With Opening Day Thursday, Dave Howard delivered the first (sales) pitch and the Mets' executive vice president of business operations predicted success on the field and at the box office.
"We're optimistic that the team will play well and that our fans will respond," Howard said Tuesday at Citi Field during a presentation of the 102-seat Party City Deck above the new hitter-friendly leftfield wall.
Capacity is now 41,922. "Tickets are going well for Opening Day," Howard said. "I'm optimistic that we will be sold out. We have a healthy team, we'll play very well and excite the fan base and generate good sales for us."
Howard said "a few thousand" tickets remain "but I'm confident that we'll be selling them coming up to the game. I think we'll basically be at a sellout."
The Mets drew 41,075 against the Nationals for the opener last season and 2,252,596 for the year, down from 2,559,738 in 2010. Citi Field attracted 3,154,262 when it opened in 2009.
Howard would not place a number on the overall attendance expected this season, saying: "We have several projections. We're going to sell as many tickets as we possibly can . . . We think the team will far exceed a lot of the projections and prognostications, so we think that we'll sell well and we're looking to sell more tickets this year than last."
Howard believes the settlement reached by the team's owners with the trustee in the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme also will help attendance. "I think it was an enormous distraction," he said. "Baseball is a joy for fans, it is an escape from some of the day-to-day problems that people face. They didn't want the sort of distraction to intrude upon that. I think that's a big plus for us.
"This team is going to win back the fans. I don't think it will happen immediately. I'm confident it will happen. I don't think we should overreact to what goes on in terms of the early April midweek games, those are always challenging sales. We think as the weather gets better and as the team shows they are a fun team to watch, things will pick up."