Big things were in the works for the Harrisburg Senators before the Nationals decided last weekend to ship the most-hyped prospect in minor league baseball history to the Double-A Eastern League affiliate.
So, in addition to a new ballpark, the Senators may also now have Stephen Strasburg to show off on Opening Day.
Harrisburg would likely only be a pit stop for Strasburg on his way to Washington this spring, and he likely won't be around on July 14 when the ballclub hosts the Eastern League all-star game—but they can't ask for everything.
"It's like the perfect storm, but not that bad one, where the boat sank," Harrisburg general manager Randy Whitaker said.
Strasburg hasn't officially been placed on Harrisburg's roster, but that hasn't stopped the phones at Metro Bank Park have from ringing since the Nationals sent Strasburg to minor league camp on Saturday, ending any speculation that the No. 1 overall pick last June might break camp with the big league team. Harrisburg has no plans yet to offer any Strasburg-related ticket packages; Whitaker wants to hold off until the end of spring to ensure Washington doesn't change its mind about their phenom.
"Somebody else is saying that he's coming, and if he does come, man, we'll be happy," Whitaker said. "It's hard to say what we'll be able to do from a marketing standpoint. We'll have to wait and hear if he is definitely coming or not. We're not going to put anything out until we know for sure."
The Potomac Nationals didn't wait so long last month before unveiling its $15 Million Plan ticket package. The high Class A Carolina League affiliate smartly kept Strasburg's name out of it, as fans would still be left with a ticket to Opening Day and their choice of four other games during the season if Strasburg doesn't come to town.
Whitaker has had quite a two years at the helm of the Senators, his first job in professional baseball. The former marketing and sales director for a Harrisburg television station has overseen the $45 million stadium renovation, essentially a teardown and rebuild of the 24-year-old island ballpark in the Susquehanna River. Construction is on schedule to be complete in time for the home opener on April 15, as workers are putting the last touches on a suddenly very important final piece.
"We don't have a press box yet," Whitaker said. "Right now, it's a little room that they are still painting . . . The preparations we're working on now is what are we going to do with all of the media that is going to be coming for (Strasburg)."
Individual tickets go on sale for Senators games this weekend. Harrisburg opens its schedule with seven games on the road, complicating matters for any fans hoping to time Strasburg starts.
"I would expect there will be a considerable amount of interest in Opening Day, the first two series and maybe the first two months," Whitaker said. "Looking at it from a fan's standpoint, do you just buy a ticket to every game so you know you get him, or do you try and time his starts? We can't promise what days he is going to pitch. If nothing else, you can watch him walk across the outfield."
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