By Patrick Lester
OF THE MORNING CALL
October 7, 2009
The baseball gods threw hard-working Phillies fans a buzz-killing curve this week.
But they sure were smiling on those with free afternoons or a propensity to fake a sniffle in the heat of a pennant race.
The defending world champions play the Colorado Rockies today and Thursday beginning at 2:37 p.m., a time slot that has created a rare buyer’s market for the opening round of the Phillies’ latest playoff march.
Ticket-holders with job commitments are scrambling to sell. The ticket-less with time off or no qualms about playing hooky are capitalizing.
In one case, 10 — count ’em, 10 — tickets were available for $75 a pop, a bargain compared with those going for hundreds.
”My friend and his family were supposed to go, but because the game is so early they can’t,” said Lisa Moise of Philadelphia, who advertised those 10 tickets on Craigslist for a friend who was stuck in the office Tuesday. ”Literally, no one can get off. And I know they’re not the only ones.”
That appeared to be an understatement. Tickets that have been hard to come by all season — the Phils broke an attendance record this season by selling out 72 of their 81 home games, including the final 41 — suddenly are ripe for the buying.
During lunch hour on Tuesday, StubHub.com had 1,096 seats available for today’s game and nearly 1,200 for Thursday’s game. Prices were starting around $51 and went up to $2,000.
One shrewd Craigslist poster was looking to take advantage of the unexpected supply: ”Don’t have a lot of cash so looking for best ticket at lowest price.”
For some, the early start times were a sobering blow to business.
Take Gino Capobianchi. Following last year’s title run, the Philadelphia man bought season tickets for this year, specifically to sell them and make some money. He also guaranteed himself playoff tickets, which normally translate into a big payday on the open market.
Capobianchi, who is 48 and unemployed, put a pair of tickets up on Craigslist for $400 apiece Saturday. By Tuesday, the asking price was down to $280 and heading south.
”So far, nobody called because it’s a bad time,” Capobianchi said. ”I’ll just lower the price until somebody calls.”
He finds himself in an enviable win-win situation . If he doesn’t sell, he’ll make the 20-minute trip to Citizens Bank Park for the game. ”I can still go,” he said. ”When you’re out of work like half the city, you don’t have a schedule.”
Brian Michael, the 28-year-old founder of http://www.philliesnation.com , has a schedule he has to keep. He had to reluctantly turn down offers for tickets to today’s game because of his job as a Web site manager and political fundraiser. He said some Phillies Nation followers were voicing their displeasure over Major League Baseball’s perceived mistreatment of the Phillies.
”Obviously, because people can’t go, they feel the Phillies have been disrespected as the defending world champions,” he said.
Faust Ruggiero, executive director of The Phillies Fan Union, a fan club that says it has 140,000 members, said he was getting mixed reviews on the game times and ticket sales.
”Most of our members feel that the reigning World Series champions should have a prime time start for the first game,” he wrote in an e-mail. ”We’re not hearing that very many are selling their tickets, though. Phillies fans tend to be more hard-core than that.”
Mike Smith, a 25-year-old banker from Wilmington, Del., has eight tickets for today’s game and put six up for sale, four on StubHub.com and a pair on Craigslist. As of noon Tuesday, he sold one pair for $70 apiece — face value was $50 — and was expecting to get more bites on the others.
”I couldn’t find any friends to go because they’re all working,” he said, adding he made more money on last year’s tickets. ”Whoever is making the decisions is making the decisions based on viewership in the whole United States. I don’t think [the Phillies] deserve anything better just because they’re the World Series champions.”
So what happens if sellers don’t get any takers?
”I have no idea,” Moise said. ”We’ll probably start giving them away.”