The annual baseball winter festival for the fans of the San Diego Padres takes place at Petco Park every year, just when the offseason seems to be going on forever.
It reminds all the die hard baseball fans, and San Diego Padres fans in particular, that spring training is just around the corner and the game that we love so much will be starting back up soon, after the long offseason slumber.
Saturday, January 11 at 9 a.m. the season ticket holders entered the gates of Petco and descended on the Padres Foundation garage sale, the Kids Zone beyond the center field walls, the playing field for games of catch and running the outfield to catch balls at the wall.
There were three autograph locations where the Friar Faithful lined up in long lines to capture the signature and/or photo of a Padres player, alumni or broadcaster.
The general public joined in at 10 a.m. to swell the crowd in the park to the largest ever to attend the annual winter rite, 16,000 souls.
For their trouble fans get to cheer the words of their Friars interviewed on the Sycuan stage by Padres broadcasters and beamed on the big board in the park.
New this year were photo booths located around the park that allowed fans to pose for photos in front of a FanFest backdrop and, later in the day, included opportunities to pose with the players who showed up after their other obligations were completed.
For their part, players such as Chris Paddack, Manny Machado, Drew Pomeranz, Joey Lucchesi, Matt Strahm, Ty France, Greg Garcia, Austin Hedges, Zach Davies, Trent Grisham and soon to be Padres Taylor Trammell, Luis Patino, Owen Miller and Joey Cantillo made the media rounds, signed autographs, participated in interviews, and posed for photos.
All this made for a joyful and celebratory environment for the Padres and their fans. There seemed to be a different level of enthusiasm this year.