Thomas Boswell on Stan Kasten Inviting Philadelphia Phillies Fans to Nationals Park

By Thomas Boswell
Thursday, April 9, 2009

Stan Kasten is seriously confused. He doesn't know the difference between Finland and Philadelphia.

"For 30 years I've gone on radio in other towns to invite fans to our games. Always have. Always will," said the team president, perplexed by the fuss after he implored Phillies fans to buy up empty seats here for the Nationals' home opener. "We want fans from everywhere to come to lovely Nationals Park. We even have a group coming from Finland."

On Monday, Kasten lined up radio gigs to hawk his woebegone team's tickets. "Charlottesville, Richmond and Philadelphia," said Kasten, like they were all the same.

Is that a shriek? Are fingernails scraping down a blackboard somewhere? Philadelphia?

Here's what you can't say if you're the president of a Washington pro sports franchise: Please, pretty please, Philadelphia fans, come to D.C. on Opening Day because we can't sell out our almost new ballpark in Year Two. We've got Phillies hats in our gift shop. We promise to be nice (even if you boo the Nats). Just bring your wallets.

Here's precisely what Kasten said on ESPN 950 in Philly: "We have an Opening Day here Monday. We'd love for all our Philly fans to come down, because I know it's gonna be so hard to get tickets in Philadelphia this year. It'll be much easier if you drive down the road and come see us in Washington.

"I have gone to enough games in Philly to tell you that I haven't always felt welcome in your parks, okay? But you can root for whoever you want, you will be welcome when you come to Nationals Park."

So, he didn't actually say, "Come boo my team."

But they're from Philly, aren't they?

When you're in a hole, stop digging. But Kasten had hats on his mind -- an Opening Day giveaway cap. "It's a Nats hat . . . but we do feature many Philly hats in our store."

Stan, you can pitch tickets from Helsinki to Hades, and nobody around here cares. But, please, don't do it in Baltimore or New York. And especially not in Philadelphia.

Baltimore hits a nerve because Peter Angelos worked so hard for so long to keep baseball out of D.C. New York teams rub their wealth in everyone's face. (Or once did.) But Philadelphia, as longtime Washingtonians know (and as Kasten is learning fast), is just a different animal.

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