Category Archives: san diego padres

Ballparks for the San Diego Padres.

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.)

Qualcomm Stadium

photodraw57

From the "Ballparks of Baseball" website. Used by permission.

Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA

Number of games:  2
First game:  July 31, 2000 (Padres 4, Phillies 1)
Last game:  August 1, 2000 (Padres 10, Phillies 9, 10 innings)

Qualcomm Stadium is no longer in use as of the 2004 season.

I never knew why the Padres were called the Padres until I got to San Diego and visited the Mission there (recommended) a few hours before my first game at Qualcomm.  Duh!  The ballpark is in the Mission District!  So it’s not that they believed that priests were somehow intimidating (although I’ve known a few who are), it’s more a local historical nickname, which I think are the best kind.

Qualcomm–this name is an abomination.  It is especially offensive in light of the switch from Jack Murphy Stadium, named from the sportswriter who lobbied so hard to bring pro sports to San Diego…and yes, I know it’s “Qualcomm Stadium at Jack Murphy Field,” but that seems to be a weak and lefthanded tribute to Murphy, which actually makes it worse.

The stadium, however, was a pleasant surprise.  Given that it’s a multipurpose stadium of the era of Busch, Riverfront, Three Rivers and the Vet, I was expecting it to be bland and boring.  While it faces some of the problems of multipurpose stadiums (namely the expanses of empty upper-deck seats), it wasn’t nearly as charmless as all of those.  I like the grass, I like the warm dry air, I like the huge out-of-town scoreboard in right field, and I like the immediacy and doggedness with which they report pitch speed and type of pitch on the left field wall.  I especially like the good-looking laid-back fans who show a lot of skin because it’s so warm in Southern California–it was a fine place to kick off the 2000 Erotic Love And Baseball Stadium West Coast Swing (which was, alas, completely devoid of erotic love).  In short, I guess I like San Diego and its ballpark.

Only one guy talked to me during the games, teasing me about my Mariners hat.  He said, after a highlight video between innings:  “Dude!  [Okay, maybe he didn’t say dude.]  There weren’t any Mariners in those great plays.”  I said “Stan Javier was in there.  He’s the guy who made that juggling catch at the outfield wall.  If you’re going to make fun of me, that’s fine, but you’re going to have to get your facts right.”  His response.  “Okay.  Game on!”  I waited for him to challenge me again, but he obviously knew he was in over his head.  He never spoke to me again.

Before game one, I committed an absolute atrocity.  I was lingering in right field, trying my luck in getting a batting practice ball.  The right field pavilion is a good 20-25 feet above the ground, so players cannot hand kids balls (the best technique in getting kids a ball…adults too often muscle kids aside to get thrown balls).  Anyway, I’m there waiting when Randy Wolf arcs a ball our way.  I settle under it, reach up with my 6’3″ body and freakishly long arms, and I’ll be damned, I caught a real-live major league baseball! I felt good about myself for about three-tenths of a second until I looked behind me and saw the 12-year-old I was standing in front of.

Here’s where my mind started to go haywire.  I instantly felt a strong wave of Catholic guilt for stepping in front of him…and this on the day I visited the Mission!…and in my mind, I heard:  “you should give the kid the ball…you were far taller and in front of him.” As I was thinking this, a group of bitchy junior high girls standing in front of me, between me and Randy Wolf, girls who don’t even have gloves, said “He was throwing us the ball!  Give us the ball!  He was throwing us the ball!” Something about the combination of these two factors–the mind saying “give the kid the ball” and the girls saying “give us the ball” led to the worst possible outcome.  I gave the girls the ball.  I should have either kept the ball  (it’s not like I bumped the kid aside or reached over him, I was in front of him all along, and there’s no way Randy had an intended receiver so far away) or else given it to the short kid I inadvertently blocked out.  I did neither.  And the stupid girls didn’t even thank me.  I should have ripped the damn thing back from them.  Won’t make that mistake again.  But yes…I caught a ball.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

The Phillies and Padres were both bad teams in 2000, but I saw two good games…

I saw Woody Williams battle Bruce Chen in quite a pitchers’ duel…Woody had a 3-hit shutout until Pat Burrell homered with two out in the 8th.

The 10-9 game was amazing.  The Pads took a 9-1 lead through 6 innings…then blew it before winning in the 10th.  I don’t have a Padre record book handy (indeed, or at all), but I wonder if that’s the biggest lead they’ve ever blown…or does it count as a blown lead if you win anyway?

John Mabry homered in his first at-bat for the Padres after being traded from Seattle the night before.

Trevor Hoffman took the mound with a 9-7 lead for the 9th…it really is cool when they play “Hell’s Bells” as he comes in…got two outs, then gave up back-to-back homers to Scott Rolen and Burrell to blow the save.  The crowd couldn’t believe it. Neither could I.

(Written August 2001.  Revised July 2005.)