Andrew Mollenbeck, wtop.com
WASHINGTON – The Fightin’ Phils are coming, and the Nationals aren’t exactly offering a chair.
Next Friday, the Philadelphia Phillies arrive for their first three-game series of the season at Nationals Park.
In past years, the crew coming down Interstate 95 has invaded the stadium such that blogs brazenly called it “Citizens Bank Park South,” playing off the name of the Phillies’ home field.
Local sports media have bemoaned the oddity of the Nationals getting booed in their own park.
But this year, the Nationals launched an effort called “Take Back the Park,” trying to give priority to Nats fans.
“We felt very strongly at the end of last year that we needed to do something about it. We had a very good young team,” says Andrew Feffer, the Nationals’ chief operating officer.
“We wanted to provide our fans with the first opportunity to purchase tickets for that series and really ignite a natural rivalry between two teams two-and-a-half hours apart.”
Beginning in February, fans in the District, Maryland and Virginia had the first shot at pre-sale tickets for the series.
“The local response was the highest ticket sales that we had for any series this year, both for pre-sale and when single-game tickets went on sale,” Feffer says.
Just a week out, there are still tickets available for the series, especially for the games on Friday and Sunday.
The Nationals’ latest promotion offers free tickets to a future game with the purchase of two tickets to the series.
The Philly faithful have pounced.
“It’s clear that our friends from the nation’s capital are having a bit of trouble taking back their park,” a post on crossingbroad.com exults.
Phillies fans are still planning a sabotage of Nats Park for the Sunday game.
“I love it,” Feffer says. “It’s exactly what a rivalry is about.”
“The fact that they’ve responded to this acknowledges just where we are in terms of a rivalry and how good of a team that we have,” Feffer says.
The Friday game may have a little extra hype. The Nationals’ pitching rotation is set to land on Stephen Strasburg for the opener.
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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)
The National Park Service has said the fire was likely human caused, but that remains under investigation.