- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 8, 2013

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Good baseball players know how to make a pitcher pay for a mistake.

They hit it out of the park.

The Nationals‘ front office did something similar Wednesday, albeit with a mistake of their own making. To their credit, they reacted properly and rectified the error.

You may have heard some of the kickback.

The Nats and the Tigers were supposed to start a two-game series on Tuesday night. Rain got in the way as it likes to do and the game was moved to 4:05 p.m. Thursday, originally an off day for both teams.

Then the Nats made the mistake.

Fans could only use their tickets on the makeup date. It was use it or lose it.

The outcry, on social media and elsewhere, was loud. Comments on the team’s Facebook page made for interesting reading. Not everybody can adjust their mid-week schedule and blow off work to make a game rescheduled for late afternoon.

The Nats cited increased demand, less availability for their change. Other teams do it, too, they said.

That doesn’t make it right and the Nats have realized that. Wednesday afternoon, they announced they had changed their policy back to what it was before.

The team’s statement read in part:

The Washington Nationals wish to announce that all fans who purchased tickets for Tuesday night’s postponed game with the Detroit Tigers will be guaranteed their same seats for Thursday’s scheduled 4:05 p.m. makeup game, or will retain the option to exchange their tickets — as they have in the past — for any remaining regular or value home game during the 2013 season, subject to availability. Due to increased attendance at Nationals Park, “rain check” ticket holders are encouraged to contact the Nationals ticket office by phone or online to better ensure seating for those games. The Nationals apologize for any inconvenience.

OK, so maybe the home run metaphor was a reach. Maybe a double to the gap. Whatever, good for the Nats for realizing their error and remembering that respect for the fans who fit Nationals games into their schedules should be their foremost priority.

While they do deserve applause for making the right call, the fact that anyone in the organization thought going away from the policy was a good idea does remain a little disturbing.

Sure, the Nats are much better now than they used to be. Clearly, they will draw more fans than in the past. Options for exchange may not be as plentiful. No reasonable fan can dispute that or be unhappy about it.

But even averaging more than 30,000 fans per game for the first month, the Nats are still averaging about 10,000 empty seats per game. After Wednesday, there are 64 home games remaining.

How many of those are already sold out? Almost certainly none.

Finding seats for those who can’t make it Thursday is more difficult. It is far from impossible.

The original move pretty much violates every fundamental of Customer Service 101. Take care of those who pay for your services. And for the Nats, those are the people who buy their tickets.

Season ticket holders deserve some extra perks, sure. Rewards points, first choice on playoff tickets and all that? No problem. That doesn’t mean those who don’t have plans deserve to be treated unfairly.

The Nats have made a lot of good choices over the years. They’ve gone from miserable to respectable to quite good on the field. Nationals Park remains a good place to watch a game.

But this is one choice the Nats needed to rethink quickly and they did. No matter how good you get or popular you become, being fair to your fans has to remain a priority.

Let’s hope that never changes.

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