Of all the National Football League teams that failed to win the Super Bowl last year, the Philadelphia Eagles might have the best (or worst) “what if?” scenario — as in, what if the Eagles hadn’t left 13 points on the field (in the form of two missed field goals and a last-minute interception into the end zone by Michael Vick) in a 21-16 loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers in an NFC wild card game?
That loss might be particularly stinging to football-mad Philadelphia fans because there’s no way to know when the Eagles will take the field again and resume their pursuit of the franchise’s first Super Bowl win and first NFL championship, period, since 1960.
Fortunately for Philadelphians, the Major League Baseball season starts today, Thursday, March 31, and the Phillies — for so long the worst of the city’s four major professional sports teams — seem guaranteed to thrive well into football season, whenever that finally begins.
“People around here are eager to get down to the stadium,” Wanamaker Ticket Office general manager Jake Conaway told TicketNews. “We’ve sold more season ticket plans this year than we ever have. A lot, a lot, a lot — every day it’s non-stop for Phillies tickets. No matter what’s going on in town, the Phillies orders keep coming in. People keep calling about them.”
The Phillies, who open play Friday, April 1 when they host the Houston Astros at Citizens Bank Park, begin the season as the overwhelming favorite to win the NL East for the fifth straight season and return to the World Series for the third time in four years. Along the way, the Phillies will almost certainly enjoy another 81 sellouts at 43,647-seat Citizens Bank, which has hosted a capacity crowd in 123 straight regular season games dating back to July 7, 2009, and lead the NL in average attendance for the second straight year.
According to ticket price forecaster and search engine SeatGeek, the Phillies currently rank seventh among MLB’s 30 teams in average ticket price on the secondary market at $69. Average listed price for a ticket to the Astros game is $150, as of today. The Boston Red Sox have the highest average ticket price on the secondary market at $97.82.
“I personally created about six different Phillies season ticket plans that we made available to all of our customers this year and it was a huge, huge success,” Conaway said. “Anybody that wants Phillies season tickets, they can pick whatever package they want and they can pick whatever seats they want. We go over pricing with them and give them multiple different choices.”
Such success was unimaginable 15 years ago, when the Phillies were in the midst of a two-decade funk (they had just three winning seasons from 1984 through 2002) at Veterans Stadium and regularly ranked at or near the bottom of the National League in attendance.
As well as the Phillies have played and drawn lately, the excitement this season stems from what lies ahead. The Phillies signed Cliff Lee — who pitched for the team in the second half of the 2009 season before being traded to the Seattle Mariners — to join an already formidable rotation that features reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay as well as former 20-game winner Roy Oswalt, former World Series MVP Cole Hamels and fifth starter Joe Blanton, who would likely be a no. 2 or no. 3 starter just about anywhere else. The quintet is being compared to some of the greatest rotations in baseball history.
“People want to come from all over the country to see these guys pitch — it’s not just here in Philadelphia,” Conaway said.
The buzz about the starters is so great that the possibility of a pair of injured stars — second baseman Chase Utley and closer Brad Lidge — could each miss at least the first half of the season has failed to dampen the enthusiasm about the Phillies. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Utley is surrounded by former NL MVPs in first baseman Ryan Howard and shortstop Jimmy Rollins, or that the Phillies’ bullpen is almost as deep as their rotation.