In San Diego, there is no football team anymore. There is no basketball team. There is no NHL hockey team. The only sports franchise still around in San Diego, California is the Padres.
Founded in 1969, I was told by many people who live in the area that San Diegans deeply care about the Padres success. Known as a less intense sports area than my hometown Boston, I was interested in what a San Diego Padres experience would be like.
San Diegans, stereotypically, are more interested in surfing or skateboarding along the boardwalk then watching a three-hour baseball game. However, Padres broadcaster and former Boston Red Sox play-by-play man Don Orsillo assured me that Petco Park is a great place to watch a game.
“It’s different [than Fenway Park], but the stadium is so great here,” Orsillo told me. “I think you will like it.”
And I definitely did. On Friday the 13th against the Padres, I visited Petco Park for the first time to cover the game and write a piece about Orsillo.
It was your typical beautiful San Diego day. It was 80 degrees during the afternoon, with a clear blue sky and a nice breeze. At night, it cooled down to the 60’s, just a great temperature for a ball game.
Not only was the weather great, but the scene itself was San Diego in a nutshell. Palm trees surround the Park, while the city’s buildings loom in the background of the outfield. There is also a nice grassy hill outside of the park in center field where fans can sit and watch the game.
Although the park is gorgeous and the weather is perfect, what about the fans?
“The fans have been great,” Orsillo said. “It’s a great fan base.”
And to my surprise, he was absolutely right. Coming from Boston and experiencing the intensity of Fenway Park on many different occasions, I expected the stadium to seem relatively empty and quiet by comparison. I assumed they would be busy surfing, going to the beach, or simply drinking in the bars.
I was presently surprised.
On Friday night against the Giants, around 31,000 fans showed up to support the team. Now, it is important to remember that Giants fans travel very well. For example, during a Red Sox-Giants game at Fenway Park, Giants fans tried to take over the ballpark, which is very difficult to do at a place like Fenway. But Giants fans did not take over Petco Park like I expected them to on Friday night. Padres fans were loud in big moments, and it was a fun place to watch the game.
After a pitcher’s duel held the game scoreless for the first four innings, the Padres finally took the lead after a Tyson Ross go-ahead single with the bases loaded. The place went nuts.
Petco Park wasn’t sold out and there were clearly empty seats around, but the fans who showed up were loud.
“Some fans are here just to have fun, while others are here for the passion,” said Beatriz Amaya, a 38-year-old beer vendor in her sixth season for the Padres.
Amaya was born and raised in San Diego and is a big San Diego Padres fans.
“I like being here because I can watch a little bit of the game and interact with the people,” she said.
She also says that she sells a lot of beer during the game.
William Hixon, a 55-year-old worker in his fifth season with the Padres, is actually a Red Sox fan and moved to San Diego 35 years ago from Mansfield, MA. Hixon described the difference between Red Sox and Padres fans.
“San Diego is a Navy town,” Hixon said. “You have a lot of different team followers. There are more team followers than Padres followers.”
“There is a lot of passion with the Red Sox,” Hixon added. “When it’s cold, you’ve got people going to the games. You talk about September, towards the end of the season when it’s cold, people still go to the game. They don’t care. They are diehard fans there.”
However, from my perspective, Padres fans are passionate too.
Although Hixon is a Red Sox fan, he still hopes that the Padres have a good season — if nothing else, because it helps business.
“It’d be good to have [the Padres win] because it kind of hurts business [when they are losing],” Hixon said.
After winning three games in a row against the Giants, the Padres recently lost three straight games to the Dodgers to fall to 7-13 on the year. They start a three-game series with the Arizona Diamondbacks tomorrow night at 6:40 pm.