The sign outside The Wishing Well bar in South Philadelphia read Thursday: Pitchers & Catchers Report in 2 Days.
Outside Citizens Bank Park, hundreds of fans — some of whom had camped out for 24 hours — waited anxiously for the ticket office to open at 8:30 a.m. On Thursday alone, the team sold 70,000 tickets, according to Phillies vice president of ticket sales and operations John Weber, and 3.1 million for the season. Weber said those numbers were similar to what the Phils sold in 2011.
“Fan support has been absolutely incredible,” said Weber. “But there are still good seats available. We encourage fans to continue to go on our website and purchase tickets.”
It’s another reminder of just how much this city has morphed into a Phillies town over the last few years. The reigning NL East champions kick off Spring Training Saturday, when pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater, Fla.
As usual, expectations are high. Most fans agree that anything less than a World Series championship would be a major disappointment. Former Phillie and MLB Network analyst Mitch Williams predicts another 100-plus win season.
“I see another division title. They have that pitching staff and if that rotation isn’t the best in the game, it’s among the best,” Williams said.
The Phillies’ first workout is Sunday and their first exhibition game is Feb. 29 against Florida State.
Mitch Williams shared his thoughts on a few of the Phillies’ biggest questions.
How integral is Charlie Manuel to this team?
“I think Charlie is huge for this team. He knows how to get the most of all of his players. My 16-year-old son could manage a major league game strategically, but Charlie manages 25 different personalities better than anyone.”
How do you explain the last two postseason failures?
“I think the Phillies’ offense was really pressing the last two seaso
ns. They were trying too hard. I think they can still do it, and I think you’ll have the chance to see that this postseason.”
Can John Mayberry Jr. fill the void left by Ryan Howard?
“I think he’s going to be just like Jayson Werth when he broke out with the Phillies a couple of years ago. I think he can be a 30-homer guy and drive in a lot of runs and perhaps make up a good bit of the loss of Howard.”