"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.