CLEVELAND -- The sign might have read "Indians Merchandise," but the items in the booth below reflected something else entirely. People were lining up to buy a No. 37 jersey at Progressive Field on Sunday, and it wasn't Tribe right-hander Jake Westbrook's No. 37 they were interested in. It was that of Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg, making his second career Major League start. Taking full advantage of what some dubbed "Strasmas" -- i.e. the dramatic, Christmas-like effect Strasburg's presence had on ticket sales for Sunday's matinee, which drew their second-largest crowd of the season -- the Indians made what is believed to be an unprecedented move in this ballpark, dedicating an entire merchandise stand to an opponent.
"We just wanted to maximize the opportunity," said Bob DiBiasio, the Indians' vice president of public relations. "It only makes sense." For some, this led to some potential conflicts of interest. You might even call them moral dilemmas. Donning a Grady Sizemore jersey, 13-year-old Johnny Dudinec, of Hudson, Ohio, plunked down $25 of his own money for a Strasburg jersey T-shirt. It was the boy's own small investment in one of the more hyped rookies in Major League history, but it didn't deter him from his true rooting interests. He would wear the shirt at some point, but not on this day. "Not in here," Dudinec said, clutching the sealed bag close to his chest. Every item in the booth, which sat outside the Tribe's Team Shop, was some form of Strasburg's jersey. The replica jersey was going for $100, and kids' jerseys were going for $65. "He'll probably outsell the [Indians'] store," said Torin Walters, who made the drive to Cleveland from Huntington, W.Va., with his son and his son's friend. "We took a picture of the 'Indians Merchandise' sign. It's nothing but Strasburg here." Strasburg, who allowed a run on two hits with five walks and eight strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings to post his second victory, was the reason folks were lined up at the Will Call and ticket windows outside the Gate A entrance on Gateway Plaza. And he was the reason the Indians credentialed about 50 more media members than they do for the average game. According to DiBiasio, the Indians sold roughly 13,000 tickets since midnight ET on Wednesday, following Strasburg's 14-strikeout debut against the Pirates on Tuesday night. A walkup crowd of 3,823 descended upon Progressive Field on Sunday, bringing the total announced attendance to 32,876. Only the Tribe's sold-out home opener has drawn more this season. Strasburg, then, provided a needed spark in sales for an Indians team that entered the day ranked last in the Majors in average attendance (16,023). "The energy around the ballpark reminded people of the fun of 2007 [when the Indians reached the American League Championship Series]," DiBiasio said. "People were coming up to me, saying, 'This is fun! There's a buzz!'" That buzz is what lured 19-year-old David Carver, a Tribe fan from nearby Mansfield, Ohio, to come to Progressive Field for the very first time. "I want to see history," Carver said. On "Strasmas," that feeling was shared by many.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.