Bottom of the 9th. Two outs. Bases loaded. One-run game.
Every Little Leaguer has played that scenario out in their minds, inevitably coming up with the walkoff knock or game-ending strikeout. The 9th inning of a close baseball game is one of the most exciting and unique experiences in sports.
At Petco Park this year, you may have noticed something a little different behind home plate during the 9th inning: signs for Circa Resort and Casino. If you’re unfamiliar with that property, that’s because Circa isn’t located in San Diego County. It’s in Las Vegas.
“The execs of the Padres explained how they wanted to get an out-of-market sponsor,” says Derek Stevens, CEO and Owner of Circa.
With an increase in eyes on (and expectations for) the Padres in 2021 the club decided to expand its marketing base beyond Southern California and there’s a rapidly growing market wanting to get in with one of baseball’s most exciting teams, something that's really never happened with this franchise that's long existed in anonymity.
Circa Resort and Casino opened in October of last year and hangs its hat on catering to sports fans. They say they have the world’s largest sports book and a 78-million pixel TV screen that shows up to 19 games at once. Now, the Padres have the largest spot on that screen.
Once they started talking, a deal for Circa to become the official Las Vegas partner of the Friars came together pretty fast. Sponsors for the early innings were already in place so Circa had a brainstorm.
“What about the other end of the game?” says Stevens. “They offered us the top of the 9th and I thought, that sounds pretty good, but I don’t want to miss those few bottoms of the 9th. We’re going to have a few walkoffs with Machado and Tatis this year.”
Stevens is, obviously, a big-time baseball fan. He used to own the Triple-A team in Las Vegas and has long kept an eye on what the Padres have been building.
“Everybody talks about the Dodgers but I kind of thought, wait a second. San Diego is arguably the best team in baseball. If not it’s right up in the top few. So, I just thought the opportunity was right.”
Plus, the 9th inning is sacred in San Diego baseball. From Rollie Fingers to Goose Gossage to Mark Davis to Trevor Hoffman to Heath Bell to Huston Street to Brad Hand to Kirby Yates and now Mark Melancon, the Padres have had more closers go to the All-Star game than any other franchise in baseball history.
That lineage made the 9th inning even more intriguing.
“Oh, I absolutely thought about that,” says Stevens. “I loved watching Padres games when Hoffman was coming in and I thought Yates, a couple of years ago, was potentially a Cy Young candidate. So, yeah, the 9th inning with the Padres is something special.”
Of course, there’s also a sports betting element at play here. Traditionally, the last game of the day is going to generate a spike in wagers as gamblers try to finish with one final flourish.
“Oftentimes the Padres are the last game still playing,” says Stevens of the club with a whole lot of 7:10 pm starts. “So, it’s something that impacts us, obviously with San Diego, but also on a national level to have the last inning of the last live game in the country.”
With the Padres early success, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Any of the Friar Faithful who want to check out the Padres-friendly property can get information here.
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