Due to the constantly changing rosters and very little similarities between this year and the last, most minor league organizations market their team by the name on the front of the jersey. But the Harrisburg Senators realized they had a cash cow in Stephen Strasburg coming to town, so they threw most of their eggs in his basket and marketed this early part of the season towards the name on the back of his jersey.
Start perusing the Senators’ Store at Metro Bank Park and you are overwhelmed with the Strasburg jerseys and t-shirts. Go and buy a scorecard to follow along with at your seat and there he is on the cover. When your stomach starts growling for ballpark food, you can hit up The Spot at the Ballpark and get yourself a Strasburg Jumbo Dog loaded with chili, onions, and mustard.
But can you really blame the Senators for adding to the hype? In his three starts at home, Harrisburg has drawn an average of 6,864 fans – – a 61% jump in attendance from their other seven home games this year. You can’t deny that people are flocking to City Island in droves to see the future major leaguer up close and personal. Hell…I even drove the nearly two hours to Altoona and paid to be ten feet away from his bullpen session before his professional debut.
But now that Strasburg is on his way out of town (whether this week or next), what do the Senators do?
I’m sure they are hoping that the crowds that came to see Strasburg pitch will be so impressed with the renovations to Metro Bank Park that they’ll come back again and again to the stadium that is now a little gem in the middle of the Susquehanna. But there’s still issues that will prevent people from going to the ballpark: the parking and traffic situation, the mayflys, and last but not least the Senators’ play on the field.
Harrisburg is dead last in the Eastern League with a team batting average of .221 and has only scraped out a little over 3 runs a game. Fortunately, the pitching staff has pulled more than their share of the weight as they have compiled a stellar 2.82 ERA to salvage a 10-13 record. And as much as I would rather personally watch a 2-1 pitchers’ duel, I can’t deny that fans dig the long ball and the Senators have only hit a measly 8 home runs so far this season. Can you feel the excitement?
Simply put, if this team continues at this pace it is going to be a long and lonely summer on City Island.
Lost in Strasburgpalooza was the news last week that reliever Drew Storen was promoted to AAA Syracuse. If you didn’t get a chance to see Storen in his 17 appearances as a Senator between last year and this year, then you missed a golden opportunity. Storen was selected only nine spots after Strasburg in last year’s amateur draft and is clearly the Nationals’ closer of the near future. In his time in Harrisburg, Storen was 1-0 with 13 saves and a 0.42 ERA. He struck out 23 and walked just 7 in his 21 2/3 innings of work.
For those following him on Twitter (@drewstoren), you already know that Storen is personable and funny and those attributes will benefit him a long way with the national media and the Washington fanbase. With Storen, it’s not if…it’s when. The kid from Indiana has the physical tools and mental makeup to become not just a solid major leaguer, but a perennial All-Star for the Nats.
Someday when you are telling your kids that you saw Stephen Strasburg pitch in Harrisburg, hopefully for your sake you’ll be able to tell them that you also saw Storen too.