Last season, the Nationals drew a crowd of more than 40,000 fans to Nationals Park only twice: 44, 685 on Aug. 20 against the Philadelphia Phillies (the largest crowd in the stadium’s history) and 41,727 the following day against their division rival.
So far this season, the young, contending team has drawn a crowd at least that big five times. In fact, the increased interest in the Nationals has helped set new attendance records for the stadium. Five of the 10 most-attended games in Nationals Park history have happened this season — and it’s only June.
This past weekend’s series against the New York Yankees, who are always a draw, had a combined crowd of 124,135 — only the second time in the stadium’s four-plus seasons that each game in a series had more than 41,000 fans. Two games of the three-game series last month against the Baltimore Orioles, also a contending team, had crowds of 42,331 and 41,918.
Overall, the average attendance at Nationals games is 29,598 — a 28 percent increase, or about 6,500 more fans per game — compared to this point last season. According to the team, that’s the third highest year-over-year percent increase after the Miami Marlins, beneficiaries of a new stadium, and the Detroit Tigers, preseason World Series contenders who spent a lot of money in the offseason.
The Nationals are in unfamiliar territory in first place in the National League East, and the experience of playing before larger home crowds could prove vital if they hope to play into October.
“It’s about as close to a playoff atmosphere as you’re going to get,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said following Sunday’s loss to the Yankees. “It can feel like a road game at times. I’m sure they get that no matter where they go, other than Boston, but that’s it. Get the place packed, get people going crazy, obviously draws a lot of media attention. It’ll be good for these guys, especially the young guys, to get used to it.”
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NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 11, Pawtucket 7: Xavier Paul went 3 for 4 and drove in three runs. Carlos Rivero and Jim Negrych drove in two runs each.
Harrisburg was off.
Potomac was off.
Hagerstown was off, too.
Auburn 6, Batavia 5: Shortstop Stephen Perez has two hits and drives in four runs in the Doubledays’ season opener.