In the last 12 months, pitcher Stephen Strasburg has thrown a fastball 103 mph, received the biggest contract of any Major League Baseball draftee ever, elicited from teammates comparisons to basketball’s LeBron James and inspired a bidding war for a “one-of-a-kind” baseball card that eventually went for more than $16,000 on the online auction site eBay.
And now the real fun begins. After a blistering minor league apprenticeship, the Washington Nationals announced Monday, May 31 that Strasburg will make his major league debut at Nationals Park against the Pittsburgh Pirates Tuesday, June 8.
Not surprisingly, tickets to Strasburg’s debut immediately became the hottest and hardest to get in baseball. As of Friday, June 4, the only tickets left at Nationals.com were part of a “Flex Plan” in which fans buy two tickets to three games and get a voucher for one free ticket to a fourth. Total price for that package for a fan purchasing upper deck seats: $124.50.
Those looking just to attend Strasburg’s debut will find plenty of competition on the online ticket market. On Wednesday, June 2, ticket search engine FanSnap announced it there were more than 3,000 listings for tickets—collected from five different sites—for Strasburg’s debut. The average price per ticket: $102.13. In addition, The Washington Post reported Thursday, June 3 that the top price for a ticket to the June 8 game on StubHub was $500.
Strasburg has proven worthy of the buildup—he went 7-2 with a 1.30 ERA in 11 minor league starts and struck out five times as many batters (65) as he walked (13) in 55 1/3 innings—and his arrival comes at an opportune time for the Nationals, which have struggled to lure fans to Nationals Park despite a better-than-expected start (26-29 through June 3).
The Nationals, losers of at least 100 games each of the last two years, have never posted a winning record in five-plus seasons since the franchise moved to Washington from Montreal. The team averaged 20,760 fans through their first 24 home dates this season, ranking them 14th among the 16 National League teams through Wednesday, June 2.
Ticket brokers almost can’t give away tickets to Nationals games not started by Strasburg: The Washington Post reported that StubHub had 16 tickets to the Friday, June 4 game priced at 99 cents. So it makes sense, then, that Strasburg’s promotion is timed so that the Nationals will get quite a boost at the box office: Presuming he pitches every fifth day, he is scheduled to make four of his first six starts at home. So while there is only one chance to see his debut, Nationals fans will get plenty of opportunities—and presumably cheaper ones, as well—to see if the reality of Strasburg matches the hype.