would go, people would want to see him. That we are down the road from Washington, D.C., would only help our ticket sales. I think people would want to see their team’s investment in person.”
And with the difference between profit and loss so thin in the minor leagues—particularly after the sport’s first full season in a recession—every little bit could help Potomac’s bottom line.
Minor league rehab starts often provide an affiliate with an unexpected sellout. Low class A Wisconsin had Brewers fans flock to the ballpark last year when David Bush made a start for the Timber Rattlers. In recent seasons, low Class A Lakewood has benefitted from having the likes of Ryan Howard and Pedro Martinez make a stop in the South Atlantic League affiliate on their way to Philadelphia.
There is no reason to think that a future big leaguer like Strasburg would not have a similar impact.
“I could see (Strasburg) being here through mid-May,” said Griffith, though once again pointing out nothing is guaranteed in the minor leagues. “But if he comes here and throws two no-hitters, why would they keep him here? He’s not progressing, he’s too dominant.”
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