Opening day is here and the CRB is celebrating the day at San Diego’s Petco Park. The sun was out early, the sky is clear and spring is in the air. I couldn’t imagine a more spectacular day. Over weeks of Spring Training Tommy and I discussed the beauty of Major League Baseball’s Opening Day and the special place it holds in our hearts. Ask any group about their favorite opening day and I’m sure for as many stories that recall fond memories of home runs and strikeouts you will get a story about the friends and family they were with. Today is a day of gathering and celebrating the season of baseball that is before us. Families and friends are everywhere. Generations of fans seem to be pouring in to the ballpark from every direction, having kicked off their day at one of the many establishments in the buzzing downtown neighborhood and are ready to take in all that the day and this unique ball park experience has to offer.
After months of waiting the sights and sounds of baseball are back. There is a simple joy in being at the ball park on a beautiful day. The sounds of the fans and vendors, the organ music, and children playing all contribute to the festival like atmosphere. There is the smell of ball park hot dogs on the grill, the fresh popped popcorn, and the taco stands’ smoking flat tops. Fans play catch and the little leaguers are playing a game of wiffle ball on the kids’ field at the park. As I’m taking it all in and there is another layer that adds to the intoxicating allure of the ball park experience. Feeling the breeze blow by I notice it also carries aromas of the freshly manicured field. I see the grounds crew carefully making the final preparations for today’s game. As I lift my head up to take in the scents of the fresh-cut grass, barbecue smokers, and sunscreen, I close my eyes to concentrate on the moment and feel the tingling sensation of the spring sun wash over my face. Aaahhhhh. Baseball is back.
There is no coincidence that we are enjoying today’s celebrations in San Diego. Petco Park is one of the finer baseball experiences in California. The stadium has a clean and colorful look. It is immaculately maintained and it’s modern elements are beautifully balanced with the historic look and feel of San Diego’s old warehouse district in the East Village neighborhood. As Petco Park grew, so did the neighborhood. The ball park was the anchor for redevelopment and what was once a forgotten and broken warehouse district now stands luxury apartment towers, hotels, nightclubs, and restaurants. It is a thriving community that surrounds the park and plays host to thousands of guests every game day. The park is directly adjacent to San Diego’s historic Gaslamp district, and the accessibility and walkability make for a fantastic experience with plenty of food, beverages, and entertainment for anyone from 8 to 80.
When Petco was built the designers were able to repurpose the glorious old Western Metal Building and incorporate it into the new ballpark structure. When the Western Metal Building was built 109 years ago it was the tallest building in the downtown area. A lot has changed since then. Now as an integral piece of the stadium it houses guest suites, the Breitbard Hall of Fame, the Padres Hall of Fame, and Phil’s BBQ on the rooftop deck. Tours of the stadium are available daily and you can find more information here.
We have arrived early to explore these friendly confines and immerse ourselves in the energy and celebrations of the day. One of my favorite attractions at the ballpark is the Padres Hall of Fame museum. Tributes to legendary Padres are mixed in with artifacts and momentos of San Diego’s baseball history. Legends like Steve Garvey, Trevor Hoffman, Randy Jones and Dave Winfield are celebrated here with impressive displays and memorabilia. But let there be no mistake – the conversation of Padres legends begin and end with one name – #19, Mr. Padre, Tony Gwynn. Tony Gwynn enjoyed an illustrious baseball career here, having played college at San Diego State University and was then drafted by the Padres and eventually went on to play 20 years with the organization and later returning to coach his alma mater. After 20 years of Major League baseball, Tony had:
.388 career average, where he did not bat under .309 any year after his first
Eight batting titles
3141 career hits
Eight seasons, including six consecutive, when he had fewer than 20 strikeouts
Five Gold Glove awards
15 x All Star honors
With all of those accolades and honors, Tony is quoted as saying that one of the things he is most proud of is that he spent the entirety of his career with one team.
Cheers to you, Tony Gwynn. It’s time to play ball!
