SBD/Issue 184/Franchises

Stephen Strasburg Set For Much-Anticipated MLB Debut Tonight

About 200 Media Credentials
Issued For Strasburg's Debut

Nationals P Stephen Strasburg is scheduled to make his much-anticipated MLB debut tonight against the Pirates in front of a sellout crowd at Nationals Park, where simply mentioning Strasburg's name "brings down the house," according to a sports-section cover story by Mel Antonen of USA TODAY. Approximately 200 news media credentials have been issued for tonight's game, "about the same number as a postseason game." In addition, MLB Network, which will air the game nationally, and ESPN are "anchoring special shows from Nationals Park." Nationals President Stan Kasten said, "In my three sports in more than 30 years, I've never seen the sustained demand for one player's attention. Stephen is the buzz of the town, and it's nice to be the center of attention of a positive baseball story" (USA TODAY, 6/8). MLB.com's John Schlegel wrote when Strasburg "steps to the mound in front of a packed house at Nationals Park to make one of the most heralded debuts in years, it will be a big deal, and then some" (MLB.com, 6/7). In DC, Thomas Boswell writes, "Whether you are in Nationals Park or watching on television when Stephen Strasburg makes his major league debut, you'll know you are seeing a landmark event." DC is "reentering the baseball mainstream at last." With a "decent team on the field already and Strasburg about to assume the role of ace, Washington baseball, for the first time in the memory of even the oldest local fan, is serious" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/8).

ALL HYPED UP AND READY TO GO: MLB.com's Bill Ladson wrote tonight marks "arguably the most hyped debut in recent memory." There will be a "lot of celebration before and during the game," including filmmaker and baseball historian Ken Burns tossing out the ceremonial first pitch (MLB.com, 6/7). In Baltimore, Jeff Barker writes Strasburg's arrival, "combined with other promising developments, has given area fans hope." National interest in his debut "dwarfs that of celebrated prospects" in the past, including Orioles C Matt Wieters last season. MASN analyst Phil Wood: "Sportswise, nothing compares in Washington. Maybe the Beatles in '64. That's the closest thing I can think of" (Baltimore SUN, 6/8). Washington Post columnist George Will, a Nationals season-ticket holder, said, "We increasingly are a star-driven culture, and the hype of Strasburg plays into that" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/8). In N.Y., Joel Sherman writes, "It is an event, a happening, and history. It is what occurs in 2010 when breathtaking talent emerges in an era oversaturated with media. No one ever blogged about Fernando Valenzuela or offered up their thoughts on Twitter about Mark Fidrych" (N.Y. POST, 6/8).

ACE IN THE HOLE: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Fisher & Broughton note MASN, also airing tonight's game, is "expanding its postgame show from a half-hour to a full hour" for its coverage of Strasburg's debut. Ad inventory for the broadcast is "fully sold out, with rates doubling typical Nationals games, and network officials expect further spikes in ad sales as the season progresses." MASN VP/Communications Todd Webster said, "Demand has pushed up across the board. We're seeing big increases everywhere" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 6/7 issue). Orioles Owner Peter Angelos, whose team owns the majority of MASN, recently said that "'it's a very good thing' for his club that the Nats are generating excitement over their performance and Strasburg's debut." Webster noted that advertisers have "paid MASN a premium to be part" of tonight's broadcast, and are "paying premium rates for Strasburg's next two starts as well." He said about Strasburg's debut, "Because of the demand and interest and expectations of extremely high ratings, advertising rates have doubled" (Baltimore SUN, 6/8).

