Four Ballparks Recap Part 1: PETCO – Where the Towels Go | The Golden Sombrero Baseball Blog | MLB, Fantasy, College & High School Baseball News

Four Ballparks Recap Part 1: PETCO – Where the Towels Go

On Labor Day weekend, my dad and I woke up at 5AM and flew all the way to the other side of the country.  We battled hellacious Los Angeles traffic with tiny maps and bad directions.  We spent $34 on parking—for the first night.  And we drove six hours across the desert, dozens of miles from civilization but just one engine breakdown away from a grim fate at the hands of the 105-degree Arizona heat.

Some might wonder if we were out of our minds, all our months of frustration with the economy, global warming and LeBron’s Decision to take his talents to South Beach having finally driven us over the edge.  But no.  Our motivation for the four-day trip was much simpler—to watch four baseball games in four ballparks in four cities.  And while I can’t confirm or deny Pete Rose’s willingness to actually walk through hell in a gasoline suit to play baseball, I can certainly say that driving through hell in a Toyota Corolla merely to watch it was very well worth it indeed.  This is the first in a four-part series chronicling each ballpark we visited along the way.

The first stop on our epic baseball journey was San Diego’s PETCO Park.  Located in the heart of San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, the six-year-old ballpark was surrounded with places to go before and after the ballgame.  After checking into our hotel (which had a view directly into the ballpark from its sky lounge) and burgers at Dick’s Last Resort, a bar two blocks away from the center field gate, we headed over to the park for Rockies vs. Padres.

Entering the ballpark from the centerfield gate, one of the first things you’ll see (other than a lot of concrete) is a large brick structure that seems slightly out-of-place in a 21st-century ballpark.  Once we got to our seats in the first base side, we looked back to see that this is the famous Western Metal Supply Co. building, which actually delayed the ballpark’s opening by two years when it was declared an historic landmark.  Fortunately for the Padres, they were able to clear this political hurdle by incorporating the building into PETCO’s structure, a great idea especially given that this building is one of the coolest things about an otherwise-ordinary ballpark.

Though coming into the trip we had high expectations of PETCO given its reputation, its structure and overall atmosphere were somewhat disappointing to a fan used to the friendly confines and often-electric environment of Coors Field.  Our seats were excellent and there didn’t seem to be a bad seat in the house, but the place felt somewhat institutional and sterile—perhaps more apt to being called a stadium than a ballpark.  The fact that the fans didn’t come close to filling the 42,445 seats to see a first-place team on a Saturday afternoon certainly didn’t help matters.

Because this was a must-win game (and a must-sweep series) for the Rockies, we were practically living and dying with every pitch.  This feeling was not shared by most others at the ballpark, though, because the volume of the cheers for the Rockies often rivaled those of the home team’s fans.  This would be nothing unusual if a team with a national following like the Cubs were in town, but against a team like the Rockies, it showed somewhat of a lack of interest in the outcome of the game, with the fans seemingly treating it as an event, rather than an opportunity to cheer on a first-place team as it tries to take one step closer to the playoffs.

Most baseball fans (and all fantasy players) know that PETCO is the most favorable pitchers’ park in baseball.  This fact is not lost on Padres fans either, apparently, because a sizeable portion left the ballgame with the Rockies up just two runs in the top of the eighth inning.  This became a theme throughout the trip, but was an unusual experience for me having watched games at Coors Field, where fans know the Rockies can mount a wild comeback at any point (just ask any Cardinals or Braves fan) and rarely leave before the game’s final pitch.  However, in the defense of the Padres fans, it is very easy to tell even sitting inside the ballpark that it favors pitchers.  Despite the short porch of 396 feet in center field, fly balls to the outfield seemingly ticketed for the seats often hit a wall of warm ocean air before falling harmlessly into the gloves of the outfielders—no humidor required.

That said, there are definitely some positives to the young ballpark located in one of America’s great western cities.  The view of the San Diego skyline from our seats right behind the Padres dugout was truly something to behold, and it likely is even more picturesque after the sun goes down.  And unlike that of the other three ballparks we visited, the location could not be better, with PETCO located in the Gaslamp Quarter, one of San Diego’s nicest (and most expensive) neighborhoods, where a cup of coffee and a slice of blueberry bread from a nearby coffee shop will run you $7.  The seats are comfortable and well-positioned, with even the poorest seats offering a good view of the action, and parts of the ballpark do look very nice and new.

Though the ballpark itself fell somewhat short of my admittedly lofty expectations, watching the Rockies take down the hometown Friars at PETCO Park was certainly a big thrill and a great way to kick off a father-son ballpark tour that was, without question, my best vacation ever (and yes, I’ve been to Disney World).  But the trip had only just begun.  After a night in the beautiful Marriott Gaslamp, it was time to get on I-5 for a quick trip north to ballpark #2, Dodger Stadium.

Check back soon for Part II of this four-part series.


  1. Mevs says:

    I’ve always wanted to do something like this. I’m dying to make the trip to Dodger Stadium and some of the west coast ball parks someday. Don’t know how I’ll afford it.

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