Nick Hundley is in the playoffs, and he is amazed at the difference between his previous experiences in baseball with the Padres and playing in the playoffs. Rich Dubroff of Comcast SportsNet Baltimore quotes Hundley in his post last night:
"“The atmosphere was unbelievable. I’ve been to a lot of college football games. I’ve been on the sidelines at the Rose Bowl with 100,000 people. This was right up there,” Hundley said of his first playoff game."
Hundley was raised in the Padres organization, joining the team after being drafted out of the University of Arizona in the second round of the 2005 amateur draft. After spending nearly ten years in the San Diego organization, he was traded to the Orioles when their star catcher, Matt Wieters, went down for the season with an injury. The Padres were carrying three catchers at the time, and Hundley was expendable.
Players like Hundley and Chase Headley, another career-long Padre who now plays his home games in Yankee Stadium, must feel like kids in a candy store. Headley has spent the last few months playing in front of giant crowds at home and on the road as part of the Derek Jeter Farewell Tour.
What is it like coming up in the Padres organization, spending a number of years playing at Petco Park in front of San Diego fans, who are, well, let’s say “quiet” fans, and then leaving to go to a big-market team, or a team that competes for the best record in the league?
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It must be like going to high school in the small town where you grew up, and then going to, say, Ohio State, with its 65,000 students.
It’s a giant, new, unexplored world. A world where you get recognized on the street. A world where the fans actually cheer throughout the whole game. Sure, you’d seen the playoffs on TV, you’d been to these ballparks as visitors. But there is an enormous difference between having 50,000 fans rooting for your opponent and having them cheer wildly for you.
Hundley had to be thrilled in Game One of the Orioles-Tigers series, which his Orioles won 12-3. Hundley drove in a run in the O’s 8-run eighth inning, collecting his RBI on a bases-loaded groundout. Fist bumps from your teammates in the playoffs feel mighty good.
During his tenure with the Padres, Hundley almost always had a smile on his face, despite never getting a whiff of the playoffs. His cheeks must be aching from grinning ear-to-ear while playing for a team that won its division by 12 games, and is now one victory away from the League Championship Series.
We at Friars On Base wish him the best.