After a year hiatus the Padres hosted the Fan Fest on February 13, included in the festivities was a pitching clinic with Heath Bell, a batting clinic with Tony Gwynn Jr. and various autograph sessions with current players and coaches along with announcers and past Padre greats, along with various Q & A sessions with management, pitchers, brothers and outfielders.
Along with the great Southern Californian weather this year’s Fan Fest provided a great day to welcome the new season in before players had to report for Spring Training in Arizona. Over 12,000 fans attended destroying the previous record of 7,000.
One of the attractions was being able to walk through the Padres clubhouse and work out room. Not only is PETCO beautiful on the outside the bowls of the stadium and clubhouse areas are spectacular as well.
You got to see the training room, the clubhouse attendant’s locker room and the locker room. If you looked close you could see one particular locker that would catch the eye of only the diehard fans.
On the other side of the locker room was a vacant locker with a name tag still on it, the name and number on this particular locker? “Hoffman 51”
Now who knows why Trevor Hoffman still has a locker in the Padres clubhouse (yes Adrain Gonzalez still has one), but it was interesting non the less to see the inside of a major league locker room.
The Dugout & Seats:
Fun to see the view the players have during the game, you could leave the dugout and “run” the bases as well as have your picture taken at home plate.
If you weren’t in line for autographs and the clubhouse tour, you could roam the stadium and find the perfect seats to get season tickets. The Padres marked the seats that could still be purchased in a season ticket package, the few I looked at (in the field level) were in the mid three thousand dollar range.
Players were stationed through the stadium at different times, each person could get only one autograph per person from each player. The only catch was you had to get a ticket for each time slot you wanted to get an autograph at. The were handed out when you entered the stadium and if you wanted to get more then one timeslot you had to leave the stadium and come back in to get another.
Then you had to proceed to the appropriate section before the time on your ticket to get into line and then wait for what seemed too long to get an autograph. The process seemed inefficient, but this was my first time at the event.
Q & A sessions:
There were Q & A sessions through the day with the likes of Dick Enberg, Mark Grant, Mark Neeley, Chris Young, Jon Garland, Jeff Moorad, Tom Garfinkle and Gwynn Jr all answering questions from the fans.
The more useful news:
Newly acquired Garland believes that the team is better then more people believe and that even though PETCO is a “pitchers park” you still have to pitch good otherwise hitters will score runs.
Number one starter Young said that his arm is 100%, he is excited to play with this group of guys and Albert Pujols is one of the hardest batters to pitch to, and not because Pujols hit him in the face with a ball (which got a laugh out of his fellow pitcher and fans).
New owner Moorad has listened to the fans and lowered the price of beer, some seats and parking (the later for season ticket holders).
When Gwynn Sr. left the autograph table he got by far the loudest applause (once Mr. Padre, always Mr. Padre).
TV broadcaster Mark Grant was his comical self in both the Q & A session and when he was chatting with fans while signing autographs.
In the Clubhouse:
When manager Bud Black weaved his way through the crowd in the clubhouse to get to his office, there were many cheers of good luck and firm hand shakes.
In general there was a positive and excited energy in the stadium. The players believe that the team is going to be better then what many think, upper management realizes that if they want higher attendance then prices are going to have to be lowered. Fans cannot wait for Spring Training to start and April 12 cannot come fast enough.