In the past few seasons, whenever the Nats played their National League East rival in D.C., almost nothing but Phils fans flocked to the stadium.
With a much-improved team, which includes left-hander Gio Gonzalez and a healthy Ryan Zimmerman at third base, the Nationals are hoping the turnout is a different story in 2012.
In fact, on Friday morning, they launched "Take Back the Park," an initiative that encourages local Nationals fans to purchase tickets for the first three games against the Phillies before they go on sale to the general public.
Beginning Friday, single-game tickets for the May 4-6 Nats vs. Phils series are only available to season-ticket holders and fans who reside in Washington, Maryland or Virginia. This exclusive presale will ensure that the team's most loyal fans have the first opportunity to purchase tickets to cheer on the Nationals when they play their division rival to the north.
"For several years now, our fans, everybody, have been screaming about the number of Phillies fans that invade our park when we have a series here at Nationals Park," Feffer said. "Frankly, I'm tired of seeing the Phillies fans in our ballpark in Washington more than anything. We sat down as a group and we said, 'You know what? It's time to take our park back in Washington and get our fans in this park.'
"We have a great team this year -- one of the best pitching staffs in the National League, if not the best with the addition of Edwin Jackson and Gonzalez. You have [Stephen] Strasburg and Zimmermann healthy. We sat down and said, 'Let's do something we've never done before. Let's go out prior to single-game tickets going on sale in March and open it up early starting Friday.'
"Any Nationals fan located in Washington, D.C., Virginia or Maryland, who has a credit card tied to that home address, can purchase tickets for the first Phillies series -- May 4-6 -- before they go on sale to the general public, where either Phillies fans or anyone else can get them. It was our way of saying that we want our fans at the park and we are going to do everything we can to make sure that happens."
As an added benefit, season-ticket holders can apply their exclusive discount for single-game tickets during this presale. All season-ticket holders will receive an email with instructions on how to order tickets using the discounted rate.
To take advantage of this offer, Washington-area fans can visit nationals.com/ourpark to register for the presale. Upon verification, they will receive a one-time-use password to complete the order. The Nationals will also verify matching registration and billing information so that tickets are only mailed to local addresses in D.C., Maryland or Virginia in March.
Fans may purchase a minimum of two tickets and up to eight tickets per game in one transaction, while supplies last. For more information on "Take Back the Park" or to purchase tickets, visit nationals.com/ourpark.
"Someone asked me, 'What do you think of Philly and Phillies fans and the series?'" said Feffer. "I couldn't be more direct. I said, 'Forget you, Philly. It's our fans, our time, our park and we are going to fill it with Nationals fans.' We are going to do everything we can to ensure our fans here in Washington that first opportunity to make that happen."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.