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U.S. senator cries foul over Nationals plans to take back park from Phillies fans

Big League Stew

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Sen. Bob Casey wants Nationals tickets to be freely available to Phillies fans. (AP)

Let's get the obvious out of the way first.

No, it would not appear that Bob Casey has any bigger problems to solve. No need to fill up the comments section below.

But in taking his protests against the Washington Nationals public, the Democratic senator from Pennsylvania certainly looks like he's sweating his ability to get tickets when his home state Philadelphia Phillies come to D.C. for a series from May 4-6.

The Nationals' plan to "Take Back The Park" made waves earlier this week when it was announced that presale tickets to that series would be limited to fans owning credit cards registered in Washington D.C., Virginia and Maryland. Though hardly foolproof, the plan was a response to quell the hordes of Philadelphia fans who have jammed Nationals Park (often with the help of Nats officials) since Philadelphia experienced its baseball renaissance.

But if it was also a way to stoke what looks like a burgeoning rivalry between the NL East's old guard and one of its up-and-coming teams, it is wildly succeeding. The ticket-buying restrictions were front page news in Philadelphia and now Casey has drafted a letter of protest to Nats owner Ted Lerner (cc'ing commissioner Bud Selig while he's at it).

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Writes Casey (via the Philadelphia Daily News):

It has come to my attention that residents of Washington, DC, Virginia and Maryland have been given special priority access to tickets sales on the dates in May when the Nationals and the Phillies compete. According to the team's website, only credit card billing addresses from these two states and the District of Columbia will be processed for the presale, effectively blocking thousands of Phillies fans who root for their team by visiting Nationals Park. I appreciate the desire to enjoy a home field advantage, but this unprecedented policy solely and unfairly targets Phillies fans.

As the Nation's capital, Washington DC uniquely plays host to visitors from across the country. In addition to the fans who visit exclusively for Phillies games, tourists from the Commonwealth who hope to include a game on their Washington, DC itinerary could be blocked from attendance. In the spirit of good sportsmanship and healthy competition, I urge you to reconsider the policy and immediately allow Phillies fans equal access to ticket sales at Nationals Park.

Over at Nationals Park, the Nats say they appreciate the esteemed senator's concern but that they're doing the same thing that he is  — protecting the interest of constituents.

"This isn't about Phillies fans, it's about giving Nationals fans more of a chance to buy the tickets," Nats' COO Andy Feffer told Big League Stew on Thursday afternoon. "It's just a presale. We're giving our fans first crack at the tickets until they go on sale in March and then we'll see what's left (for Phillies fans)."

Well, that makes sense. Other teams have long tailored the rules so their own park isn't overrun by opposing fans. The Brewers and White Sox have done it in the past for invading Cubs fans. Baltimore and Tampa Bay would probably do it with Yankees and Red Sox fans if O's and Rays fans were actually buying tickets.

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Phillies fans make their presence known at a game in Nats Park on April 14, 2011. (Getty)

As for the ticket controversy reaching the upper levels of American government as a U.S. senator protests the plan?

"It's interesting that (Casey) tweeted about it," Feffer said. "I'll be interested to see if the senators from Virginia or Maryland have anything to say about it. Get a little bit of a rivalry in the Capitol building going."

Indeed, people probably should be having a little more fun with this than Bob Casey is currently having. It's not as if the Nats are entirely blocking Phillies fans from buying tickets. And when all is said and done, Phillies Nation will still have a loud and vocal — if not a majority — presence at Nats Park in early May.

But since Casey is instigating a little controversy, we'll take the same approach after finding this old photo of him in the AP archive.

He hails from Phillies territory, but just which Pennsylvania baseball team does Mr. Casey really root for?

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Sen. Bob Casey Jr. meets Pirates great Roberto Clemente with his family as a child. (AP)

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