Call yourself a true fan? If blessed with a Major League park nearby, then should have made the pilgrimage to the ballpark by now. Certainly by May 1st.
In my opinion, the start of the Major League Baseball season is not fully underway until you feast on that first game at the ballpark of your choice. Through April 17, the 2014 league-wide attendance totaled 6,804,827, down 106, 906 from last year, according to www.baseball-reference.com. Check this website to see how much your team is drawing.
Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, Petco Park attendance through April 17 totaled 280,861, an increase of nearly 26,000. Takes me no more than 20 minutes to reach this downtown jewel – with traffic.
Petco Park is first class, but the same cannot be said of its tenants, the San Diego Padres. Doesn’t matter. Along with Fenway Park, Petco is my preferred place of worship. Fenway, of course, is the most religious of ballpark experiences. Eat your heart out, Chicago Cubs fans.
Can’t beat sitting in a Major or Minor league ballpark, particularly when the serene moments of soaking in the ambiance are punctuated by lightning-quick plays, phenomenal displays of athleticism, and close, often controversial plays. Plays at the plate are the most exciting.
Frequently, people-watching is more entertaining than the game action. (See “Highlights” below.) Could do without the overpriced food and beverage, but almost always fail to do without.
And, of course, always expect the unexpected, from player and crowd behavior to your own. Bonus: if you like dancing, you don’t need a partner.
My first 2014 game came April 16 under the lights at Petco. The Colorado Rockies were in town, sans Todd Helton for the first time in about 16 years. Good news for the Pads. But the Rocks did come armed with Carlos Gonzalez and the rejuvenated Michael Cuddyer.
Highlights of April 16 Game…
- Padres won!
- Padres scored the winning run in the eighth without a single hit. Here’s how: Two leadoff walks, two fly outs, another walk, a wild pitch and an error.*
- Pinch hit homer earlier in the game by journeyman Xavier Nady who returned to the Padres this season after playing for ten other MLB teams.
- A pair of aging, supposed call girls – dressed allure — prancing up and down the adjacent aisle, posing for photos with four, ahem, middle-aged gentlemen in tow.
- The almost-as-entertaining older gal dancing nearby between almost every inning while her husband didn’t budge from his seat. During the action on the field, she shouted words of encouragement to the home team’s players.
- Lots of new food choices offered by popular local eateries, including a custom ice cream concession, an expanded Phil’s Barbecue, and Seaside Market for the health conscious. The tri-tip and Hodad’s burgers were especially notable.
- Plenty of craft beer concessions located just about everywhere.
- Craft beer prices were raised.
- My first ever veggie dog – and last. Mustard, catsup, and relish didn’t help.
- Five Padres left on base.
- The five retired Padre numbers perched atop the batter’s eye in center were replaced with larger versions.**
- The call girls, (pole dancers perhaps?), also make this list. It’s a long story. * Specifically, the hitless, game-winning rally went down like this… …Xavier Nady and Seth Smith walked to begin the Padres the 8th. Then with two outs first baseman Yonder Alonso walked to load the bases for catcher Yasmani Grandal. With Grandal up to bat, Rockies reliever Rex Brothers misfired a first-pitch fastball allowing Nady to score and tie the game. Then Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario’s overthrew Brothers who was covering home. Smith rounded third and scored the go-ahead run to give the Padres the 5-4 lead.
** Padres whose numbers were retired: Randy Jones, Dave Winfield, Trevor Hoffman, and arguably the best pure hitter since Ted Williams: Tony Gwynn. Whoops. Forgot to mention the fifth number. Belongs to Steve Garvey. Many San Diegans disagree with the franchise’s decision to retire his number because Garvey spent 14 years as an L.A. Dodger before joining the Padres for his last five playing years. No doubt the Padres retired the Garv’s number because of his heroic efforts during the five-game National League pennant series against the Chicago Cubs that catapulted San Diego into its first World Series. Note: Dodgers have NOT retired Garvey’s number.