Friday night the San Diego Padres returned to San Diego for the first time since September. They made the great decision to play their final two spring training games at intimate Fowler Park at the University of San Diego campus.
Excitement was in the air, as GM Josh Byrnes talked up front with Mark Loretta and Mark Kotsay, young prospect Matt Wisler readied to give the San Diego fans a glimpse of the future, and the starting lineup wasn’t much different than it will be for Sunday night.
However, as the Indians knocked out seven runs before the first out was made, fans were dually thinking that they were glad it was still spring training – and it could be a long season. Wisler struggled with his control, and the Indians belted out a couple home runs in the small university ballpark. He did recover after the second home run to get out three men in a row and showed the dazzling combination of what might be of speed, control, and a great change up, going from 98 to 82 on the gun.
The second inning came, and with Wisler gone, his replacement fared no better, allowing another seven runs before being lifted without even finishing the inning. Ouch.
There were some positives however. Everth Cabrera made a great diving stop in the first inning, though he was unable to throw the runner out at first. Yonder Alonzo looked good, hitting a sharp line drive home run to right in the 2nd and a double later in the game. Cabrera and Chase Headley also hit doubles, but besides that it was all Cleveland. Zach McAllister looked very strong for the tribe, only allowing two runs in four innings.
The atmosphere was great in the tiny ballpark, with it feeling like a minor league park where you could hear the Friar Faithful chanting “Pad-re, Padre, Padre Padre….Pad-re…Pad-re” to the “Ole Ole Ole” tune. The food was cheaper, but by the end of the 16-4 rout more fans were interested in the brewing Kentucky-Louisville upset than if the Padres would come back. All told, despite the final score of course, it was a great success in bringing a major league to a college campus, and I hope to see this become an annual tradition. Much better than having these games in a sparsely attended Petco Park!
One fun incident was when a foul ball rolled towards Jedd Gyorko during at-bat. He tossed it towards the stands, and the crowd watched to see if he would just clear the high mesh netting. It didn’t, and rolled back towards Gyorko. He grabbed it, and this time took no chances, throwing the ball well over the mesh and beyond the stands. The fans applauded, and Gyorko flashed a playful smile as well. Still spring training after all.
They wrap up the spring training Saturday afternoon at 1pm before the much anticipated, ESPN Opening Night Game at 7pm against the Dodgers.