Host the nearby team that happens to be in first place while the home team is also enjoying success? That might be a recipe for a very large crowd. Saturday’s second game in a yearly series touted as the “Battle of the Beltways” against the Baltimore Orioles drew an announced attendance of 42,331 – the second largest in Nationals Park four-year history.
Since Nationals Park opened in 2008, the largest crowd was an Aug. 20, 2011 game against the Philadelphia Phillies, which drew 44,685, according to attendance figures on Baseball-Reference.com.
Even though the stadium’s official capacity is listed at 41, 546, Saturday’s 6-5 loss to the Orioles was not a sellout. Not all the premium seats, such as the suites, were sold out, according to a team spokesman, which explains why it wasn’t a sellout. More people can fill the standing-room only sections and not technically count as a sellout.
Despite a strong start to the season, and with two of baseball’s youngest stars in ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg and teenage sensation Bryce Harper, the Nationals haven’t enjoyed much success in drawing large home crowds yet. But players took notice of Friday’s attendance (36,680) and Saturday’s crowd.
When pinch hitter Chad Tracy came to the plate with two outs and a runner on during a sixth-inning rally, the crowd was particularly loud and rose to its feet – possibly to counter the Oriole fans chants of “Let’s Go O’s” an inning earlier.
“It’s great,” Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said of the crowd. “… Both of us playing well, both having a young, core group of guys on the team that each fan base can relate with and cheer for more than one year at a time, it’s great for both cities, it’s great for baseball, and it’s great for this area. There’s nothing bad about it. It’s going to be fun, and it’s only going to get better as the years go on.”