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02/28/09 7:36 PM EST

Fans heat up the box office

Braving freezing cold, Crew faithful break record for single-game tickets

PHOENIX -- It was 22 degrees in Milwaukee on Saturday, but that didn't stop some hardy Brewers fans from stopping by the ballpark.

Hundreds of them had been camped out for days by the time regular-season, single-game ticket sales began in the morning. By the time the Brewers faced the Angels in 79-degree Phoenix, Opening Day tickets were long gone, and by the time Brewers righty Nick Green threw the game's final pitch, the team had all but sold out six games and set a single-day sales record of 104,000.

"It was sort of a tent community here for a good part of the week," said Rick Schlesinger, the Brewers' executive vice president of business operations. "We had fans here 10 days ago asking to pitch tents, but for their own safety we asked them to wait until Wednesday. We've never had anything like it before."

Many of those fans came equipped with tents, blankets, barbecue grills and, as one die-hard told Milwaukee's WISN-TV, "a lot of liquid refreshments." Most were interested in the 1,500 or so tickets still available for the April 10 home opener against the Cubs.

Are they crazy?

"Some might say that," Brewers fan Mike Schmidt told WISN reporter Stephanie Sutton.

"I love the Brewers and I want to get tickets for Opening Day," Zach Zwadzich said. "I think it's worth it. You just block out the cold, knowing that you're going to get tickets and it's going to be warmer on the day you get to use those tickets."

It's been that kind of sales season for the Brewers, who reached 1 million tickets sold this year on Jan. 19, the earliest date in franchise history. Despite the slumping U.S. economy, sales have been fueled mostly by the Brewers' successful 2008, when they reached the playoffs for the first time in 26 years.

In terms of sponsorships, the team did lose one major backer when Mercedes-Benz pulled out of a group party area in right field, but AirTran stepped in. Another new group area sponsored by Harley-Davidson is set to open in 2009.

"We had a couple of wild cards going into the season," Schlesinger said. "One was winning the Wild Card, and the other was the state of the general economy. Right now I would say we are right where we would expect to be in terms of sales without the economic trouble."

Last year, the Brewers set a record by selling 98,000 tickets on the first day of single-game sales. This year's total topped that, despite the fact that the jump in season-seat sales meant more fans were buying their tickets ahead of time.

Some tickets do remain for this year's home opener and the five other virtual sellouts, according to Schlesinger. That's because the team reserves a small number of seats for those fans still interested in full-season or 20-game ticket packages.

In addition to April 10 against the Cubs, the games for which the allotment of individual tickets was exhausted include April 11 and May 8-10 against the Cubs and June 13 against the White Sox. According to a Brewers news release, it's the first time in team history that a regular-season game other than Opening Day has sold out on the first day of availability.

In addition, "very limited inventory" remains for May 2-3 against the Diamondbacks, May 30 against the Reds, July 11 against the Dodgers and July 25 against the Braves.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.