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Qualcomm Stadium at Jack Murphy Field
San Diego, CA
San Francisco Giants at San Diego Padres
July 4, 2003

By Ken Schlapp

Today was one of the easier transition drives on the trip, even though I started the day in the traffic-infested Los Angeles area.  I just had to make the 2-hour drive down to San Diego to TJ and Kate’s house, one of the few stops on the trip where I was able to stay with friends instead of a hotel.  Luckily, for me, right after I got to their house in the early afternoon, Kate led me downtown to the site of Petco Park, where the Padres will begin playing in 2004.  This new park will be located in the gaslight district of San Diego and will have views of the bay and Coronado, as opposed to their current location in the Mission Valley suburbs.  Much of the structure of the stadium is already in place, although the field is covered with construction material instead of dirt and grass.  One thing that did stand out though, was the large US flag hanging on what appears to be the suite level of the stadium behind home plate.  It also looks like there are many other buildings being constructed around the stadium as well, so when the stadium opens next year, there will be a lot of “new” all around.

The main event of the day, however, is my trip to see a game at Jack Murphy Field.  The Stadium was named San Diego Stadium when it opened for the NFL San Diego Chargers in 1967.  The Chargers had to begin sharing their new home almost immediately as the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League played their final minor league season here in 1968 and the expansion Major League Padres began playing their games here during their inaugural season of 1969.  As stated above, 2003 will be the Padres final season here, but the Chargers will continue to play their games here.

Sportswriter Jack Murphy, who is the brother of the Mets long-time broadcaster Bob Murphy, was influential in gaining the support to build this stadium, so when he passed away in 1980, they renamed it Jack Murphy Stadium.  However, in 1997, Qualcomm purchased naming rights of  the newly-named Qualcomm Stadium, but the city did not forget about Mr. Murphy, so they changed the name of the site to Jack Murphy Field.  The fans still generally refer to the stadium as “The Murph” and Bob Murphy continued to refer to the Stadium as Jack Murphy Stadium regardless of the official name change.

From the outside, this multi-purpose stadium, which is used for baseball, football, soccer, and other events, does not look all that different from other such stadiums in St Louis (Bush Stadium), San Francisco (Candlestick Park), or Philadelphia (Veterans stadium).  It is simply a gray circular concrete and steel, but mostly concrete to the naked eye, stadium.  It is in the middle of a huge parking lot, so you can get great views for photos of the outside of the stadium, but it does not stand out as special to me.

I was at the stadium early today because Mark Tilson of the Padres arranged for me to have a personalized tour of the stadium before the game.  He made it even nicer by having the beautiful Anika show me around the place.  We went up into the press box and into the jumbotron control room.  The most notable things about the press box were the signs on the wall for the 1992 All-Star game and Super Bowl XXII, which were both played here. I also got to see the monitors set up to control what is presented on the 2 jumbotrons.  They have one at each side of the stadium, since this stadium is set up more for football than baseball.  I will say that the samples of the bulbs that are used on the screen are much bigger than you would think when you see them from afar.  The best part of the tour though, was getting to go on the field behind home plate during batting practice.  It was fun watching Barry Bonds take batting practice from up close.  Anika also let me in on a little secret; the paths to the Padres locker room are carpeted, while the paths for the opponents are filled with mud and puddles.

Once inside the stadium you are overwhelmed by how blue all the seats are, which presents a stark contrast from the green seats in Edison International Field in Anaheim.  What does stand out though, is the uniqueness of palm trees beyond the outfield walls.  You also see the retired numbers in right center field, including the # 31 for one of my all-time favorite players; Dave Winfield.  The bullpens are in play down the left and right field lines, which I do like.  On an overall basis, I honestly have to say, this stadium does come across as more of a football stadium than a baseball stadium, as most of the dual-purpose stadiums do.  Therefore, it is probably a real special thing that they have a prominent sign to count down the days until they open the baseball-only Petco Park next year.  The current count is 272.

A bonus for me at this game is that I got to share my experience with friends Kate, TJ, and Rick, who came to meet me at the seats.  Once they got there, I had to go find Rubio’s fish tacos.  I heard Bob Murphy talk about them so much on Mets broadcasts that I had to try them.  My local friends didn’t think of them as anything special, but they were unique to me and I liked them.  You also have the option of trying food at Randy Jones BBQ, which I hear is good, but did not sample this trip.  Randy Jones was a star pitcher for the Padres in the 70s and a non-star pitcher for my Mets afterwards, but he is often present at the stand, which could make it a fun experience.  All of the food is located at the plaza level around the outside of the stadium, but many of the locals chose to forgo either option, and simply tailgated in the parking lot.

