At Citizens Bank Park, sellouts with seats available

Posted: May 06, 2011

During yesterday's Cardinals telecast, the hometown announcers took a break from the action to note that there are plenty of good seats available for upcoming games. They even urged their audience to hurry up and buy their tickets for the Cubs series the first weekend in June to make sure the dreaded Chicagoans don't have a chance to invade Busch Stadium.

Attendance is down across baseball. There have been notes all season about teams drawing record-low crowds. On Monday, for example, the Tigers had their smallest announced attendance for a Yankees game at Comerica Park in a decade. That low-water mark lasted until Wednesday when they drew even less.

Plenty of good seats available. That's a familiar line we all have heard hundreds of times. It also has been noticeably missing from Phillies broadcasts in recent years.

It's different at Citizens Bank Park. The Phils had their 140th straight regular-season sellout last night and there's no end in sight. Virtually all the tickets for the remainder of the regular season are accounted for.

That leaves the impression that it's practically impossible to see a game in person without planning months in advance. Which isn't necessarily the case.

For starters, they hold back 500 standing-room-only tickets that go on sale 4 hours before each game. They generally have what's described as "limited" tickets available for impulse purchasers.

"It's mostly standing-room-only. But the Dodgers games in early June, we have limited tickets available. It might be a hundred, it might be 200. So, yes, it's limited but most of it's standing room," explained John Weber, vice president of sales and ticket operations.

Go to StubHub, though, and as of late yesterday afternoon there were more than 2,400 tickets on sale for tonight's game against the Braves. For the three-game series against the Red Sox at the end of June, the website lists more than 4,000 seats for sale for each of the games. That's nearly 10 percent of the listed capacity.

Major League Baseball has a partnership with StubHub, but Weber said all Phillies tickets are sold directly to the public and that these are strictly fan-to-fan transactions.

It also should be pointed out that at almost any game, there are a goodly number of empty seats in the upper decks down both foul lines.

"A small percentage of that is people whose plans changed at the last minute, or who decided not to attend because of a dicey weather forecast or whatever. All our seats are sold. We always have some factor that people aren't able to make it for some reason, but our no-show factor is very, very low," Weber said.

That doesn't explain all those blocs of unoccupied blue seats, though.

"I think the reason is the ballpark, how people just walk around. Whether they're at the concessions, whether they're at a drink rail or they're just walking around," Weber said. "Maybe a group of people go to Bull's BBQ for a couple innings. I put that to the design of the ballpark and the openness of it."

One more question. If every game is a sellout, why does the official paid attendance vary from night to night?

"It comes down to our suites. We have our 70 suites and we have six or seven party suites we sell and even our corporate community, there's a demand and the thirst for our tickets," Weber said. "So if every suite is ordering five or more additional tickets per suite, you could have 250 or 300 more tickets and that's the variation per game. We have five group rooms we sell [as a minimum of 22] but everybody is ordering 28, 30 tickets."

So now you know.

---

PHAIR & PHOUL

* The sincerest form: Everybody knows by now that defending NL Cy Young winner Roy Halladay struggled so badly early in his career that he went all the way back to Class A, where pitching coach Mel Queen convinced him to deliver the ball from a three-quarters arm slot instead of straight overhand.

The Pirates are hoping Charlie Morton will follow the same path, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Last season, Morton was 1-9, 9.35 when he was sent to Bradenton to decompress. It was the worst start since Halladay had a 10.64 ERA for the Jays when he was shipped out in 2000. This spring, Morton was convinced to lower his arm angle as well. Now he's 3-1, 3.52 going into his next start tomorrow.

The Pirates are so convinced there's a parallel that they made up a Halladay video for Morton to watch. Pitching coach Ray Searage and pitching coordinator Jim Benedict especially wanted him to see how Halladay's head remains still during his delivery.

"For me, it was just fun because of how great he is and because he went through a lot of my kind of struggles," Morton told the paper. "I knew he was the best and that's what I wanted to be."

Add Doc: Pirates first baseman Lyle Overbay also sees more than a passing resemblance between Roy Halladay and Charlie Morton.

"Charlie's the spitting image," he told the Post-Gazette. "And, to be honest, he's got better stuff than Roy does. Roy has a better idea where his ball is going since he's been doing it a lot longer. And the sinker comes out of Charlie's hand way better."

* Dominican data: Neil Paine recently posted a blog on baseball-reference.com that ranked the best players from the Dominican Republic by position, as measured by Wins Above Replacement (WAR).

The Phillies were represented by only one player they signed and developed: Juan Samuel, who was rated fifth among second basemen. Robinson Cano was second, Luis Castillo third and Alfonso Soriano fourth.

Interestingly, though, current Phillies third baseman Placido Polanco was No. 1 on the list. And there were several other players with Phillies ties. Pedro Martinez, who finished his career with the Phils in 2009, was the No. 1 starting pitcher and Jose DeLeon (1992-93) was 11th. Jose Mesa, who holds the club record with 112 saves, was fourth among relievers and Felix Rodriguez (2004) was 13th.

And George Bell, a Phillies discovery who was taken by the Blue Jays in the Rule 5 draft and went on to have an All-Star career, was ranked ninth among outfielders.

---

AROUND THE BASES

* When in Philly: According to espnnewyork.com, Mets bullpen catcher Dave Racaniello set a new Citizens Bank Park visitors clubhouse record by consuming 14 cheesesteaks when the team was in town last weekend.

* Rumor, rumor: Giants general manager Brian Sabean didn't seem amused when asked about speculation that he might try to acquire shortstop Jose Reyes, who can become a free agent at the end of the season, from the Mets.

"So typical of today's world," he replied. "It's connect-your-dots, so there's nothing to talk about. Talk to the clown from CBS or whatever outlet [expletive] came up."

* Be prepared: This sort of helps put Cal Ripken's streak into perspective. The current major league leader in consecutive games played in Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp. He's at 236 and counting. At this rate he'd surpass Ripken on the second-to-last day of the 2025 season. That's 5,618 days away Make your plans now.

* Theft deterrent: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution points out that the Braves had a major league-low five stolen bases going into last night while being caught 10 times.

"That's the dynamic of the club," shrugged manager Fredi Gonzalez. "Who would you say on our club is a bona-fide base stealer?"

* Add Braves: Don't look now but Atlanta, the team most expected to be the biggest threat to the Phillies' chances of a fifth straight division title, has won 10 of its last 13 games. But they had picked up only a half-game on the Phils during that hot streak.

* No-no uh-oh: Congratulations to Minnesota's Francisco Liriano for his no-hitter against the White Sox on Tuesday night. But a classic it wasn't. He threw first-pitch strikes to just 11 of 30 batters he faced. That's just 36.7 percent.

BY THE NUMBERS

5: Series sweeps won by the Indians this season. That's one more than the Tribe managed all last season.

9: Pitchers to make at least one start in 17 straight seasons after Tim Wakefield made a spot start for the Red Sox last Sunday. The others: Red Faber, Jesse Haines, Mel Harder, Walter Johnson, Ted Lyons, Phil Niekro, Warren Spahn and Don Sutton.

28: Straight winless starts, the major league record held by Matt Keough. Jo-Jo Reyes is just five away from breaking it.

IMMUNITY CHALLENGE

Crain's Chicago Business speculates that White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen won't get fired no matter how badly the team does this year. The rationale is that the team doesn't have any real stars and that Guillen is the franchise's most marketable commodity at the moment.

|
|
|
|
|