Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Bad weather prevented the Nationals from working out in front of fans today.
"Obviously, they're going to monitor it all night long," Lerner said this evening during a session with reporters at NatsFest. "If we know that it's going to be really bad, we'll cancel it early. If not -- and it could go either way -- we'll just keep on going and do the best we can."
Rain started falling this afternoon and forced the majority of NatsFest indoors or onto the concourse level at Nationals Park. Tomorrow's forecast has changed throughout the day. Earlier today, weather.com said there was an 80 percent chance of rain at first pitch. Now, the website puts the odds at only 10 percent to 20 percent until 4 p.m., at which point it climbs to 40 percent. Either way, temperatures are expected to be in the low-40s.
Lerner said the team would be willing to delay the start of the game if it looked like conditions would improve, but he said the forecast gets worse into the evening, so there's no chance of an evening start. If the game is postponed, it would be made up Friday afternoon, most likely at 1:05 p.m., when the forecast calls for partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the 50s.
"It's a tough position to be in," Lerner said. "A lot of people, since it's a weekday, they have one day off and they can't really come on Friday. So we really want to try to get it in if we can."
Lerner said only a handful of single seats are still available for the opener, making it nearly a sellout. He did not provide an exact figure for season tickets sold this season but suggested the number has declined some from last year's total (which was believed to be around 10,000).
"It's pretty much what we expected," he said. "It's along the lines of what it was last year at this time. But I think when we get W's in the win column, there will be plenty of people out here. That's when we deserve to be rewarded: When we get W's on a consistent basis."
Today's rain kept attendance down at NatsFest, but Lerner said the club will probably keep the event scheduled for the day before Opening Day next year after holding it in January the past two years.
"I like the idea of trying to do this on the day before," he said. "First of all, in the wintertime, you don't know who you're going to get. They're on vacations, or this or that comes up. But I think if we had good weather today, this would have been a good crowd. You get to see everybody. Also we were able to bring up Bryce [Harper] and Stephen [Strasburg], so everyone can see he's still alive and well.
"I think it would have been a great scene out there with batting practice if we could have pulled it off. So my guess is we'll try to do the same thing next year and see if we can get better weather next time around."
The Nationals packed up and left Viera, Fla., Tuesday amid questions about their future spring training plans. Lerner reiterated today that the club intends to relocate its spring headquarters to another site on Florida's Gulf Coast or in Arizona because of the remote location in Viera relative to other camps.
That eventual move, though, won't happen for at least two more years as the Nationals pay off the final construction bond payments they owe to Brevard County through 2013 and wait for a new facility to be built.
"We'll be in Viera at least through 2013, and we'll have to see if we select a new location what it's going to take to get a stadium built and the timeframe on that," Lerner said. "But certainly the next two years, we'll absolutely be in Viera. We couldn't move any sooner if we wanted to."
Lerner said it's unlikely another major-league club would want to relocate to Viera and share the facility with the Nationals, citing the overall decline of spring training on Florida's East Coast.
"I think the East Coast, it's unfortunate, but it's not what it was 15-20 years ago, where everybody kind of went that direction," he said. "I remember when I was growing up, I went to Pompano Beach to see the Senators. It's not like that any more."