I was at the game in 2003 when Rondell White hit a walk-off grand slam against the Mariners. I was at Petco for the game in which Kyle Blanks hit an inside-the-part home run. However, there’s no doubt that my favorite Padre experience happened in September of 2001 when my dad and I attended a game at Qualcomm Stadium against Arizona. The Padres trailed 5-1 going into the bottom of the eighth inning. Ray Lankford capped off a 6-run rally with a grand slam. It was one of the most enjoyable games I’ve ever seen in-person. But what made this day special was what occurred before it.
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Somehow my dad scored tickets that allowed us to go into the tunnels and onto the field of Qualcomm. We rode in an elevator with then-color man Rick Sutcliffe. We saw Rickey Henderson in the tunnels. Two other fans occupied his time. I can’t say I was particularly disappointed because I got to meet my favorite player then and my favorite player now.
Not only did Tony Gwynn stop to shake my hand and sign the baseball cards I had brought, but he stopped to talk with us. Everything positive you’ve ever heard about Tony was true, at least from my experience around him. He was gracious and understood how talking to an admirer would make that fan’s day. Mr. Padre even shared a couple stories that he had. One was a little sad actually. In a sports world filled with cliches, I doubt that many other professional athletes would have showed their humanity so much. I can’t say that I remember specifics about what he said. As a 7-year-old, I was too awe-inspired in the half-hour I spent with Tony Gwynn.