The trees inside the Park at the Park are in bloom, which means San Diego’s East Village is about to come to life.
Baseball season is here, and this is your guide to Opening Day.
Game Day: What You Need to Know
Soon to be Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman will throw out the first pitch a little after 1:00 pm Thursday when the Padres open the 2018 season against the Milwaukee Brewers. Get to the park early. Traffic is always backed up in the East Village on opening day. MTS has added extra trolley service, if you’d rather avoid driving. Metal detectors are now part of life at Major League Ballparks. So, allow yourself a little extra time and patience to make it inside for the pre-game festivities. As for those festivities, the U.S. Navy Leapfrog team will land on the field. The national anthem will be sung by Jackie Foster, the Poway High grad making a run on the current season of NBC’s the Voice. When she’s done, downtown may shake a bit during an F-18 Superhornet flyover. When the game gets underway, veteran Padres pitcher Clayton Richard will make the start for the Friars. More on the team below.
Once you sit down, look around. The Padres fine-tune Petco a little every year, and construction crews have been busy this offseason. The headliner of the offseason projects is the new scoreboard in right field. Petco already claims the largest scoreboard in the National League with the mega screen they added to left center field a couple seasons back. Now, the Padres have added a compliment in right field, with a newer, somewhat smaller scoreboard, making sure everyone can see at least one of the two. And by smaller, we mean roughly 55 feet by 33 feet.
Closer to the field, you’ll notice extended safety nets this season. After a few scary incidents and close calls at ballparks around the country, major league baseball called on teams to extend safety netting to the end of each dugout. The Padres have decided to go even farther with new netting stretching three sections down each baseline. At its peak, the nets will be 24 feet high and then taper down as they move towards the outfield. The company that made the mesh netting claims it has 95 percent spectator visibility and has colors woven in that match the field. So, the idea is to make Petco safer for the fans without impacting their view of the action, too much.
The Padres are going solar. When you play in San Diego, why not take home field advantage of the sunshine? This change might be harder for you to see from your seat, but just know you’re sitting under 716 new solar panels installed on the roof of the upper deck. The system is supposed to be enough to power the team’s front office. It’s billed as the largest solar panel system in Major League baseball. In fact, the company installing the system said it’s larger than the solar installations at every other Major League Park combined.
The team store is doing a lot more than selling t-shirts this season. The Padres have created a virtual reality experience. Fans can feel like they’re standing at home plate and have 90 seconds to hit as many home runs as they can. Also, a few steps away, there’s a new Sony Experience. Four 4K TVs give fans a chance to play video game baseball while looking just out the window at the actual game.
Petco Park has become a destination for more than just baseball fans and the food is a big reason why. Several years ago, the Padres made a conscious decision to focus on more local vendors and the fans have fully embraced it. 2018 will bring in new local favorites like South Park’s Buona Forchetta, an Italian restaurant that started in South Park, and now brings gourmet pizza and gelato to the park. Blue Water Seafood brings a taste of Mission Hills to the park promising to serve seafood caught the same day. Jack & Craft will feature freshly popped caramel corn. Ballast Point will have two new Sculpin bars featuring their world-renowned IPA and now an Aloha version of it infused with mango and guava. The Friar Frank has been reimagined to now offer a turkey caprese dog, as well as a vegetarian dog topped with artichokes. Petco is bringing back a lot of other local favorites like Baked Bear ice cream, Phil’s BBQ, Hodads, Lucha Libre, Pizza Port, and of course a long list of craft beers from what has become America’s Finest beer town. NBC 7's write up on this year’s food lineup will make you hungry.
We should probably at least talk a little baseball. Temper your expectations on the field for this season when it comes to a championship, but there is a lot to be excited about. And a lot of that excitement is about what’s happening in the Padres minor league system. Derek Togerson said there’s a chance we might start getting a look at the stars of tomorrow during the second half of the season. As far as where the big league roster begins the season, look for the Padres richest contract to make an impact right away. The Padres signed first baseman Eric Hosmer to an eight-year $144 million contract. It’s an interesting decision to spend all that money on a team that looks like it’s still two or three years away from contending, but if they’re looking to build a culture, he is known as a leader. Hosmer won a championship with the Royals, and he’s bilingual which could be very valuable considering the enormous investment the Padres have recently made in young talent from Latin America. 2018 will also bring back some familiar faces that left San Diego but couldn't stay away. Chase Headley is back at third base after his stint in New York pinstripes.
This is a team that’s had bad luck when it comes to injuries, and 2018 already has a setback before the team ever takes the field at Petco. Number two starter Dinelson Lamet is expected to miss the first month of the season after suffering some sort of an elbow injury at that tail end of spring training.
The party goes all weekend. Padres opening weekend will also feature the 8th Annual Block Party on Friday and Saturday. It’s free and open to anyone with or without game tickets. Check it out on J street between 6th and 10th. The team is off on Easter Sunday.