When we arrived at Petco Park, a little over an hour before first pitch, the Giants were taking batting practice and Heath Bell was signing autographs near the home dugout. Bell signed for 10-15 minutes, with other members of the Padres bullpen joining in as well.
Players milled about the field, the grounds crew made a few minor adjustments, and fans filed into their seats by the thousands. With the defending World Champions in town, it would be an easy sellout on Opening Day.
This season, the Padres are honoring the original PCL Padres of 1936. As part of the pregame festivities, several players from teams past came out and gathered near the pitcher’s mound:
- George McDonald – Left-handed hitting first baseman who played for the Padres from 1936 to 1944, and again in parts of 1946 and 1947; teammate of Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr; batted .330 for the Padres in 1943; collected 1999 minor-league hits, but never reached the big leagues
- Jim Gleason – Right-handed pitcher who spent parts of 1947 and 1948 with the Padres; native San Diegan made 13 appearances for his hometown team; pitched five seasons in the minors before retiring at age 24
- “Downtown” Ollie Brown – Member of original 1969 NL Padres squad; first pick in expansion draft; hit .272/.327/.413 with 52 homers in 3+ seasons with the Padres; second best right fielder from Long Beach Poly HS in club history (some guy named Gwynn is first)
- Randy Jones – Left-handed pitcher who needs no introduction but who gets one anyway; won 20 games for the Padres in ’75 and ’76 (he went 42-26 those years, while the rest of the team went 102-154), picking up NL Cy Young Award in ’76; tied for second (with Jake Peavy) for wins in franchise history with 92; serves delicious tri-tip sandwiches
- Garry Templeton – Member of 1984 World Series squad; hit .252/.293/.339 over 9+ seasons in San Diego; second all-time in games played, at-bats, hits, and doubles for Padres; top 10 in several other categories
- Mark Loretta – Hit .314/.377/.438 in three seasons with Padres; finished ninth in NL MVP voting in 2004 thanks to a .335/.391/.495 campaign that ranks among the best single-season performances in club history; arguably a better option than one season of Tadahito Iguchi and two of David Eckstein, but that’s water under the bridge
After those six were introduced, the scoreboard lights went out and bells rang. To borrow from MC Dick Enberg’s phrase book: Oh, my.
Yep, we got one last Trevor Time. As I said then, “No crying in baseball? Screw that.” I don’t have words. I’m getting a little choked up even typing this.
I was there when Trevor Hoffman notched his 300th save, when he broke Lee Smith’s all-time saves record, and again at no. 500. I sat above the visitors bullpen the first time he returned to San Diego as a member of the opposing team.
A lot of memories — too many, really — came rushing back as Hoffman took the mound one last time and delivered the ceremonial first pitch. It served as a great way to kick off the new season, but also as a bittersweet reminder that we won’t again experience the joy of Trevor Time.
I should get over it already. Easier said than done, I’m afraid. There’s a better than decent chance I never will.
Anticlimactic though it may have seemed, there was an actual game after all that. Patrick Henry HS alum Aaron Harang got off to a rough start, allowing a run in the first inning. No matter: The Giants wouldn’t score again.
Harang worked six solid innings, which is all anyone ever asks out of Padres starters. Then let the Big Three come in and take care of the rest, as they did on Tuesday.
We are calling Harang “Lemon,” as in “Lemon Harang Pie.” Thank/blame Mrs. Ducksnorts for that one. I suggested he change his uniform number to pi, but it’s hard to find a jersey big enough to fit all those digits. Plus that’s just a stupid idea.
The key inning for the Padres was the third. They scored all three of their runs in that frame and forced a visibly frustrated Madison Bumgarner from the game after the young left-hander had faced just 17 batters.
Nick Hundley led off the inning and set the tone, fouling off three 2-2 pitches and working the count full before lining a single back up the middle: nine pitches resulting in a base hit. (Hundley later would single to right; as I’ve said before, good things happen when he uses the whole field). After Harang sacrificed Hundley to second, Jason Bartlett drew a five-pitch walk.
Orlando Hudson then singled and Jorge Cantu hit a fly ball to deep left, driving home Hundley to tie the game. Ryan Ludwick, who looked great every time up on Tuesday (he’s swinging at good pitches, laying off bad ones, and hitting the ball hard) batted next and quickly fell behind in the count, 0-2. Then he took three balls and fouled off four more before drawing a walk to load the bases for Chase Headley.
Headley, batting from his weaker (right) side, worked the count to 2-0. After Bumgarner evened the count, Headley hit a couple of foul balls and eventually drew an RBI walk.
The Padres have drawn three bases loaded walks in their first four games this year. You know how many they drew in 2010? Well, it was more than I expected: 13. They drew 16 in 2009.
Okay, so it’s not that special. Whatever, I liked it anyway.
Chris Denorfia followed with a tapper out in front of home plate that Bumgarner mishandled. Denorfia somehow was credited with a single on the play, but this was an up-close-and-personal demonstration of the Giants “defense” at work. Bumgarner eventually got out of the inning but needed 41 pitches to do it. By the time Cameron Maybin flied to right to end the frame, Guillermo Mota was warming up in a hurry for the visitors.
