A historic afternoon at Petco Park

    I know I stress over being a sports editor with deadlines, finding the right information, dealing with computer problems as well as every little complication possible that seems to reveal itself during production. But on March 13, it was good to be sports editor. The Guardian was lucky enough to be invited to cover Tony Gwynn’s SDSU Aztec Invitational at Petco Park from March 12 through March 15. Luckily, my baseball beat writer and I were able to score some press passes that gave us access to the press box, dugout and field. We even scored some free food and got a chance to roam around the whole park, inside and out, with no one even questioning us.

    My writer and I began our day with a bit of an adventure. I figured that taking the trolley (which I have never done before) would be the easiest way to get to Petco. We drove to the Old Town trolley station and ran into some problems finding a parking spot. After a lot of circling around, we found a parking spot a couple of blocks away and finally made our way onto the trolley. Taking the trolley was really easy, although I had heard that the trolley had been overcrowded the night before when SDSU played at Petco Park to start the Invitational. It seems that the San Diego fans are going to have a hell of a time trying to find parking during baseball season.

    We finally reached the ballpark, and if you haven’t seen it already, it’s situated at the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter. Once I stepped inside, I was in awe. It was overwhelming. I could see a breathtaking view of the city skyline behind the outfield wall and out in left field was an old brick warehouse with a Western Metal Supply Company sign on it. The seats were concentrated, giving a more intimate feel to the overall atmosphere. Even in the nosebleed sections it looks and feels like you are a lot closer than, say, the nosebleeds at Qualcomm Stadium. I felt like I was at a stadium back East. The ballpark is definitely worth all the parking hassles.

    There were a few thousand people on hand, walking around and watching the game between UCSD and Point Loma Nazarene. I walked all over, checking the view from all possible angles, and chatted with a few of the fans. There were scores of little kids with their parents and I even ran across a couple of kids playing hooky from school to get a chance to check out the ballpark.

    “[Petco Park] is very cool,” 10-year-old Zachary Craven said. “My favorite part is center field and I also like the french fries — they’re very good.”

    The game between our team and Point Loma Nazarene was the first day game ever played at Petco. It was fun watching the two teams take the field just like the big leaguers do. The game turned out to be an awesome pitcher’s duel with the Tritons winning it, 2-1. Right-hander Byron Grubman pitched an incredible complete game against Point Loma, leading his team to the historic win. I got a chance to walk on the field and chat with him for a bit after the ballgame. I asked him what it felt like being out there.

    “It was awesome to play here and win here,” Grubman said. “I tried to act like I’ve been here before [to ease the nerves] and the atmosphere definitely helped our team win.”

    I also got a chance to talk to catcher Jeff Riddle and got his thoughts on his Petco Park experience.

    “Playing here was awesome,” he said. “I was a little bit nervous, but I had a lot of fun. It was definitely inspirational to play and win here. And someday, it’d be nice to come back and play here as a big leaguer.”

    I can definitely see that happening.

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