San Diego

Padres Home Opener Brings Excitement for Fans and Downtown Businesses

NBC Universal, Inc.

The home opener for the Padres is on Thursday. Coming out of the pandemic, the rush of thousands of fans filling downtown and Petco Park has been a long time coming.

Downtown Wednesday, there was a buzz of excitement in the air as businesses were busy prepping for the start of a baseball season that they’ve been anticipating since 2019.

Following closures, restrictions and nearly reinventing how business can be done, Clem Martineau is thrilled to be coming out of the pandemic and into a full-fledged season.

”It went from you know, COVID time to ramping up for all Padres,” Martineau said.

Martineau has been managing Union Kitchen and Tap in the Gaslamp Quarter since February. He says he’s brought on more staff, signage has been updated, and new uniforms have been ordered ahead of Thursday’s home opener.

”I’m just looking for excited people,” Martineau said. “People who are ready to get out of the house and go to a ballgame again, you know, and forget about the real world for a few hours.”

Lucky’s Lunch Counter is just a stone’s throw from Petco Park, and head chef Ivan Munoz says the restaurant has been preparing for the season.

”In this last month we’ve been almost doubling up on our orders,” Munoz said.

He says his restaurant will be extending hours for the start of the season, but says that fans and customers should expect a few changes.

“The shortage of employees and product as is everybody, the high prices of stuff as well,” Munoz said. “Gas, there’s so much, so many factors that all come together that makes it tough, but we gotta do what we gotta do.”

Regardless, the enthusiasm for baseball remains.

”It’s going to be amazing, it’s going to be awesome,” Munoz said.

Jay Jeffcoat has had that enthusiasm for baseball for some time now.

”Well, I’m very excited about it,” Jeffcoat said. “Some people have a half-full glass, or half-empty, my glass is always full.”

Jeffcoat has been standing behind the Padres since they became a team in the late 60s.

“Since I was a NROTC mid-shipman in law school when they started,” Jeffcoat said. “That’s how long ago, I can’t remember. The very first year.”

For a lifelong fan who even bought a condo two years ago so that he could watch games from his balcony and was able to attend 75 of the 81 home games last season, you can imagine what this season means to him.

”It’s going to be beyond description,” Jeffcoat said. “It’ll be hard not to have tears in your eyes.”

Despite all the changes that have come out of the last two years, one thing has stayed the same for Jeffcoat.

“They’re just a team I started with when they started and I’ve loved everything about the Padres," he said.

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