It was a great night for baseball at Petco Park on Friday night, as my friend Ken and I took in the first of three games we'll be seeing this weekend. There was a bit of a pall cast over it for both of us. Ken's wife Peggy, who has been been a dear friend of mine since we first met when we worked at Tower Records together back in the mid-1980s, could not be present. She had gone on a trip to Greece, Egypt and Turkey in late May with her mother, and her mom fell and injured her hip and had to be hospitalized. Peggy and her mom have been on the island of Corfu for over three weeks, and unfortunately couldn't be back in time for the series. Her mom is doing much better, in good spirits and they'll be back next week in San Diego. But they were both definitely with us at Petco in spirit.
Ken and I took in batting practice in the lower left field stands, and it was a lot of fun. The Padres went first and then the Red Sox took over. There were scores and scores of Red Sox fans in the stands, and we all couldn't wait for David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez to take their cuts.(I came close to catching a couple of shots, but no cigar.) They both hit some eye-opening bombs, but the Red Sox player who really surprised me was Doug Mirabelli. He put on some show in BP, hitting some tremendous blasts, many of which went over our heads into the second deck. (At least Dougie goes deep in BP!)
Red Sox Nation definitely made their presence known here in San Diego. I went to the San Diego Hall of Champions Museum yesterday, which was great. They had some great exhibits on all facets of San Diego sports (even the "Rocky" statue, which was there on loan), including an exhibit of Ted Williams. It had his jersey, a few bats and his two MVP awards. As I was there, I bumped into two Red Sox fans from Boston, who couldn't believe I was a Sox fan from New York. "We've made our presence known in the city," I told them.
Last night's game reminded me of my trips to Baltimore and Philadelphia, when Red Sox fans by the thousands came in for the games. I even ran into a guy who lived on Long Island for many years but was a San Diego resident for 20 years. But he was diehard Red Sox fan who jumped at the chance to see this series. There were over 44,000 people at Petco last night, but at least 20,000 were Red Sox fans.
Just before the game started, I called my dad in New York to tell him where I was sitting. (He would be watching the game on the MLB package.) I went to find a less noisy spot to make the call, and who do see looking out from a suite, but "my friend" Red Sox owner John Henry! (I met him at Professor Thom's earlier this week.) A number of Red Sox fans recognized him and he waved to them. (I wonder if he remembered me? Eh, probably not.)
It was also "Retro Night" at Petco, and they honored the year 1982, as it was Tony Gwynn's MLB debut. Both teams wore 1982 team jerseys, and I pulled out my early 1980s jersey for the game. Ken wore his retro Padres one as well. The Padres did a nice job with it, playing early 1980s music, but the best part of the night was showing each player on both teams on the scoreboard with a 1980s style haircut. The fans, including myself, were in stitches at each player's new do. Manny Ramirez had hair past his shoulders while wearing a nose and lip ring. It was hysterical and a nice, funny touch to the evening.
The game got off to a rough start as Daisuke Matsuzaka walked the bases loaded in the first, but got out of it with just one run scoring. I had a feeling it would be Dice-K's lone bad inning of the night, and I was proven right. Greg Maddux pitched well the first three innings, but before the fourth, Ken said to me that when Maddux loses it, it happens quickly. And right on cue, the Red Sox tagged him for two runs. It would prove to be all they needed as the Red Sox went on to win, 2-1.
Dice-K went six innings, threw 126 pitches, and gutted out his ninth win. The bullpen did a splendid job as usual, and Jonathan Papelbon got the save, but not without some trouble before it ended. Jose Cruz singled with two outs, and that brought up the dangerous Adrian Gonzalez. (He's going to be a big time player one day.) The stadium was roaring as he came up, and I was plenty nervous. But Pap struck him out on a 2-2 pitch to secure the Red Sox third straight win. They have now allowed only one run in the past three games.
After the game the Red Sox fans were in loud voice, with lots of "Let's Go Red Sox" chants, even in the men's room! It was a good crowd tonight, with a playoff-type atmosphere. (The Padres had the best record in the NL going into last night.) There were no fights, and the fans of both clubs seem to get on fine. (I guess because they have almost no history against each other.)
Tonight's matchup is another good one: Tim Wakefield vs. Chris Young. Ken and I are taking the Petco Park tour this afternoon, and after that we'll be back in the left stands for batting practice at 5. I will once again be there to try to fulfill a life's dream: to come away with a baseball at a MLB park.
Wish me luck. Go Red Sox!