Phillies host 100th consecutive sellout
Club has sold out 272 of 540 games since park opened in '04
PHILADELPHIA -- It seems like something that happens only at Wrigley Field, Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium.
It is happening at Citizens Bank Park, too.
The Phillies had their 100th consecutive sellout Thursday night against the Giants, and drew 45,449 fans, their biggest crowd of the season. Perhaps more impressive, the club has sold out 272 of 540 regular-season games (50.3 percent) since the Bank opened in 2004.
"It's amazing," Phillies president David Montgomery said. "We've been so fortunate to enjoy such tremendous fan support. There's a tremendous bond between the players and fans. It's neat that the players notice it. It definitely gives us an edge when we're playing clubs. And clearly that fan support has allowed us to keep this group together and do other things."
The Phils left Veterans Stadium in '04 for a warmer, more fan-friendly ballpark across the street. That coincided with more talent on the field.
Combine a better team with a better ballpark, three National League East titles, two NL pennants and one World Series championship, and it is easy to see why the Phillies are drawing well.
The trick is keeping it up.
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins said Thursday the fan support has been great and that it absolutely helps them on the field. But he also acknowledged a packed house in 2010 does not guarantee a packed house in '11 or '12 or beyond.
"If we keep winning, they'll keep showing up," he said. "If we don't do that, believe me, they will not be here."
The Phillies should be NL contenders for at least a couple more seasons. They have a payroll of more than $140 million, which is one of the highest in baseball. It has allowed them to lock up talents like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Roy Halladay. It also allowed them the flexibility to acquire Roy Oswalt before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
"The reality is that we now have a range in which we think we can anticipate our attendance to be each year," Montgomery said. "It's a higher range than we would have guessed two or three years ago. It has enabled us to make contractual commitments to retain some key players here. There will always be decisions about who those players are, but look at what we did with Ryan and Utley. Halladay is here for a while."
Of course, how long can the streak last? Phillies vice president of sales and ticket operations John Weber pointed out that the Phils have tickets remaining for 21 of their remaining 23 home games. But whenever the streak ends, it will be the first time since July 6, 2009, they have not sold out a game. They sold 41,458 tickets that night against the Reds.
Capacity at the Bank is 43,651, although they often draw much more because of standing room tickets. They need to sell at least 42,900 tickets to be considered a sellout.
"We've averaged over 3.1 million in the seven years at Citizens Bank Park," Weber said. "It's always been about the ballpark, our homegrown winning team and the fans. Those three components make our job so much easier."
Manager Charlie Manuel acknowledged those fans in a brief speech before Thursday's game.
"I'd just like to say you're the best fans I've ever seen in baseball," he said. "And your energy and the fact you pull for us every night is going to help us get to the World Series again."
And the fans cheered.
Howard could rejoin club by weekend
PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies could have Ryan Howard back in the lineup before the end of the weekend.
The club announced Thursday that Howard will begin a rehab assignment Friday with Class A Lakewood. He is scheduled to play Saturday with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. The Phillies have not said what might happen after Saturday, but there is a chance he could rejoin the Phillies for Sunday's series finale against the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park.
"We'll just have to see how it goes," manager Charlie Manuel said.
Howard, who has been on the disabled list since Aug. 2 because of a sprained left ankle, was unavailable to comment.
The Lakewood BlueClaws will retire Howard's No. 29, which he wore when he played there in 2002, before Friday's game. He will be the first former BlueClaws player to have his number retired.
The Phillies are expected to option outfielder Domonic Brown to Lehigh Valley once they activate Howard.
If Howard is not ready Sunday, Monday's series opener against the Astros is likely.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.