The Padres get a day off today after an exciting 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in front of a sellout crowd and a national television audience on Sunday night. So, while players and fans catch their collective breaths, let’s take a look at some news and notes from Opening Night:
What a crowd: Not only was it a sellout, it set a record for largest attendance in Petco Park’s 10-year history. A whopping 45,567 fans were in the park and they were loud. It was a playoff atmosphere all night. Of course, you’re going to get an extra rush when the hated Dodgers are in town, but this was even more than that. It seemed fans were on their feet cheering after nearly every play.
Oh, if we could only have every game played against a heated rival from just a few hours away while playing on ESPN. Yeah, not gonna happen.
For the record, it broke the previous attendance record by just 71 fans (April 6, 2009, also against the Dodgers).
It wasn’t just inside the park. Bars in the Gaslamp Quarter were bumping before and after the game. The pre-game party in East Village looked like a rousing success, with two blocks of food and drinks for fans.
You are appreciated: The pregame ceremony honored local military. There were 120 service men and women on the field before the game mingling with players and watching an outfield-big flag unfurled. The Padres also wore their camouflage jerseys for the first time on opening day.
Star ceremony: It was a touching pre-game tribute to legendary announcer Jerry Coleman, who passed away over the offseason. Padres TV announcer Dick Enberg gave a nice tribute to his fellow broadcaster, who spent 70 years in baseball, 41 of those with the Padres.
“Jerry’s impact on our community was profound, and the Padres will not be the same without you,” Enberg said with a lump in his throat.
The plane flyover after the national anthem (sang by Chula Vista native and American Idol finalist Jessica Sanchez) was a 1943 SMJ 5 “Sassy” jet – the one Coleman flew in military training. Coleman served in both World War II and the Korean War.
The Padres also officially dedicated the press box to Coleman and will have a star hanging from a string that will come out after big plays.
Coleman probably would have appreciated the ceremony not going exactly as planned. Padres Chairman Ron Fowler’s speech about Coleman was interrupted by the U.S. Navy Leap Frog parachute divers landing in the outfield. Coleman’s daughter, Chelsea, threw out the first pitch to manager Bud Black. The pitch bounced in front of the plate and went through Blacks’ legs. Coleman might not have put a star on that one, but nobody seemed to care.
All in all, it was a fitting tribute to a beloved man.
Buddy speaks: Black’s first pregame press conference of the year focused on instant replay and injuries. For the record, Black is in favor of the league’s new replay rules, which allow managers to challenge at least one play a game.
“What we’ve seen from other sports, it’s time for baseball (to use replay),” he said. “This is a historic day.”
Well, not exactly. There were no replay challenges from either team in a game that was mostly without any controversial calls from the umpires.
Q update: Black didn’t sound optimistic when talking about outfielder Carlos Quentin, who missed much of last year with a knee injury, and is starting the season on the disabled list with a bone bruise in his other knee.
“I worry about Q,” he said. “He has knees that are banged up. But there’s motivation behind Q, that he wants to play.”
Black said Quentin most likely won’t be able to come off the DL when he’s eligible next week.
“It will go beyond that,” he said.
Praising Tommy: Black also gave high praise to rookie Tommy Medica, who not only made his first opening day roster but also was the starter in left field.
“He’s done a nice job over the past 3 1/2 weeks of getting up to speed,” Black said. “He’s played a little bit of left field in the past, but not a lot. … He’s fearless. Not tentative, not scared off by this.”
Medica had a hit and a walk while hitting sixth in the lineup.
No jitters: Ever wonder if players get extra nervous for opening day? Catcher Nick Hundley downplayed the pressure of the season’s first game.
“It’s just a part of the business,” said Hundley, who was taking part in his sixth season opener. “You just try to stay positive. It’s a little bigger, but you try to block that out.”
Beach bums: There were beach balls galore as Harrah’s Casino was giving them out to fans before the game. That led to at least a half-dozen instances of balls coming onto the field. Come on, Padres fans. Let’s keep it in the stands. Say what you will about Dodgers fans, at least they can keep the beach balls in the bleachers.
Fan participation: An over-exuberant fan jumped the fence down the third-base line in the middle of the seventh inning, running across the outfield and sliding in the shallow right-center field grass before he was quickly descended upon and roughed up by three security guards.
He was promptly handcuffed and arrested, presumably spending the rest of the night in the bowels of Petco Park and facing charges from the team. Was it really worth it?
Beat LA?: One more thing about the Padres-Dodgers rivalry. Can we just retire the whole “Beat LA” cheer? It’s unoriginal (every team west of the Mississippi does it now) and it only strokes LA fans’ egos. That’s the last thing anybody needs. Let’s focus on a Padres win, not a Dodgers loss, no?