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02/18/10 2:10 PM EST

Fans line up early to buy Phils tickets

Individual game sales brisk at chilly Citizens Bank Park

There may have been snow on the ground, but winter was the last thing on anyone's mind early Thursday morning at Citizens Bank Park.

Instead, thoughts were focused on spring and the return of baseball, as fans lined up at the West Ticket Windows to be among the first to purchase tickets to the 2010 Phillies season.

Leading the pack was 18-year old Rob Melrath from Ridley Township, Pa., who easily convinced his 19-year-old cousin, Chuck, to join him. The two had ventured to the ballpark late Wednesday night -- but after seeing no line, went home to catch a few hours sleep. They returned at 5 a.m. ET and claimed their top spots once more.

"We're trying to get tickets to see [Roy] Halladay pitch the first few times as a Phillie," said Melrath.

When tickets went on sale at 8 a.m., the dedicated duo succeeded in their quest -- and even received a congratulatory hug from the Phillie Phanatic and Phillies Ballgirls. Both had huge smiles when showcasing their Phillies tickets.

"We're definitely coming back here every year," said Melrath.

"Fans have continuously shown their support for the Phillies year after year," said John Weber, vice president of sales and ticket operations.

And that support has been tremendous. More than 2.7 million fans have already purchased tickets to the 2010 season -- a telltale sign that the National League champions will receive a warm reception home upon their return from Spring Training in April, beginning with Opening Week at Citizens Bank Park.

Among those who will be there to cheer on the Fightin' Phils is Willow Grove, Pa., resident Jay Hersh. This was Hersh's second year in coming to the ballpark on the first day of ticket sales, and second year being seventh in line to purchase tickets. But this time, he brought his wife, Cookie.

"I told her how great it was ... and wanted to show my bride what it was like," said Hersh.

Cookie was not disappointed. She, like many others, enjoyed plenty of perks provided by the Phillies.

Beginning at 7 a.m. at the Majestic Clubhouse Store, fans had the chance to take photos with the 2009 National League Championship trophy and 2008 World Series trophy, win a pair of tickets to Opening Day through an in-store drawing, get a sneak peek at the Toyota Roy Halladay Bobble Figurine and other 2010 Phillies giveaways and enjoy a complimentary breakfast.

Plus, everyone received a 15 percent discount on all items purchased -- including the new Phillies authentic 2010 batting practice cap, which will be worn by players starting Thursday, when pitchers and catchers report, as well as throughout Spring Training and in-season pregame workouts.

"It's a good day," exclaimed Cookie, just before being twirled by the fun-loving Phillie Phanatic.

And with so many signs that baseball was just around the corner, it certainly was a good day indeed.

Deb Rinaldi is a contributor to MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.