After visiting 30 different past and present ballparks, one thing has become clear: the home team doesn’t have to win to have a great experience.
One of the last standing ballparks I’ve yet to see led me to a conclusion. You can’t judge a ballpark experience by the home team’s record, place in the standings or how many all-stars they have in the lineup.
The stadium experience can be championship level all the time. Petco Park in San Diego is a perfect example. Baseball fans, there’s more to San Diego than beautiful weather and a world famous zoo.
The park opened in 2004 and replaced the old Jack Murphy Stadium — later called Qualcomm Park. Remember those names?
Petco captures the old and the new but remembers the past with historical exhibits that reflect the franchise and the area where the ballpark stands. The Western Metal Supply Company building, once a hurdle to completing Petco, is one of its most recognizable features.
The Western Metal building adds to the charm and modern amenities. The building offers multiple levels for fans to watch games. In right field, there’s the beach — yes, the beach — that also provides sand and a berm for fans to view the game from a different point of view.
There’s also the “jury box,” outfield seats in right that jet out that put you on the field with the warning track to your right in left.
The Padres faced the Mets, another sub .500 team, but you wouldn’t know it by the crowd. The game was a Saturday evening sellout.
Sure, it was a shirt giveaway day, but you got the feel that the ballpark was the place to be. Although, it’s worth noting that the crowd was a relaxed Southern California atmosphere. It’s nothing like a crowd in the Bronx or Fenway.
That went hand-in-hand with the outside of the park, which is situated in a vibrant area which always seems to be bustling with activity. The neighborhood is up there with Fenway and Wrigley in terms of local hangouts.
Petco should be a popular place, with great sightlines at the cross roads of the past and the present with everyday great weather. If you ever get to San Diego and the Padres are in town, be sure to catch a game.
Just don’t expect a raucous crowd.
Ernie Bertothy is a contributing sportswriter to the Citizen’s News.