Nationals Notebook

Stan Kasten: Nationals' 'Season Ticket Sales Are Down'

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 13, 2009

ATLANTA, April 12 -- Two-hundred and one days have passed since Washington last played a regular season game at Nationals Park. But tickets still remain for Monday's home opener against Philadelphia, a telltale sign of the organization's predicament: it is trying to overcome a 102-loss season in the post-honeymoon period of a new ballpark during an economic recession.

Team president Stan Kasten said Sunday that seats, "but not many," remain for the opener. Breaking from his annual tradition, he declined to reveal the number of season tickets sold this year, saying only that sales had declined.

"Obviously season ticket sales are down," he said. "But I'm noticing more and more teams this year -- [the Braves] are one example -- that aren't releasing season ticket numbers. So I'm just going to hold off and see what other teams do. But we're aware that coming off 102 losses there's going to be a drop-off. Second year in a new ballpark there's going to be a drop-off. And then the big thing -- what's happening in our economy."

In 2008, the Nationals attracted 29,005 fans per game over 80 games, for a total of 2.32 million. That was actually a drop from their first year in the District, when they drew 2.73 million. Following 2008 -- when the team had a base of 22,000 season ticket holders -- the Nationals cut prices for 7,500 of the stadium's 42,000 seats. Some prices in the lower bowl fell by $15, bringing the average season ticket price to $29.

Getting Thin at Second

The initial second baseman strained his hamstring. The next second baseman injured his back. And on Sunday, during a third-inning at-bat, the third-string second baseman, Willie Harris, strained his oblique muscle, severely testing Washington's depth. Harris could wind up on the disabled list, allowing the team to recall another middle infielder. For the moment, though, Washington has Alberto González as its lone remaining option.

Harris's injury could trigger an early return for would-be starting second baseman Anderson Hernández, who went 0 for 4 Sunday in the first day of a rehab assignment with Class AAA Syracuse.

Because of his hamstring strain, Hernández hasn't played for the Nationals since March 25. But Harris's injury -- and Ronnie Belliard's slow recovery from his back problems -- might force the team to rush Hernández back and use him in spot situations until he's 100 percent.

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