Fans flocked to Petco Park last weekend for the return of the Padres, the city of San Diego’s loveable, if not underwhelming, Major League Baseball team.
The Padres have not made the playoffs since 2006 and have had only one winning season in that time.
Yet, a series of offseason moves has renewed hope in fans, including David Rose, an ex San Diego resident who flew in from Seattle to see his Padres take on the San Francisco Giants during opening weekend from March 28-31.
“It’s incredible to see people this excited about the Padres, not just this little pocket of us that sticks around for some reason,” Rose said, before the second game of the season on March 29.
The team has added some big-name players, including third baseman Manny Machado, 36-year-old second baseman Ian Kinsler and 20-year-old shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., who the team, to some surprise, retained on the opening day roster.
No addition seems to have generated more excitement than Machado, however, who signed in February for a then-record breaking $300 million 10-year contract.
“(Signing Machado) is completely unprecedented in the history of the organization,” Rose said. “I can’t remember the last time I’ve walked around downtown and saw the whole place covered with one number other than 19 (Tony Gwynn).”
Machado finished the opening series with more strikeouts (5) than hits (3), but the Padres took three-of-four from the Giants to begin the season with a 3-1 record, their best start since 2011.
Henry Sandoval, a self-described mini-season ticket holder, attended the second game of the season on March 29, and said the team shows promise.
“I think we have a chance this year to make the playoffs, and hopefully we can,” he said.
Sandoval, a San Diego resident, was one of an announced 33,769 in attendance, which was down from a total of 44,655 that attended opening day on March 28.
In total, an average of 39,691 fans attended the four-game series, which, if kept-up for an entire season, would be the largest average in the Padres 50-year history.
Not every fan was at the ballpark, however.
In Chula Vista, resident John Kurups watched Friday’s game, along with other sports, at
The Canyon Sports Pub & Grill, and said the new blood has invigorated the team.
“Everybody’s excited about the new players on the team and everybody’s excited that we’re off to a great start,” he said. “We’ll keep our fingers crossed they’ll continue the season.”
Kurups did have one question however, specifically how a team notorious for having a low payroll could come up with enough cash to snag a player like Machado.
“Where did they get all the money this year? They didn’t have the money last year,” he said.
In fact, according to baseball-reference.com, the Padres estimated payroll this season is in the $88 million range, around $5 million less than last year, when Machado was still a member of the Baltimore Orioles.