Last year, 35,489 people bought a ticket to the first Nationals Saturday home game of the season, against the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday, April 14. Today’s game brought in 41,992 people–the young season’s second sell-out.
Why did 6,503 additional people decide to attend today’s game? There are several likely explanations.
Last year’s starting pitcher was Edwin Jackson, a pitcher so unnoteworthy I forgot he was on the team until I just looked up the game’s box score. This year’s starting pitcher was a gentlemen named Stephen Strasburg, otherwise known as The Biggest Pitching Phenom in a Generation. Last year, the Nats were coming off their sixth straight losing season. This year, they are the defending National League East National Champions. Last year, the opponent was the Cincinnati Reds, the smallest of small market teams. This year, the Nats faced the much-hyped, first-place, mega-market Atlanta Braves, on FOX no less, a small distinction that matters to people for some reason.
Perhaps one, or all, of these reasons explain the attendance bump at Nats Park this afternoon. But the most likely explanation is the Gio Gonzalez bobblehead given to the first 15,000 fans in attendance. People love bobbleheads. The Nats may have lost today, but at least 15,000 people walked away happy. Thanks for coming the stadium today, folks. May your bobblehead bobble on your desk, in your den, or–most likely–in the closet, where it will stay until you throw it away several years from now when Gio Gonzalez is pitching for another team.