The Padres have been good before. But only twice in their long history have they ever been as good as they are (at least on paper) in 2021.
The additions of aces Blake Snell and Yu Darvish, plus Korean star infielder Ha-Seong Kim, have the Friars thinking about a legitimate championship season. However, the real excitement about the talent level on San Diego’s roster goes back to last October.
“Going into the playoffs we all believed that we could be competitive for a World Series championship. To do all that without fans in the ballpark was bittersweet,” says Erik Greupner, Padres President of Business Operations.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic Padres fans haven’t even been able to see the brown uniforms in person at Petco Park yet, let alone enjoy what’s become known as the most exciting team in baseball. But there may be very good news for the Friar Faithful.
“It is our expectation and our hope that, even by Opening Day, we’ll have reduced capacity and we’ll have fans back in the ballpark,” says Greupner.
Just how reduced are we talking here?
“At a minimum, 20% capacity. I mean, that is absolutely worth doing,” says Greupner.
That would be between 8,500 and 10,000 fans for the opener. As the season goes on the Padres expect to be able to slowly increase the number of fans allowed inside Petco Park.
“Hopefully when we get to a pennant run, playoffs, and maybe even a World Series, we can get closer to a full capacity ballpark,” says Greupner.
Of course, this is all contingent on which tier San Diego County is in at the time. The Padres have been working closely with and government health officials to set up a program for cleaning the ballpark, access to concessions, and everything that makes for a wonderful Petco Park experience. They’re even getting a little creative with it all.
“I don’t know this for sure but at some point there may be, if you’ve got (proof) of having been vaccinated or are antibody-positive there may be certain sections of the ballpark where you have less social distancing. So, coming to a Padres game is going to require a little more planning on the front end,” says Greupner.
And how will they choose who gets the golden tickets for a reduced-capacity event?
“It’s going to start with season ticket members,” says Greupner. “We’re going to give priority access to our season ticket members based on their tenure and a mix of different factors that add up to their priority number.”
Along with tenure, seating location and number of games in the ticket package will be considered (to learn more about Padres season ticket membership click here).
For the Padres, the number of people that can watch a game is not as important as the fact they’ll be there at all.
“We’re just, more than anything, excited to welcome fans back,” says Greupner, who is celebrating his 10th year with the organization in 2021. “Our loyal fans have supported us for so long, including a series of years when we were not playing winning baseball. Now that we’re winning and playing championship-caliber baseball it’s going to be awesome … even if it’s just 10,000 fans at first … it’s going to be awesome to open wide the gates of Petco Park, get people back out here, and allow them to see this team play.”
Opening Day is set for April 1 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. They’re hoping their final game is in late October with a World Championship on the line.
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