Since today is the 4th of July, there was plenty of patriotic extravaganza around the game.  Military members displayed a tremendously huge flag in the outfield during the Star Spangled Banner, and 4 Miggs flew over the stadium at the end of the anthem.  This is a big military town, so it was no surprise that many of the fans were military personnel.  The Padres incorporate the military into many of their promotions and give many benefits to them at games.  I also, once again, was subjected to God Bless America during the 7th inning stretch instead of going right into Take Me Out to the Ball Game.

I always thought the Padres mascot was the San Diego Chicken, but I have learned that although he appeared frequently at Padres games, he was not officially affiliated with them.  Their official mascot is the Swinging Friar, who, before, after, and during the game, appears for promotions and general fan excitement.  Similar to Milwaukee with their wiener race, the Padres have a Friars race in the 3rd inning.

There was also a game today pitting the Padres against the San Francisco Giants.  The Padres started their ace Jake Peavy today, but he did not look like an ace at all.  Rondell White got the fireworks started for the Padres in the 1st with a solo home run, which actually started fireworks, since they set them off after every Padre HR.  Although Peavy struggled through the 1st two innings he didn’t give up a run until JT Snow’s solo HR and Benito Santiago’s RBI single  in the 3rd.  A Ryan Klesko 2-run bomb and a big triple by Sean Burroughs in the bottom of the 3rd gave the Padres a 2-run lead, which did not last long.  The Giants then scored 5 times in the 4th to knock Peavy out of the game.  The big hits came from Ray Durham with a 2-RBI triple and a big blast of a 2-run HR from Barry Bonds to put them up 7-5.  The Padres added a run in the 6th, but it wasn’t enough and they ended up losing 8-6.

It was interesting to see that half of the crowd seemed to vilify Bonds, while some cheered and others seemed not to care either way.  He ended up going 1-3 with 1 HR, 2 walks, 1 run, and 2 RBI.  I was happy to see one of my former Mets, Edgardo Alphonso go 2-3, with a double, a walk and a run today.  I was disappointed though that I did not get to see Padres closer, Trevor Hoffman come into the game to the tunes of ACDC’s Hell’s Bells.

Bottom line – It was good to hang out with friends at the game and get a personalized tour, but it is also good that the Padres will be moving into a downtown baseball-only stadium next year.

July 5, 2003

Big League Dream Parks – Riverside, California

After a good night at the ballpark with my friends, it was time to pack up and start heading back East.  The next game isn’t for 2 nights in Phoenix, so I went for a partial baseball fix this morning.  I headed to Riverside to the Big League Dream Parks.  This is one of several facilities built by brothers Rick and Jeff Odekirk to give people the feel of playing in a big league park.  At this particular facility, they built mini-replica ballparks of Fenway Park, Forbes Field, and the Polo Grounds.  They have leagues that play their games here, which has to be a lot of fun.  Although you can still go to the authentic Fenway Park in Boston, Manhattan’s polo Grounds and Pittsburg’s Forbes Field no longer exist.  Therefore, you can picture yourself going back in time to play in a great old park.  They have batting cages and soccer fields as well, but the draw is the old time replicas.  It is definitely worth a trip to see or play in if you live nearby.

Now I guess I’ll kill some time by heading to the Hoover Damn, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, before I can end the monotony of no baseball.

Basic trip facts:
-Stadium # 15
-Old Stadium Sites visited – None (Total – 9)
-Under construction Stadium Sites visited – Petco Park (Total – 1)
-Miles traveled – 120 via Car (Totals: Driving – 7,899, Subway - 20, Air - 3,196, Total – 11,135)
-States, provinces and/or commonwealths passed through – California  (Totals: States – 24, Provinces – 0, Commonwealths - 1)
-Seats –Section  Plaza 37, Row 6, Seat 10 – Plaza Level Right Field
-Prices: Parking – $8.00, Beer - $4.75 - $6.75, Hot Dogs - $2.75 - $4.00, Program (including pencil) - $5.75, Souvenir Soda Cup – N/A (only 2nd team not to offer souvenir cups)
-Credit Card giveaway – Padres T-shirt or canvas stool (I took the T-shirt)
-First Pitch -  6:07 PM
-Attendance – 42,379
-Results – Giants 8, Padres 6,  W – Jesse Foppert, L – Jake Peavy, S – Tom Worrell
-Home team record to date – 8 wins, 10 losses
-Record of “team I was routing for” to date – 5 wins, 13 losses
-Lodging – San Diego, California (Kate and TJ’s new house)

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