Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
The sun wasn't so kind for the most part, but the rain stayed away on Saturday as the San Diego Padres spun the 2012 version of Fan Fest at Petco Park. Lines were long at 8:30 AM, when season ticket holders were allowed to enter early to take part in the annual garage sale, where Padres gear is offered at discounted prices. Others were let into the park right before 10:00 AM. Players began to attend signing sessions beginning shortly thereafter, including Padres skipper Bud Black.
Not all Padres players were in attendance, but they were well represented. Newcomers Yonder Alonso, Andrew Cashner, and Huston Street headed up a cast that included veteran Padres players Chase Headley, Cameron Maybin, Kyle Blanks, and Will Venable among others. Padres staff was excellent, signing sessions seemed to go smoothly for the most part, and what could have well amounted to some form of uncontrolled chaos was relatively orderly. Overall, it was very much a family atmosphere, kids of all ages seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves.
Padres Manager Bud Black at an autograph session.
Padres Fan Fest as viewed from the stands behind home plate.
Most of the attractions were for the kids, the base paths were open for the public to walk (or even run in some cases), and portions of right and left field were available to folks that wanted to play some catch on a major league outfield. There is no lawn in America better than the field of Petco Park. A temporary stage was set up in left field where players and coaches and front office personnel gave moderated conferences complete with question and answer sessions from the fans. Outside of the field and within park boundaries, booths were set up to provide both grown-ups and kids opportunities for fun, games, and freebies from everyone from the armed forces to other sports related industries to enjoy.
It was a little chilly, with a cold February breeze blowing in from the West, but jackets seemed to provide enough relief for those attending. One of the highlights of Padres Fan Fest is a tour of the clubhouse, and a visit to the suites in the Western Metal Supply building is also enlightening. Some concessions were open; beer, wine and food was available. No one seemed to complain much, save for one disgruntled fan who blasted Padres President and COO Tom Garfinkel over Padres ticket prices during a Q & A session. Comparatively, Padres game ticket prices are below median pricing in Major League Baseball. There seems to be a reasonable pricing plan for almost every budget.
The Padres training room.
The Padres clubhouse.
Padres flagship radio station XX 1090's Darren Smith interviews new Padres closer Huston Street on-air at Fan Fest. No idea how many saves that Street gets this coming season, but word is he's already made plenty of saves with the ladies who are Padres fans.
Some criticisms, however slight, are warranted concerning the Padres 2012 Fan Fest. The process of getting vouchers to participate in the signing sessions seemed to be slightly flawed and somewhat confusing. Improvements could easily be made there. It was great to see Fan Fest oriented so heavily toward the kids, but perhaps some adult activities would be beneficial? And some temporary signage directing people to the locations of events, exits, entrances, and other happenings would be very helpful.
Tips for next Fan Fest, for those attending: Bring a heavy jacket, just in case. Take the tour of the clubhouse in the early afternoon, morning tours include a long wait. And if you've ever broken your foot playing ball and at times it comes back to bite you after so many years, bring your cane, because you will walk a lot and it will come in handy at the end of the day.
There was a lot of talk at Fan Fest behind the scenes concerning the lack of a television contract. There is a consensus among insiders that there is a television deal and it is worth around $30 million per year, and that both the Padres and the suitor have finalized the terms. Couple that with a presence of people from the new (yet not officially announced) Fox Sports San Diego at Fan Fest. Connect the dots as you see fit, noting that USA Today's Bob Nightengale hasn't had much to say recently concerning his column that touted a $75 million dollar deal, which seems ridiculous. It's entirely possible that Nightengale was fed information that was purposefully inaccurate. Baseball is a business, after all, and businesses are not always pretty things worthy of admiration and free from competition spreading some good old-fashioned propaganda. Smart money sees the deal sitting in front of Bud Selig awaiting MLB approval. Bud will want a unanimous vote, and he'll want it very soon.
Related to the television contract, there is no word of any movement concerning the approval of Jeff Moorad becoming the Padres representative owner for the investment group that he heads. It's no secret that certain MLB owners have it in for Moorad. Since Moorad has taken over, the front office is very careful not to leak anything, but the wheels have to be turning there. Again, one can feel free to connect the dots concerning Moorad's possible approval and the approval of the television contract. Generally, MLB owners have always done what is in their best interest, and improved revenue for the Padres is certainly in their best interest. Expect the television deal to be done and Moorad's approval to come shortly thereafter. And expect those votes to be unanimous when it happens.
Padres players and staff will spend this week preparing to head out to Peoria, with the majority there before the weekend. Spring training games start in early March. Peoria is a blast, but if you go, bring a coat along. It can be warm at game time, but the desert gets chilly by the time the sun goes down. Expect to see players you've never heard of, unless you continue to read here. We'll examine the minor leagues and spring training invites all this week.
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