PETCO Park

PETCO Park, San Diego, CA

Number of games:  1
First game:  April 5, 2006 (Giants 3, Padres 1)

(Click on any image to see a larger version.)

Oh it never rains in Southern California/But it pours/Man, it pours.

The last time the San Diego Padres had been rained out at home was in April of 1998.  Somebody powerful obviously knew, however, that I was returning to

San Diego to check out the new ballpark, because on April 4, 2006, I flew over a thousand miles to check out a ballgame.  So, of course, it was inevitable that I’d head to the ballpark for the first rainout in PETCO Park history and the first in San Diego in eight years.  Unbelievable.  And to add insult to injury, I had that damn song in my head for 48 hours.  (Now I bet you will too).

Part of me was upset.  I’m from Seattle, and we picnic in the little drizzle that was coming down that day.  Sure, it’s cold.  Sure it’s a little wet.  Play ball!  They’re playing it as nearby as Los Angeles…let’s just play ball.  The Padres felt otherwise, and rescheduled the game for July.  I wasn’t going to be in San Diego in July, and when they announced that my ticket could either be redeemed for the July game or exchanged for any other Padres game that year, I figured

I was out thirty bucks.  Not so.  When I went to the very kind ticket people and told them I was from out of town, they told me that if I visited the Padres’ website, I could get a refund.  I was surprised by this…I’m not sure all teams would have such a generous policy.

I felt like Charlie Brown, with a rain cloud hanging over me.  It was a gorgeous April day in Seattle while I sat in the cold and wet on my vacation in San Diego.  There is also precedent for me traveling long distances for rained-out sporting events.  Recently, I missed out on a ballgame at Toledo’s gorgeous Fifth Third Field, and another at Camden Yards, but longer ago (and more tragically), at the end of the year I studied in England, I missed the opening day of Wimbledon. I’ll never forget that day…taking the Tube south of town, queuing up early, scoring tickets to Court One (which was to feature Lendl, Connors, and Cash), only to watch it rain all day.  The next day, I flew back home to America.  Wimbledon’s rainout policy?  I could exchange my ticket for an opening day ticket the next year.  Gosh, thanks, guys.

That’s 23 quid down the drain.

My resentment isn’t as strong in San Diego, because I did get in one of my scheduled two games.  It was an interesting moment in baseball history, as

it was the San Francisco Giants’ second game of the season, and their second game since a book came out with specific accusations regarding Barry Bonds’ steroid use.  The atmosphere was ugly.  A fan had thrown a needle-less syringe onto the field near Bonds on opening day, and the Padres responded by closing the area near left field where fans could congregate.  The booing was intense and merciless, including chants of “Cheater!  Cheater!”  (I’d have enjoyed an extension…a variation on “liar liar pants on fire.”)

PETCO Park itself felt middle-of-the-road to me.  As I see it, it simply isn’t as attractive as other ballparks of its generation.  Inside the ballpark, there are an awful lot of white beams, and even in the two-year-old ballpark, some yucky browns were starting to show through the paint.  The location didn’t really blow me away–it’s sort of near downtown, but sort of not really.  A few sports bars and hotels and stuff were starting to crop up on one side of the stadium, but it’s not exactly an interesting neighborhood.  Not yet, anyway.  There are a few nice views from the upper deck, which helps with the “only in San Diego” feel, but there’s nothing terribly special that sets PETCO apart.

Even when PETCO tries, it falls

just a hair short.  The center-field bleacher area wants to be call to mind a beach–in fact, they call it “The Beach.”  At the base of the bleachers, they’ve set down some light sand where they want people to patrol for home run balls.  But it doesn’t look or feel like a beach…it looks and feels more like a litter box, and spectators there don’t use it like a beach. Instead of chilling out, playing catch, or whatever, they’ll stand with their fingers through a chain-link fence, blocking the $8 bleacher seats behind them.  Why not reverse it?  Put the bleachers up to the fence, and put The Beach” up high behind it, add some picnic tables and sandbox toys, and let people hang out there?  Particularly mammoth home runs that clear the bleachers (unlikely in this pitchers’ paradise) could be said to “make the beach.”  How about it?

PETCO is still a fine ballpark overall, however, in spite of these negatives. 

The integration of the Western Metal Supply Company building into the ballpark is simply brilliant.  It takes Camden Yards’ integration of a warehouse and raises it to a new level…it makes the warehouse part of the ballpark.  (Check out how the corner of the building serves as the foul pole.)  The seats on top of the warehouse and on the balconies are an especially nice stuff.  PETCO also integrates an aspect from many minor-league ballparks I like…the grounds take up far more acreage than just the edifice of the stadium.  It incorporates a lot of space past center field, space which includes a walkway (K Street), a grassy hill, and a Wiffle ball field.  The grassy hill is especially nice, since it’s a casual spot to watch the game on a picnic blanket.  It’s a very large, baseball-themed open space, something I like greatly in ballparks.

On the whole, I do like PETCO Park.  It’s an improvement from old Qualcomm Stadium (which wasn’t bad for a multipurpose ballpark), but nevertheless, I don’t think it’s on the same level as the best of the most recent generation of parks.  There’s too much missing; not enough of a sense of Padres history, baseball history, or a California feel…and I don’t think it was just the rain.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Barry Bonds goes 0-for-1.  He is hit by a pitch (off the massive elbow protector), walks, and reaches on an error.

Adrian Gonzalez homers for the Padres.

Matt Morris picks up the win for the Giants.

(Written April 2006.)

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