Bryce Harper agreed to join the Phillies less than 24 hours ago, but he’s already having a huge impact on ticket sales.
The Phillies sold about 100,000 tickets on Thursday after news broke that Harper would be signing with the team, according to John Weber, the team’s senior vice president of ticket operations.
“It was awesome,” Weber said. “We’ve never sold that many tickets in a single day.”
That flurry of early sales included single games and multi-game packages across the season’s 81 games, as well as season tickets.
Demand is also driving up the cost of Phillies tickets on the secondary market. On Friday, the cheapest ticket for Opening Day on Ticket IQ was $137, up more than 128 percent from the morning before, when the cost of a comparable ticket was around $60. On SeatGeek, the least expensive ticket was $96, while on StubHub the lowest price for a ticket was going for $100.
Weber said the demand from fans was overwhelming, even compared to other recent high-profile free-agent signings. In 2002, when the Phillies signed slugger Jim Thome, the situation was slightly different, he said, as the team was in the process of leaving Veterans Stadium in favor of Citizens Bank Park.
“We had four and a half months to sell that excitement,” Weber said. “But we didn’t sell close to 100,000 tickets the first day.”
When the Phillies re-signed pitcher Cliff Lee in 2010, Weber recalled, the team sold somewhere between 60,000 and 70,000 tickets the first day. But that was also at a point when Citizens Bank Park was full of fans for just about every game.
“The one thing this year is we have tickets to sell,” Weber said. “We have plenty of inventory and we’re looking forward to a great baseball season.”
Harper’s decision to sign with the Phillies has taken the city by storm. Now, with Harper and other free-agent additions Andrew McCutchen, reliever David Robertson, shortstop Jean Segura, and catcher J.T. Realmuto, both players and fans have started to dream about the Phillies’ return to the World Series.
“There’s rally towels waving around. You can’t see an empty seat. You can’t see anywhere where people can stand,” the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins told my colleague Matt Breen. “I don’t want to hear about it anymore. I want to feel it. I think we’re on our way, and Bryce gives us a chance to be there.”
At Citizens Bank Park Friday morning, fans were excited to buy tickets to see Harper play.
Ricky Abate Sr., 62, trekked to the team’s box office and bought two tickets for the second game of the year — a March 30 match-up against the Atlanta Braves. The tickets were an early birthday present for his son, Ricky Jr., who is a Harper fanatic.
The signing itself was an early present and a late gift will be be a Harper jersey, Abate said, once they become available.
The team store has already gotten questions about when Harper merchandise will be released. But the store said it couldn’t say for sure until the signing becomes official.
The ticket box opened on time Friday morning, despite the snow.
“I got a note from one of my people saying Philadelphia got a couple inches of snow,” said Weber, who is in Clearwater, Fla., with the team for spring training. “I said, 'Okay, but we’ve got to open at 8:30. Let’s go.”
He said the box would be open Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to meet the demand.