Petco Park Is Perfect

DSC_0049This spring and summer, I have traveled to some of America’s newest and oldest baseball ballparks, and I just got back from San Diego’s Petco Park.  Let me tell you: I have a new favorite ballpark!

The stadium was family-friendly and had breathtaking views, like the panoramic view of the city’s skyline.  The concourses were open and pretty.  My mom said it felt like a hotel!  They had a lot of local food options, like the excellent Phil’s BBQ, Filippi’s pizza, and places to get tacos and tri-tip.

I visited Petco Park on July 31, which happened to be Trade Deadline Day.  We arrived at the stadium at around 11 am PST to claim the press passes from the media gate that the Padres left for us and to go into the press box before the game started at 12:40 pm.

The ballpark was filled with lots of other kids because it was camp day at the ballpark, and everyone seemed befuddled when I walked through the media gate. They must have been thinking, “why is this kid walking into the media gate?!?”

Unlike Nationals Park, which has the highest press box in the country, the press box at Petco Park is on level two.

Before the game started, we took a few pictures on the field and watched a little bit of MLB Network because they were talking about all the trades going on.

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While sitting in the press box, we learned that Padres outfielder Chris Denorfia was traded to the Mariners.  We also got a tour of the press box from Patrick, who works in Media Relations for the Padres.  First, he showed me where the print journalists sit, with the wide open view of the field.  All of the journalists were searching on their computers to confirm trade rumors.

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We then went to the broadcasting center. We first met the radio voice of the Padres, Ted Leitner of XPRS 1090 AM. After meeting Ted and talking about how Petco Park’s broadcast booth compared to the booth at Wrigley Field (where the Padres had just played and where I visited in June), Patrick took me to meet Fox TV broadcasters Mark Sweeney and Dick Enberg.  We talked with them for a while, and Dick quizzed me about the baseball player Mat Batts.  He was surprised that I knew he was a catcher for the Twins, and he said he remembered when Batts used to play.  I stayed around for a minute while to watch them do their intro for TV, but we didn’t want to disturb them too much.

Mark Sweeney and Dick Enberg of Fox TV

Mark Sweeney and Dick Enberg of Fox TV

Patrick then brought out a surprise for me and my brother: a swag bag made up of lots of the promo items that the Padres gave away this year.  The bag included t-shirts, sunglasses, a beach towel, a travel blanket, a gumball machine, a Petco Park 10 year anniversary photo, and my favorite-a fedora.

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We left the press box and then we watched the game. We sat right behind the plate in the upper deck, which, as you can see below, was a fabulous view.  Our section, Section 300, is actually right on top of the press box.  Sitting above the press box is not something you can do at Nationals Park or PNC Park, because the press boxes there at the very top of the stadium.

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The game was good, but not the most exciting.  In the 2nd inning, there were three home runs. Oscar “Minor League Guy” Taveras homered in the top of the inning, to put the Cards on top 2-0. Jedd Gyorko answered in the bottom of the 2nd with a home run to right that cut the Cardinal lead in half.  Will Venable added on with a solo shot of his own. However, the Cards proved victorious at the end of the day, winning 6-2.

After the 7th inning stretch, we went for a walk around the ballpark.  I discovered that Petco Park is a beautiful place with lots to do and many great places to sit, relax and watch the game.  If I go again, I would recommend spending a lot more time in the Park at the Park.

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The Park at the Park is open to the public when there is no game.  You have a view of the outfield and can visit the Tony Gwynn “Mr. Padres” statue.  During the game, you pay only $5 and can sit and watch the game from the grass on a picnic blanket behind center field.

Petco Park also has a little beach area with sand and beach toys for kids and bleachers which is right up against the centerfield wall.  If you go, I’d recommend sitting where we did (section 300), the Bleachers, or a picnic blanket at Park at The Park. I’d also recommend sitting in Section 134, which is literally right next to the stacked home and visitors bullpens.  You have a great view of the bullpens from an open stairway, but you can be even closer to the action all game from Section 134.  Most of the seats are in the sun, except for some of the 200 seats.  I think by the afternoon, the 3rd base side starts to get shady.  This is important because it is so sunny in San Diego.

I love Petco Park, and I hope to go  back.  Take a look at some of the photos we took and some other fun facts about the stadium and the game experience.

  • San Diego is a military town, and  they do a military appreciation between the 1st and 2nd innings, kind of like what the Nationals do to honor service members and their families. Instead of having them all sitting in one place, the Padres ask the military members stand up where they are sitting so that people all over the ballpark can recognize them and clap for them.
  • On the 300 level along the 1st base line, you can see the organist play music.

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  • The bullpens are stacked in left-center field.  You can get a great view of them from one of the stairways and sit right behind the visitors in Section 134.

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  • Park at the Park has a sandbox in centerfield so kids can play while the parents watch the game.  This is such a cool feature.

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  • After a home run, the Padres play a clip of the whistle from the USS Ronald Reagan. At night, they blow the whistle and put on fireworks in straightaway centerfield.
  • The left field foul pole is painted on the side of the Western Metal supply building, as you can see in this photo.

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  • In the outfield by The Park at the Park, there is a mini baseball field for kids to play on dubbed Bumble Bee Stadium.  Kids bring balls and gloves to the game and actually play on it during the Padres games.

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  • The  scoreboard not only tells you how fast a pitch was, it also says what pitch was thrown.
  • There are player facts shown on the scoreboard when a player–home or visitor–comes up to bat.
  • The concourse on the field level is wide open, with lots of flowers and plants, and you have a view of the field from the concourse area.  It’s really very pretty.  There are lots of different stands to buy souvenirs or food.  They also have games like a place where you can see how fast you can pitch.

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I have had lots of different baseball experiences this summer, including amazing trips to Nationals Park, Marlins Park, Wrigley Field, and PNC Park.   They were all great for different reasons.  In terms of which ballpark is the nicest, Petco Park is the winner.  It has to be one of the best places to watch a day game anywhere in the country, right up there with AT&T Park in San Francisco and Wrigley Field.

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