The Washington Nationals, who are still without a radio deal to broadcast their inaugural season in Washington, are considering hiring Elliott Price, who served as the voice of the Montreal Expos, to be their play-by-play man, team president Tony Tavares said.
"I'm waiting for them to make a deal, but I'm very interested," Price said in a telephone interview yesterday. "I've seen or listened to every game in the history of the franchise."
Washington Nationals mini-season ticket packages of 41 or 20 games will go on sale at 12:01 a.m. Thursday for those fans who have registered -- by 11 a.m. today -- their interest in tickets through the team's Web site, www.nationals.com. The packages will be available to the general public beginning at 12:01 a.m. Monday on the Web site, and by phone beginning at 8 a.m. Monday at (202) 675-NATS. Three plans are available:
41 games against 18 teams, including the home opener on April 14 against the Diamondbacks. Ticket plan prices range from $205-$738.
20-GAME PLAN A
20 games against 15 teams. Ticket plan prices range from $140-400.
20-GAME PLAN B
20 games against 13 teams. Ticket plan prices range from $140-400.
With the team's pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training next Tuesday and position players to follow on Feb. 20, the decision on a play-by-play broadcaster is among the most intriguing to the team's nascent fan base. But there are several areas of importance that both Nationals and MLB officials must deal with over the coming weeks, ranging from the continuing sale of tickets to working out a compensation package with Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos.
The Nationals are still trying to finalize a radio deal after an apparent pact with Clear Channel Communications fell apart nearly two weeks ago. The leader is Infinity Broadcasting, two sources said, which would likely put the games on one of its FM stations. Infinity Broadcasting's WJFK-FM-106.7, already serves as home to the Washington Redskins.
"There's nothing I'm doing that's more important," Tavares said regarding radio.
Yesterday, the Nationals announced that mini-season ticket packages of 41 or 20 games will go on sale at 12:01 a.m. Thursday for those fans who have already registered their interest in tickets through the team's Web site, www.nationals.com. Fans who have not yet registered on the site will have until 11 a.m. today to do so to be eligible to purchase tickets Thursday morning. That pre-registered group will receive an e-mail later today with instructions -- including passwords -- to enable them to purchase the plans over the Internet or by phone beginning Thursday.
The packages will be available to the general public beginning at 12:01 a.m. Monday on the Web site, and by phone beginning at 8 a.m. Monday at (202) 675-NATS.
The 41-game plan offers a $2 discount off the prices that will be charged for a single game ticket. They range in price from $205 to $738, and include the home opener at RFK Stadium, April 14 against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The 20-game packages don't offer a discount from single-game tickets, but both partial plans will include other perks, such as the right to purchase a parking pass and a 10 percent discount off merchandise at the team store.
Single-game tickets won't go on sale until mid-March. The club has sold more than 17,000 full season tickets.
"We've had almost three months now, and we've tried to listen to our fans, to talk to our fans, to see what they wanted," said David Cope, the team's vice president for sales and marketing. "We think they'll respond favorably to this, and I think this market is going to be able to support these plans financially."
Meanwhile, Angelos and MLB President Robert DuPuy met in New York yesterday afternoon to discuss a financial package that would offset the effect the Nationals will have on the Baltimore club.
The two sides have been negotiating since September, and are moving closer to a deal. Both DuPuy and Angelos declined to comment when reached yesterday. More discussions are planned in the next few days.
Finalizing a deal with Angelos has an impact on any television deal the Nationals are able to strike, but not on radio. Tavares spoke at a forum on baseball's return to Washington Monday night at the National Press Club, and said there that "conventional wisdom" used to be that baseball broadcasts were better off on AM.
"We don't believe that's the case anymore," Tavares said. He said a strong FM signal could carry to West Virginia to the west and Pennsylvania to the north.
Should Infinity, which runs five stations in the Washington market, get the deal, its officials would likely have some say over who is involved in the broadcast team, though Nationals officials want their influence to be heavily felt.
Price offers both advantages and disadvantages. He grew up in Montreal, and it's likely that no candidate knows more about the history of the franchise. He began working on the team's broadcasts as a pre- and postgame host in 1989, and took on regular play-by-play responsibilities in 1991 when games were on television and the radio voice moved over to do TV. He was the full-time radio voice of the Expos from 2001 to '04.
But Tavares said yesterday that because Price is Canadian, the club must secure a visa for him to be able to work in the United States.
"He's definitely in the mix," Tavares said. "But we'd have to get past this visa issue, and we have to do it quickly."
Staff writer Thomas Heath contributed to this report.