During recent road trips the Padres have played in some packed houses. The Houston Astros and New York Mets both had more than 30,000 people in their yards.
Now, finally, it’s San Diego’s turn.
“I know the guys feel this way. Our staff feels this way. It’s an advantage when you have your home crowd behind you,” says Padres Manger Jayce Tingler. “Tonight, this homestand, this opportunity and these home games going forward we’re going to have that with us.”
On Thursday night the Padres host the Reds in what will be a capacity crowd at Petco Park for San Diego's Opening Day. Everyone in the clubhouse is already anticipating the electricity.
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“It’s gonna be great. We obviously miss them,” says shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. “Having them 100% in here is going to feel like real baseball.”
The last time this yard was full was September 29, 2019. That was a 1-0 loss to the Dodgers, part of a 6-game losing streak to end that miserable 70-92 season.
Since then an awful lot has changed.
Like, almost everything.
Let’s start with the roster. Only six of the 26 players who were active for that 2019 game are active for this one: Wil Myers, Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer, Dinelson Lamet, Chris Paddack and Craig Stammen. The coaching staff is almost all new, including with the skipper and both base coaches.
The results have certainly improved. The Padres are now a legitimate playoff contender, in the middle of a 2nd straight winning season after nine consecutive losing records.
The national perception has changed. Shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. is in the mix to lead the National League in All-Star voting. He’ll almost certainly be the first Padre to start the Midsummer Classic since Tony Gwynn in 1998, an indication that the Friars are suddenly relevant on the sporting landscape.
Shoot, even the team colors and logo have changed, saying bye bye blue and bringing back the brown.
In fact, the last time a substantial number of Friar Faithful were together at Petco Park without restrictions was when the team unveiled their new look. That night was raucous. Thursday will make it look like a tea party.
Now, with all that energy comes more adrenaline, and there is the risk of being TOO ramped up and not playing well. Tingler says that’s nowhere near the list of things he’s worried about.
“I don’t think so. Not with this group. Honestly, they’re a bunch of adrenaline junkies so I think this is gonna be a good thing for them.”
The Emperor of Electricity agrees.
“Yeah, it’s a different vibe,” says Tatis. “When they stadium is crowded there’s just way more energy and you can tell we play way better, too.”
That’s something Padres fans have been waiting more than a decade to celebrate together in the best ballpark in Major League Baseball.
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