Harrisburg and Eastern League Excited About Strasburg
Just a few days prior to the start of the minor league season and you can bet clubs are doing all the last-minute scrambling to get ready for their teams to arrive from Arizona or Florida as big league clubs break their minor league camps.Â Opening Day is here, ready or not!
The biggest assignment is that of Washington Nationals super prospect, Stephen Strasburg, who will make his professional debut with the Harrisburg Senators in the Eastern League.Â There might not be a better promotional giveaway or theme night this season compared to when Strasburg takes the bump for the Senators.
Strasburg is scheduled to start at Altoona on April 11 and then his next two starts, if he stays on normal rest, will be at home on the Senators’ first homestand of the season.
Randy Whitaker, the general manager of the Senators and Terry Byrom, the club’s play-by-play announcer were gracious enough recently to answer some questions about the arrival of the next big pitching phenom.
Question:Â Is their more excitement than normal around your club, with the Nationals announcing that Stephen Strasburg will open up the season with Double-A? â€“
Randy Whitaker:Â “Definitely.Â We were already having a big off season as a new stadium is just finishing up and plans for hosting the 2010 Eastern League All-Star game are in full swing.”
Terry Byrom:Â “Steve, absolutely. Wow. It is really amazing that there is as much excitement as there is because of Strasburg, but weâ€™re happy for it. Our ticket sales are up about three times more than normal for this time of year since the announcement he was coming.Â Iâ€™ve already been contacted by MASN, ESPN, and Fox News Channel not to mention all of the local media and the somewhat local media that doesnâ€™t normally cover us. I expect that as April 16th nears Iâ€™ll have even more requests. The good news we have a brand new ballpark and room for all the requests.”
Question:Â When did you find out thatÂ Strasburg would be assigned to your club?
Randy Whitaker:Â “About 12 hours before the rest of the world did â€¦ assuming he does actually end up here.Â Things can change.”
Question:Â Does the major league affiliate go about giving any particular instructions with a prospect of this caliber?Â Things they would like done or things they donâ€™t want you doing? â€“
Randy Whitaker:Â “His public interest calls for extra security and media controls.Â The Nationals have been a welcomed contributor to the plan for dealing with that interest.”
Question:Â Are you gearing up any last minute and special promotions early on in the season geared around Strasburg?
Randy Whitaker:Â “He IS a special promotion.Â We are making a few special merchandise purchases.”
Terry Byrom:Â “No we arenâ€™t going to have anything special while heâ€™s here but Iâ€™m sure weâ€™ll have plenty of Strasburg related promotions in the coming months and years such as a bobblehead giveaway and more. His first start happens to correspond with our first Flatscreen and Fireworks Friday. Every Friday home game this season weâ€™ll be giving away a 26â€ flatscreen TV and then fireworks after the game. Altogether weâ€™re giving away at least 99 TVs this year.”
Question:Â If he stays on normal rest, he should make two starts on your first home stand of the season,Â do you expect a jump in ticket sales this week and leading up to the start of the season?
Randy Whitaker:Â “Already experiencing that jump.”
Question:Â Do you expect to see a spike in attendance when heâ€™s scheduled to start at home?
Randy Whitaker:Â “Iâ€™d be surprised if it didnâ€™t.”
Terry Byrom:Â “As I already mentioned, our ticket sales are already going crazy and the team isnâ€™t even here yet. We expect that once the team is here early next week, our ticket sales will jump even more. Our FanFest is Saturday, April 10th and we expect ticket sales to really jump then.Â Typically 2 weeks out from our opening weekend our sales would be somewhere between 750 to 1000 per game and now we are over 2000 for the two starts heâ€™s making (including a Wednesday morning) and tickets have only been on sale for a few days.
Question:Â Anytime a team gets a clubâ€™s prospect, one of the first questions becomes how long do you expect him to be here.Â Have you asked that question or is it a matter of enjoying having him for as long as heâ€™s there?
Randy Whitaker:Â “Speculation is really useless.Â We have no control over how long he stays, so weâ€™ll try to take full advantage and enjoy it while we can.”
Terry Byrom:Â “I would guess heâ€™ll be here until at least early May, then beyond that is really dependent on how he does. And yes, Iâ€™m enjoying this for as long as the ride lasts.”
Question:Â Most club’s have situations where they have host families that take players in during their time in a particular city, does Harrisburg have a program like this and have you had any inquiries from host families?
Randy Whitaker:Â “We have had a network of host families for years.Â Some folks have housed players since the Senators returned to City Island in 1987.”
Question:Â What, if anything, have you learned about Strasburg in your prep that hasn’t been covered already:
Terry Byrom:Â “I havenâ€™t really had time to sit down and do any prep yet.Â My time has been taken with all the media requests, interviews, etc. that have occurred since we found out heâ€™s going to be a Harrisburg Senator for a while.”
Sugar’s Random Thoughts:
Great to see that former big league Doug Glanville has signed up to serve as analyst with ESPN and Baseball Tonight.Â Those in charge should do all they can do to make sure that the likes of Glanville be involved with the game for years to come.
I wasn’t all that surprised to see Darryl Strawberry go out the way he did on Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice.Â I chuckled when Holly Robinson Peete said she was upset because he was bailing on his charity.Â The way I see it, Darryl sees himself as his own charity for years.Â In case you missed it, the Mets had him throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Citi Field on Monday
When you are driving around your town or city this spring and summer, take notice of all the vacant baseball fields where young kids should be playing.Â Instead, they are on skateboards, basketball courts, or elsewhere.Â You want to make major league baseball more appealing to the next generation, get them out on the ballfields, boys and girls.
Let’s hope that Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts stays healthy and his back issues don’t plague him long term.Â Baseball is better when the Orioles are good and Robers is one of the leaders of that club.
I am looking forward to watching Roy Oswalt pitch on television at least twice this season.