There’s only one prospect hotly hyped enough to turn his every appearance into a holiday. But Stephen Strasburg—who brings “Strasmas” back to Washington tonight when he makes his third big league start for the Nationals—isn’t the only baseball rookie to recently provide his team with a boost in attendance.
Since Memorial Day weekend, Buster Posey (San Francisco Giants), Mike Stanton (Florida Marlins), Carlos Santana (Cleveland Indians) and Pedro Alvarez (Pittsburgh Pirates) have all received much-anticipated promotions that resulted in an accompanying surge at the ticket office.
Posey, who made his big league debut last September, reached the bigs for good Saturday, May 30, when he went 3-for-4 in front of 37,400 fans at AT&T Park. That represented an increase of 5,905 fans from the night before, and the Giants played to even bigger crowds (41,394 and 42,465) the next two days. However, the Giants have played in front of more than 40,000 just once in their last six home games.
The Pirates welcomed 15,218 people to PNC Park Wednesday, June 16—an increase of 2,525 fans from the night before—when Alvarez went 0-for-2. A far larger crowd of 23,170 fans—the Pirates’ largest midweek crowd since the opening series of the season—showed up last night, June 17. Alas, those fans saw the Pirates drop their 11th straight game, so it remains to be seen how much effect Alvarez has on attendance for a franchise heading for its record 18th consecutive losing season.
The Indians promoted Santana Friday, June 11, when he went 0-for-3 in front of 22,041 fans at Progressive Field. It was the Indians’ fourth-largest crowd of the season in 27 dates and an increase of 1,595 from the previous night. Following Santana’s debut, the Indians played to fewer than 20,000 fans in three of their next four home games. The exception? When Strasburg started for the Nationals Sunday, June 13 in front of 32,876—the biggest crowd in Cleveland since Opening Day.
Stanton reached the big leagues Tuesday, June 8—the same day as Strasburg—but didn’t play at home until Tuesday, June 15, when he went 0-for-4 in front of 17,130 fans at Sun Life Stadium. As meager as the figure sounds, it was the biggest weeknight crowd of the season for the Marlins and an increase of 5,413 fans from their previous home game Thursday, June 3. It didn’t take long for the crowds to return to pre-Stanton sizes, though: The Marlins drew just 11,683 fans June 17, the 13th time in 35 home dates they have played to fewer than 12,000.
None of these debuts matched the impact made by Strasburg, who struck out 14 in front of 40,315 people—a 13,113-fan increase from the Nationals’ previous home game two days earlier—in his electric unveiling. But that’s to be expected: As position players, appearances by Posey, Alvarez, Santana and Stanton do not carry the same anticipation or urgency as those by Strasburg, who will only make about 20 starts this season.
Still, if the early returns are any indication—Posey hit .344 in his first 64 at-bats, Santana became the first Indian in 33 years to bat third in his first major league game and Stanton had three hits in his debut—the newcomers will join Strasburg in becoming franchise players and spend the next several years as the main gate attractions in their respective cities.