|Petco Park in San Diego|
The Padres won, 4-1, behind a solid performance from former White Sox left-hander Clayton Richard, but that's not all that important. I went because I wanted to check out a ballpark I had never visited before, and I must say I came away impressed.
When I visit other parks around the country, I inevitably think to myself, "Man, the Sox could learn a thing or two from how they do things here."
The Padres, much like the Sox, are not contenders this year. They are rebuilding and everybody knows it. The announced crowd was 17,000-and-some people. That attendance figure for a Thursday night is similar to Chicago. There wasn't a lot of interest in the game despite the beautiful weather because, well, there are other things to do in San Diego, and people know the Padres are bad.
But there were several things that were not similar to Chicago that I found refreshing. For example:
- There is ample street parking around the ballpark, and I think I paid 20 cents to park. That's right: 20 cents, not 20 dollars. The meters are not enforced after 6 p.m., and this particular game started at 6:10. We had a meter with some time remaining on it, and it didn't take much to get across the 6 p.m. threshold.
- The ushers were friendly and knowledgeable. This is something common at places not named Guaranteed Rate Field, where the ballpark staff grunts at you, can't answer any questions and seems to get off on telling fans what they *can't* do. Petco Park ushers are mostly retired folks working a part-time job, and they were kind and helpful to us as out-of-towners who were not familiar with the ballpark.
- Petco Park has a hockey-style "wait for the whistle" rule. That means, if you get up to use the restroom or to visit the concession stand, you have to stay on the concourse until there is a break in play, instead of being allowed to walk in front of everyone while the game is going on. Fans are allowed to come and go in between batters or in between innings. That works for me. As a grumpy curmudgeon who just wants to watch the damn game, I love it.
Me, standing next to Tony Gwynn's retired No. 19
- The Padres have a Hall of Fame area that is awesome. They have replica plaques for everyone who played for the Padres and is in the baseball Hall of Fame. They have an interactive area with videos and pictures of some of the best moments in Padres history, and they have a film that plays on loop highlighting the great career of Tony Gwynn. The Padres have a very modest history, but they aren't shy about showing off some of the individual and team accomplishments they've had through the years. On the wall in there, they have a chart showing the top five players in franchise history in various categories. Gwynn is San Diego's leader in every offensive category except home runs (Nate Colbert is first in home runs), and he is the Padres' all-time hits leader by more than 2,000 hits. (Garry Templeton is a distant second.)
- If you need to exit the ballpark during the game, you can re-enter. How awesome is that? I've always thought the Sox should allow that, especially since we get our share of rain delays in Chicago. (That's something they don't worry about much in San Diego). But as we've discussed before, the Sox have been known to make up rules as they go, and they have all kinds of bizarre rules in the name of "fan safety." Frankly, I've never felt as if I'm in danger at any ballpark in America, other than in Milwaukee, where the fans have an inferiority complex about anyone and anything that comes from Chicago.