PETCO Park, San Diego Padres

May 24, 2011 - San Diego, California, United States



PETCO Park, home of the San Diego Padres, opened in 2004 and is a major league baseball park that scores a homerun no matter what your perspective! As we flew into the San Diego airport, it was one of the first landmarks we noticed when we peered out the cabin window. My excitement level just soared! So let our “Touching All the Bases” adventure continue!

Our visit to PETCO Park at the ground level perspective began by exploring the perimeter of the ballpark, walking on Tony Gwynn Boulevard admiring the gorgeous purple jacaranda trees and then climbing the bridge across the street and looking out toward Coronado Island. What a spectacular view of the ocean and downtown San Diego.

When we were allowed in the gate, we went directly to The Park at the Park, located beyond centerfield. This is a 2.5+ acre grassy knoll open to the public, except on game days when they close it off a few hours before the game to prepare the ballpark for the fans. Atop the Park at the Park, a beautiful bronze statue of “Mr. Padre,” Tony Gwynn, stands surrounded by 2,000 bricks inscribed with fan messages as well as many of Gwynn’s accomplishments. I knew that Tony was a great ball player but I hadn’t realized he had won the National League batting championship EIGHT times, tying him with Honus Wagner.

Another area of the Park at the Park is a little league ball field that lies at the bottom of the grassy knoll. We watched as a young boy from Hawaii took batting practice sending balls over the fence. Reminded me of a homerun derby! With such a confident swing, we may see him in the big leagues in about 10 years! During conversations with his father, we found out they were on their annual trip to San Diego to see their St. Louis Cardinals. Sharing conversations with fellow baseball fans is one of the best parts of our visits to the major league parks.

Next we went just beyond the right field fence to “The Beach. “ Yes, this is a very unique part of the PETCO experience, a sandy area opened to fans during batting practice. We sat on “The Beach” and laughed and laughed at young boys and girls, teenage boys and “grown” men snagging baseballs hit over the fence onto “The Beach.” One 40+ man did a belly flop in the sand to retrieve a ball while others cajoled with Padre relief pitcher, Ernesto Frieri, to get their ball. During batting practice, he threw at least 30 balls over the fence to excited fans. I think everyone went away happy. This was a reminder that baseball is truly for all ages.

Beyond the left field fence and directly above the Padres’ bullpen was the four level Picnic Terraces. The Padres display color-coded pennants representing their league and division championship titles on flagpoles behind the Picnic Terraces. These pennants are red and white for the 1984 and 1998 National League Championships, navy and white for the 1996, 2005 and 2006 Division Titles. There’s no flag yet for a World Series.

Located on the field side of the Batters' Eye, the Padres celebrate their former player’s induction into Cooperstown on the Hall of Fame Porch. On the backside of the Batter’s Eye are the five numbers retired by the Padres. Four were in honor of Padre players—#6 Steve Garvey 1B; #19 Tony Gwynn RF; #31 Dave Winfield RF; #35 Randy Jones P; #42 Jackie Robinson. In addition to the retired numbers appearing above the Batters' Eye, the initials of RAK, honoring long-time owner Ray Kroc, and the "star" recognizing the career of long-time broadcaster Jerry Coleman. One of his trademark phrases was "You can hang a star on that baby!"

The signature feature of PETCO, however, is the Western Metal Supply Co. Building, built in 1909. The building and its employees were instrumental in supplying metal goods to the Southern California region early last century, taking advantage of the new Santa Fe Railroad system. Today it has been renovated and supports the left field foul pole. Each of its four stories is utilized for team purposes ranging from the team store, to private party suites, and the Padres Hall of Fame Bar & Grill. I especially love when local history can be incorporated into the ballparks. It adds special character to the park.

Inside the park, we begin our exploration by stopping at the Guest Services. As with many parks, they had a memento for your first visit to their park, a really clever button to wear during the game. Also there’s a Designated Driver Program at most parks now that you sign up for which rewards you with a free soft drink. We look for all the good deals!

PETCO Park is Patriotic! Starting in 1996 the Padres became the first national sports team to have an annual military appreciation event. And this appreciation is carried out throughout the park including a billboard in left field that says “The San Diego Padres are Proud to Support the Military,” a large replica of the USS Midway with aircrafts, and a wall inscribed with every MLB player who has served in the military. And to cap it all off, a ship’s horn is blasted during Padres’ homerun celebrations.

I love the baseball mascots and have even had photos with several. So I was on the lookout for the well-known San Diego Chicken. What I found out, however, is that the San Diego Chicken is NOT the mascot of the Padres. It’s "The Swinging Friar." The Chicken does make appearances occasionally at San Diego sporting events, but has never been the official mascot of any San Diego sports team.

The Padres have had some well-known owners through the years, too. Ray Kroc, founder of MacDonald’s, was a fan favorite. In his first home game as the Padres' new owner in 1974, Mr. Kroc grabbed the public address system microphone and apologized to fans for the poor performance of the team, saying, "I've never seen such stupid ball playing in my life." The following season was the first year the Padres did not end in the cellar. Sadly, Mr. Kroc died of heart disease prior to the 1984 season, the first year the team won the National League and went to the World Series. Even today one of the owners is well known by sports’ fans--former Cowboy quarterback and NFL Announcer Troy Aiken.

Interestingly enough, statistics have shown that PETCO Park is a pitcher’s park. Since its inception, PETCO Park has yielded fewer runs in all of Major League Baseball than any other park. But you know, this didn’t affect my impression or experience of PETCO in the least. It’s a great park from MY perspective.

NOTE:  TO VIEW PHOTOS IN THE CORRECT ORDER, CLICK ON "Pictures" in the tool bar at the top of the entry.



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