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Notes: White Sox remain a hot ticket

Notes: White Sox remain a hot ticket

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- Capturing the franchise's first World Series title in almost 90 years as the culmination of 2005's historic season proved to be a little too tough of a challenge for the 2006 squad to repeat.

But trying to maintain or even increase the huge groundswell of fan interest produced in 2006, riding the crest of that particular championship, not to mention doing the same with the new marketing and sponsorship opportunities, remains a challenge Brooks Boyer seems ready to tackle for the 2007 campaign.

"Players are back to the grind, and so are we," said the team's vice president and chief marketing officer with a laugh during a Spring Training interview with MLB.com. "It's tough to compare yourself to 2006, coming off of the World Series, and we will try to keep pace.

"It's really not that much different. When you look over our history, we are having an amazing year."

With a highly competitive AL Central shaping up for 2007, not to mention seven home games with the Yankees, Boyer said the organization is shooting for 3 million fans in attendance. The present projection is for the upper 2 million range, challenging the franchise record of 2,957,411 set last year. The White Sox averaged 36,511 per home contest in 2006, had a 26.2 percent increase that was second in the Majors only behind the Tigers (28.2) and ranked third in the American League in attendance. The team also drew 75 crowds over 30,000, with 67 straight to end the season, and had a club-record 52 sellouts.

As of Wednesday evening, the White Sox have six sellouts already in the 2007 books, not factoring in Monday's Opening Day: All three Cubs games for the weekend of June 22, April 29 against the Angels, May 12 against the Royals and Aug. 25 against the Red Sox. Borrowing liberally from an old adage, plenty of good seats are otherwise available.

"Part of the perception is that people think we are sold out," Boyer said. "There are a lot of games where we don't have availability in the lower deck for people to buy tickets, but there is ticket availability.

"If you want good tickets for the game, buy early. But a lot of the fans sitting in the upper deck realize it's a good view."

Boyer pointed out the team is "pacing way ahead" in group sales and sponsorships, while also being up in a growing season-ticket base, although individual game ticket sales are pacing a little behind. Boyer believes the team is in really good shape, with or without the 2006 comparison, aside from one glaring difference.

"That second [game] isn't an automatic sellout because we aren't giving rings," Boyer said.

Movin' out? With Cactus League action coming to a close for the White Sox on Thursday, 2008 could mark the South Siders' last of 11 springs in Tucson. The Dodgers are on target to move to a new shared facility with the White Sox in Glendale for 2009, but the White Sox still have to work in conjunction with Pima County to find a team to take over the remainder of their Tucson lease.

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If an agreement can't be agreed upon by the two sides, the White Sox will be forced to wait until 2013 for their move to Glendale. Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said earlier in the spring that the organization hasn't "got serious" about finding a new team because the documentation hadn't been finalized on the Glendale move.

Reinsdorf ultimately believes the move to Glendale will be a positive for both the team and the team's fan base.

"There are more Chicagoans there," said Reinsdorf of the Phoenix valley region. "Right now, we have to drive up there eight or nine times per year, but when we are there, we will have to come down [to Tucson] three times. It's a much better deal."

The White Sox played eight games in the Phoenix area this spring, with commutes ranging from two-to-three hours. A team such as the Cubs, training in Mesa, played just three games in Tucson.

It's all over: Jon Garland, Jim Thome and John Danks were the only three players from the White Sox 25-man active roster who stayed back in Tucson for Thursday's spring finale, while the rest of the team traveled to Birmingham, Ala., for an exhibition game with the Double-A squad. The once bustling locker room at Kino Sports Complex was pretty much barren.

"Yeah, I came in and I wanted to cry. Nobody was here," said Garland with a sarcastic grin. "I would actually like to stay another day and not have to fly to Atlanta. But that's Ozzie's choice, and I'm going to go with it."

Garland and Thome will arrive in Atlanta on Friday morning to be with the team for two weekend exhibition contests. But as much as Garland would like to spend that extra day in Arizona, he didn't have any bittersweet feelings about Spring Training's conclusion.

"No, I'm ready to get out of here," Garland said. "There's nothing about Tucson that's great."

Spring situation: Even with the inclusion of Matt Holliday's three-run blast off Garland in the first inning of Thursday's 5-5 tie with the Rockies, the right-hander easily turned in his best effort of the spring. Garland acknowledged feeling strong, while being able to relax in between his seven innings of work and not having to stretch out before returning to the mound.

Recording 12 outs via the ground ball was a good sign for the sinkerball specialist, who struck out three and didn't walk a batter in a spring-best seven innings. And the Holiday home run might not have happened during the regular season, according to Garland.

"I've been trying to work on throwing more changeups to righties during Spring Training," said Garland, who will throw a sideline Sunday in Chicago before making his regular-season debut Wednesday on five days' rest. "It's something I've wanted to try, and it is a perfect opportunity to do so.

"In the regular season, I'm not throwing that pitch in that situation to lead him off -- especially when he hasn't seen anything and I'm not slowing down anything. It's a learning experience. But I felt good, felt great."

Around the horn: The White Sox spring record of 9-21-1 ranked as the worst in baseball and their worst since moving from Florida in 1998. Their standing of 12 1/2 games under .500 is the lowest for the White Sox in spring franchise history. ... Luis Terrero officially accepted his Minor League assignment and will report to camp with Triple-A Charlotte. ... Johan Higginbotham, a NASA astronaut, will throw out the first pitch at the White Sox home opener Monday. Higginbotham was aboard the space shuttle Discovery in December 2006, and is a graduate of Young High School in Chicago. Recording artist Umphrey's McGee will perform the national anthem. ... Colorado finished 6-0-1 against the White Sox this spring, and the White Sox have a 2-22-2 record against the Rockies and Diamondbacks over the past two springs.

Up next: The final weekend of exhibition play begins Friday night for the White Sox with a contest in Atlanta scheduled for 6:05 p.m. CT. Mark Buehrle gets the start, preparing for his regular-season debut on April 5 in the opening-series finale against the Indians.

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

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