ACROSS THE LEAGUE ON OPENING DAY
There are many debates that are about to be settled amongst the fans on the topic of the opening day roster spots. Those that have been following the competition and developments through spring training know today is a day to examine the roster decisions that were finalized just days (or in some cases a few hours) ago in hopes their team will be able to put its best foot forward.
The National League West is shaping up to be one of the tougher divisions in MLB. The mighty Dodgers return to attempt a second consecutive run at a World Series title. The Padres are grooming an exciting young core of sluggers while exploring the puzzle that will be their starting rotation. San Francisco is juggling many of their key pieces and struggling to shore up a starting rotation that is missing two of their most effective pitchers to reinvent themselves as a contender.
On the American League side, the Angels addition of two way star Shohei Ohtani adds an excitement and new set of expectations for what this club can do. As the Athletics assemble an exciting young team, their longevity in the race will come down to the amazing depth that lies in wait at the AAA level. Many people agree that the competitive advantage lies in the strength of your pitching depth. From dazzling rookies to seasoned veterans, here’s a quick look what to examine for your favorite California teams.
Off-season impact addition: Steven Piscotty
1 Kendall Graveman (R)
2 Sean Manaea (L)
3 Daniel Mengden (R)
4 Daniel Gossett (R)
5 Andrew Triggs (R)
Opening Day notes: Steven Piscotty (who played his college baseball at Stanford) came to the A’s through trade from the St. Louis Cardinals. Piscotty’s disciplined approach to the game and time in the Card’s system will make him a great leader in the exciting young group the A’s will field this year.
Off-season impact addition: Shohei Ohtani
1 Garrett Richards (R)
2 Tyler Skaggs (L)
3 Shohei Ohtani (R)
4 JC Ramirez (R)
5 Parker Bridwell (R)
Opening Day notes: The two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani may be one of the most exciting experiments in all of baseball. Ohtani comes to the Major Leagues from the Japanese pro league and while many doubt if his talent will translate to MLB with the proper adjustments he could be the first player of his kind since Babe Ruth. With high heat on his fastball and the ability to hit 500 foot home runs, it’s a good time to be an Angels fan. With the addition of Zack Cosart, there is a lot to be excited about. And, oh yeah…. Mike Trout.
Off-season impact addition: Andrew McCutcheon
1 Tyson Blach (L)
2 Johnny Cueto (R)
3 Derek Holland (L)
4 Chris Stratton (R)
Opening Day notes: With the injuries to numbers 1 and 2 Bumgarner and Samardzija there is a lot of uncertainty with the pitching situation and the Giants have taken to emergency measures by running a four man rotation to start the season. The venerable Andrew McCutcheon is a beautiful addition to the roster and we expect him to thrive in his new role there.
Off-season impact addition: None
1 Clayton Kershaw (L)
2 Alex Wood (L)
3 Kenta Maeda (L)
4 Rich Hill (L)
5 Hyun-Jin Ryu (L)
Opening Day notes: Clayton Kershaw continues to be one of the most dominant pitchers in the league and expects to lead the team to another shot at a World Series title. Young stars Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger are expected to continue their rise to prominence. Fan favorite Matt Kemp returns to the Dodgers to add depth to the outfield platoon and brings his .285 career batting average and 259 home runs to supplement a solid heart of the order.
Off-season impact addition: Eric Hosmer
1 Clayton Richard (L)
2 Luis Perdomo (R)
3 Bryan Mitchell (R)
4 Tyson Ross (R)
5 Joey Lucchesi (L)
Opening Day notes: This is the second year of the Padres graduating a small group of players from their championship AAA affiliate to complement their young core. Keep an eye on 3B Christian Villanueva. With Eric Hosmer’s championship experience and leadership, many of the Padres faithful are hopeful this will be the year they play .500 ball. Lucchesi moves into the rotation as Dinelson Lamet suffers from a flexor strain in his right elbow. Look for Lamet to be outstanding upon his return.