Tonight's Game Is Expected To Be The
Nationals' First Home Sellout This Season

GETTING IN LINE FOR SECONDS? Secondary ticket market prices for tonight's game have crashed hard in recent days, with a glut of still-available inventory rapidly absorbing demand. StubHub last night showed the average selling price of tickets to the game had fallen to $67, similar to an ordinary Nationals game, with the highest actual sale at $500 per ticket. On ticket metasearch engine FanSnap, listing prices that reached as high as $999 per ticket late last week have fallen to just over $300. Hundreds of tickets remain available at less than $100, with FanSnap's average listing price now standing at $68.73, down from more than $109 last week. The Nationals, meanwhile, still have primary market ticket options for the anticipated sellout. In addition to a regularly scheduled block of 400 $5 bleacher seats being released shortly before game time, the club is selling 2,000 standing-room tickets at $10 each, as well as individual seats in the Party Suite and Jefferson Suite sections at $95-$145 each. The offer of the individual suite seats, which quickly sold out, represented the first time the club has ever made that offer. The club also is opening stadium gates at 4:30pm ET for the 7:00 first pitch (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's David Biderman notes Strasburg's impact on the secondary ticket market "can't be overstated." The Nationals have tickets "selling for 68% more than the major-league average on the resale market." Ticket-price forecaster SeatGeek.com data shows that Nationals tickets, which "usually sell on the secondary market for $51.58, are going for more than twice that." There also have been "more than four times as many tickets sold as usual" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/8). 

ALREADY SCORING JERSEY SALES: In DC, Dan Steinberg reported just about all the merchandise booths at Nationals Park Sunday "was featuring Strasburg shirts, front and center," often with Strasburg "the only personalized shirt available." Steinberg: "The team store by the center field gates? First shirt you saw when you walked in on the right was Strasburg ... and first shirt you saw when you turned left was Strasburg" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 6/7). UCF DeVos Sport Business Management Program Associate Dir Bill Sutton said that the Nationals tonight "may hit a million-dollar jackpot of ticket and merchandise sales." But Nationals COO Andy Feffer said that while Strasburg's arrival "is a boon, the team doesn't want to build a marketing campaign around one player," as it instead "wants to sell the idea that the franchise is improving as a whole" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 6/8).

WASHINGTON MONUMENT: CSN WASHINGTON's Mark Zuckerman noted the Nationals last night selected Bryce Harper with the No. 1 pick in the MLB Draft, giving the franchise "a 1-2 punch that has never been seen before, in these parts, or anywhere else in around the sport." Combined with Strasburg's debut, DC has become the "epicenter of the baseball universe." Kasten said, "There's nothing to compare it to. Who's had these kind of events back-to-back? ... It finally gives us attention that we haven't had the last five years." Zuckerman noted the Nationals for the first time are "being noticed for actual baseball reasons, and that has left club officials giddy in the days and weeks leading up to these two events" (CSNWASHINGTON.com, 6/7). YAHOO SPORTS' Jeff Passan wrote under the header, "Nationals Finally Relevant With Harper, Strasburg." Between the two events, the Nationals "finally matter." Each is a "franchise-altering player, and together they provide two linchpins around which every team -- Yankees included -- would love to build" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/7). In Boston, Nick Cafardo writes under the header, "Huge Capital Gains." This has to be the "most significant two days in the history of the franchise" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/8). MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez wrote, "The early part of this week is probably the best time in history to be a Nationals fan" (MLB.com, 6/7). Comcast SportsNet's Ivan Carter said this week is the "start of a new era for the ball club." Carter: "The exciting part about that for local sports fans, the Nats are doing it the homegrown way. ... It makes it an exciting era for baseball in DC” (“Washington Post Live,” Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, 6/7).

TAKING THEIR TIME: Baseball writer Murray Chass noted the first week of June is a "safe week for teams to add their top prospects to their major league rosters and start their major league service clock ticking." The goal is to "delay a player's eligibility for a salary arbitration and free agency." By keeping a player in the minors for the "first six weeks or two months of a season, a club keeps him from getting a full year of service for his first year in the majors." The prospect then will "have to wait seven years instead of six before he can be a free agent." ESPN's J.P. Ricciardi, formerly GM of the Blue Jays, said, "I think smaller-market teams are cognizant of the fact that you have to control these players as long as you can." Kasten admitted the service time was "one of the factors" in the team's decision not to promote Strasburg until June. He said, "There are things our guys felt very strongly about that he needed to experience. Could he have pitched up here on opening day? I'm sure he could have. Were there things for him to learn? I'm sure there were" (MURRAYCHASS.com, 6/6).

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