Nationals Fans Gather 'Round The Diamond For "Strasmas"

Strasburg Savior
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↵Typically, the Washington Nationals have a realistic shot at a sellout just a few times a year; usually, it's Opening Day with the president tossing out the first pitch or if the team is hosting an interleague series against the Yankees or the Red Sox. But today's game has been sold out well in advance, with media, local and national, staking out the ballpark as early as noon for a 7 p.m. game.
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↵All because of the coming of "Strasmas", the debut of the much heralded rookie pitcher Stephen Strasburg. Billed as a franchise savior, Strasburg has breathed life into a listless fan base. His arrival marks not only what local fans hope is a turning point for what has been a largely irrelevant team since bringing baseball back to D.C. in 2005, but the beginning of an influx of high-profile young sports stars to the city, along with yesterday evening's top pick in the MLB Draft, Bryce Harper, and, presumably, John Wall, after the NBA Draft later this month.
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↵Strasburg inauguration
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↵How off the charts has the hype been? The local ABC affiliate had a promotion kicking off the NBA Finals broadcast on Sunday plugging the "inauguration" of Stephen Strasburg this week. No less an estimable source than Bob Costas told The Washington Post's Dan Steinberg that "in terms of hype and buildup" Strasburg has no precedent. Even if Strasburg's debut is a dud, tonight will net the team $1.5 million, according to Darren Rovell.
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↵Strolling around the ballpark before the game, I noticed Strasburg's immediate impact on the fans is obvious. Of those wearing named Nationals merchandise, more than half have something bearing Strasburg's name. More importantly (and rare in this ballpark) the representation of Nats merchandise clearly outstrips that of the visiting Pirates.No doubt, given the memorabilia booths teeming with Strasburg merch, that ratio will only be more lopsided by the end of the evening.
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↵Strasburg merch
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↵Success in any measure is hardly assured for the rookie, but the game has enough assembled media to seem like it's Game 1 of the World Series. Inside the media center, one reporter grumbled that he couldn't wait for tomorrow night when there would only be about 14 writers present and the food would once again be much better. In what worked out to be a bit of happenstance, Ken Burns is on hand to throw out the celebratory first pitch. It was already scheduled before the team decided that this evening would be Strasburg's debut, but it feels like it fits with the sense of impending history that the locals hope hangs over the evening. ↵

↵Sponsored link: Nationals tickets available ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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