I find myself, more and more, comparing the Padres to other teams who have found success despite similar problems. I watch these teams with envy, but enjoy their games. Their games are exciting. They’re meaningful. These teams are in contention. But I’ve taken a moment to consider everything great about baseball, and something occurred to me. Winning ball games is only part of the magic.
Stay with me on this because this may sound like a sad Padres fan trying to rationalize failure. And to a degree it is. The Padres fail at a lot of things. They struggle defensively, offensively, and health-wise. They don’t win many games, and they don’t hit many home runs. They don’t have any superstars, and there are no truly great rivalries. But the Padres are our team. For that, we deserve to find those little things that make baseball great and make Padres baseball great.
The moments I’m talking about are the one with which we wrap ourselves during the long winter months between baseball seasons. They are the moments that slide next to us during a rough season and offer a friendly arm around our shoulders. These snapshots of the game are what keep us coming back, keep our hopes higher than they ever should be, and provide welcome relief from losing. They are a tangible representation of our fandom despite their intangible qualities.
Some of the moments that I can recall very quickly that had very little to do with pennant races or the postseason are:
Khalil Greene‘s grand slam to cap off a five-run, bottom of the ninth comeback. It was a night game on September 17, 2005. Granted the Padres would go on to win the division that year, they did so with an 82-80 record. They weren’t a great team as evidenced by the sweep they suffered in the Division Series. The Padres were facing the Nationals in their first year out of Montreal. The Padres and their limited offense had failed to score all game while allowing Washington to score five. Then, in the bottom of the ninth, magic happened. The Padres pushed across a run, then they loaded the bases ahead of Khalil Greene. Now Greene was not known as a massive power guy. 2005 was probably his second-best best year power-wise, but to expect a grand-slam would have been naive. But that’s exactly what happened. Greene blasted a game-tying grand-slam into the seats of the Western Metal Supply Company building. Ramon Hernandez would later hit a three-run homer in the 12th to win it.
Ruben Rivera‘s inside the park home run to tie the game in the ninth. The beauty of this moment was that I got to witness it live. I was in attendance with my dad at Qualcomm Stadium when Rivera, one of the most disappointing players in Padres history did something I had never seen in person. With two outs in the ninth and the Padres trailing 2-1, Ruben Rivera hit a booming shot off the right field wall. The Angels misplayed it a bit allowing the speedy Rivera to fly around the base paths. I stood yelling like only a crazy high school kid can yell and watched Rivera blow past second, head into third, and just keep running. The Padres would go on to lose the game, but my disappointment was softened by being able to witness a rare feat in person.
Damian Jackson steals five bags, Padres steal nine. This was another moment magnified by my attendance. There is something about being there as opposed to seeing it on television. The Padres were not good in 1999. They had just been to the World Series in 1998, got swept by the Yankees, and subsequently lost most the players from that team. One of the more exciting players on the 1999 squad was Damian Jackson. In this game, he stole second base three times, third base once, and he stole home. If he could have stole first, I’m sure he would have. The Padres as a whole would steal a club-record nine bases and go on to win the game. But it was Jackson’s five steals and his steal of home that is forever seared in my memories.
Jake Peavy strikes out nine straight, 16 in the game. This was another moment
coincidentally amidst a winning season, but the Padres actually lost this game. I was living in Arizona and had received tickets from work. No one was able to attend the game with me so I went alone – the first time I had ever watched a game in person alone. It was fantastic. I could focus on every pitch and every play, including Jake Peavy’s dominance. It was April 25, 2007. At this point in the season, I had no clue the Padres would eventually lose a one-game play-off with the Rockies. But I knew how good Peavy was. He struck out nine straight Diamondbacks batters from the second through the fourth innings. In the fifth inning, Eric Byrnes walked to break up the streak. In the game, Peavy ended up with 16 strikeouts. By season’s end, he would have his first Cy Young award locked up. As a side note, the Padres would actually lose this game as Scott Linebrink would allow a run in the eighth, and Trevor Hoffman would allow a walk-off home run to Stephen Drew.
There are so many more moments I could call up with a snap of my fingers, but the point is simply this; Baseball is about memories. It’s about simple moments, exciting plays, personal milestones, and the joy of experience. During these lean years (and there have been many of them), we Padres fans have something to hold on to. We can live for the individual moments while hoping for victory.
What are the moments you can readily access to help get you through tough seasons?