Speaking of Maybin… I am developing a bit of a man-crush. His swing gets stupid long, but never mind that. He made three plays in center field on Tuesday that melted me.
First, Miguel Tejada lined a double to left-center to lead off the third inning. It looked like a no-doubt double all the way, but Maybin got to the ball quickly and damn near threw Tejada out at second. I mean, there shouldn’t even have been a play. As Marc Normandin observed, “Whenever Cameron Maybin runs after a ball or throws one, I think he’s pretty awesome.” Uh, yeah.
Maybin also made catches to end the seventh (off the bat of Freddy Sanchez) and eighth (off the bat of Pablo Sandoval) that impressed. They don’t look like much because he got such great jumps, but Maybin does that Eric Davis thing where you’d swear he’s running toward the ball before it’s even hit. He just sort of glides to the spot and is there. Andruw Jones used to do that when he first came up. It’s a treat to watch.
Another treat was watching Cedric Hunter get his first big-league hit. It’s always fun to see guys you saw in the minors come up here and succeed. Wearing Tony Gwynn Jr.’s old no. 18 (apparently they didn’t retire it), Hunter batted for Harang in the sixth and slashed a single to center off Mota. Hunter later was caught stealing third to end the inning, which brings me to the nitpicky portion of this here rambling thing…
These didn’t end up hurting the Padres, but they could have. And they might in the future.
- In the bottom of the fourth, with Hundley at first and no out, Harang struck out while trying to lay down a sacrifice bunt. Hundley ended up reaching third with one out thanks to a spectacular rundown fail by the Giants but was stranded there when Hudson struck out and Cantu grounded out. This could’ve been a big inning but netted exactly zero runs.
- In the sixth, with two on and no out, Bartlett failed to execute a sacrifice attempt. Then Hunter was nailed trying to steal third while Hudson swung at strike three. Cantu, who had hit the ball hard twice earlier in the game, was left standing on deck.
But that’s just me being pissy.
The Padres, for the most part, played a great game. Harang did his job, the defense did the same (Bartlett made a couple of nice stops at shortstop and has a strong arm), and the bullpen… well, you know how that goes. And although it was fun to watch Bell sprint in from the bullpen to start the ninth, I couldn’t help but think of when Hoffman had entered before the game. It’s just not the same, and it never will be. But you know what? If it wins us games, I’m cool with that.
* * *
- Padres Home Opener 2011 (Gaslamp Ball). Jbox shares his thoughts on the game.
- Padres released once promising outfielder Kellen Kulbacki (Kevin Goldstein via Twitter). As Goldstein notes, Kulbacki “hit .328/.428/.589 in the Cal League and just .208/.271/.286 in 2 AA yrs.” It’s a shame Kulbacki didn’t work out as planned. Dude raked, but he couldn’t stay healthy.
- How to use Twitter properly to enhance your baseball experience (HardballTalk). Bottom line: Twitter is like a blog. Or any other conversation. Obvious, perhaps, but points worth making.
- Biomechanics and Me? (Lookout Landing). I’ve only skimmed this article by Kyle Boddy, but it looks like he’s doing some pretty cool stuff.
- Styling in the 70s with the Padres (No Pepper). And of course, there is a movement afoot to bring back the brown. On a side note, I saw a lot of brown jerseys and caps on Opening Day.
- Benedict makes tough decision to join Padres staff (U-T). That’s 2009 16th-round pick Griffin Benedict, son of former Braves catcher Bruce Benedict, if you’re keeping score at home.
- Whats the role of media for sports teams? (Blog Maverick). Quoth Mark Cuban:
The internet reporters who get paid, IMHO, are to the Mavs and any sports team, the least valuable of all media. I’m a firm believer that their interests are not only not aligned with sports teams like the Mavs, but in fact are diametrically opposed.
So, a billionaire is telling us that folks who make money have an agenda. He’ll get no argument from me.
- Why Contraction in Major League Baseball is a Pipe Dream (Biz of Baseball). Speaking of money… MLB has some.
- Ramon Hernandez and the Hit of the Season (So Far) (Replacement Level Baseball). One of our favorite ex-Padres (he and Geoff Blum should start their own “Awesome Hair Club for Men”) has done it again.
- Career Profile: Tony Gwynn (Minor League Ball). Note the comments where a few people mistakenly identify Ichiro Suzuki as being superior to Gwynn. We’ve been through this before and it just ain’t so… unless you think, e.g., that Jose Cruz Sr. was better than Rod Carew.
- Forbes Valuations rebuttals from actual economists (Gaslamp Ball). Quoth Dex:
Some of those same fans really, truly, believe that this “commitment to winning” (in the form of just spending money wildly) is actually the most important thing. And is even more important than… you know… actually winning.
Yep, I’ve been saying this for years. It’s not a popular message.
- Padres Off and Running (619Sports). Craig Elsten likes what he saw of the Padres in St. Louis:
Bud Black has his team hustling, taking the extra base, stealing bases, playing for one another, bunting runners over, and playing with confidence.
I’m totally down with five of those six things.
- Baseball “Take Me Out to The Ball Game” (1908) (YouTube). Most of us know the chorus, but have you ever heard the verses?