Harper draws sell-out crowd for Phillies’ spring training debut

The Bryce Harper effect shows no sign of stopping for the Philadelphia Phillies.

The $330m (€294m) new signing drew a sell-out crowd of 10,276 for his debut with the Major League Baseball team on Saturday, a spring training game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Florida.

Harper has significantly boosted the Phillies’ commercial fortunes since his high-profile arrival as a free agent. The team have sold 340,000 regular-season tickets as well as 2,000 full season tickets.

Harper’s jerseys are also being sold at a record rate. According to Fanatics, Harper’s number three jersey broke company records by becoming the top online seller during the first 48 hours after its launch. Such has been the demand that the Phillies’ team store at Citizens Bank Park even ran out of letter Rs last week.

“I don’t think anybody could have predicted that it would be as extraordinary as it is,” Phillies owner John Middleton told USA Today. “This has created a buzz about a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2011. Fans are looking at this like, ‘You’re credible now’. We have that credibility we didn’t have a year ago. They believe in us now.”

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