Are you ready for some baseball? Baseball season gets underway at Petco Park, but many questions still remain about the Padres.
April 4, 2012 12:45 p.m.
Mark Sauer, KPBS senior news editor.
Summer Serrano, president of the San Diego Madres, a group that supports the Padres and youth baseball in San Diego
Related Story: Baseball Season Gets Underway In San Diego
CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. It's Wednesday, April 4th. Our top story on Midday Edition, some people say they can feel it in the air. Opening day of the 2012 major league baseball season is upon us. The San Diego Padres open the season tomorrow with a home game against the dodgers at 4:05. This game is a sellout, but cynics say it might be the only one this season. The team hasn't been in very good form the past few years, and of course there are the front office complications, the scuttling of the long planned sale of the team, and the uncertainty of the TV contract. But still, it's baseball! Mark Sauer, KPBS senior news editor, welcome to the program.
SAUER: Good to be here.
CAVANAUGH: And Summer Serrano is here, president of the Madres, a group that supports the Padres and youth-based ball. What's so special about opening day?
SAUER: It's almost incidental just second to the excitement, are the fresh mowed grass, and for many people, it's the official start of spring, even though spring is already here. It's the one time of year where you've got every player, every coach, everybody lined up, they all get to tip their hat and be introduced, not just the starting lineups. And it's great fun for everybody. A celebration. And then this time of short attention spans and social media, and 24 news cycles and quick quick quick, baseball still endures. Still the national past time. Popular as ever.
CAVANAUGH: And something of a student of the game as I know you are, what are some of the special feats that have happened on the field on opening day!
SAUER: It's really interesting. There are 162 games and this is just one of them. But Ted Williams, of course from San Diego, many people think the greatest hitter ever, hit 449 in openers. He had hit in at least every game on opening day, 1940, which witnessed the most famous pitching event, Cleveland ace bill filler, and Eddie Smith went head-to-head. Smith blinked, filler remained in control, tossed the only opening day no hitter in baseball history. And Hank Aaron, his first swing of the 1974 season tagged Cincinnati reds to tie babe Ruth on the all-time list. He went on to hit 455 home runs. So some of the feats on opening day, there's a couple others on April 4th, 2005, Dimitri Young of the Detroit tigers hit three home runs in his opener against the Kansas city royals. But that was only the third time it had happened. So a lot of big feats even though it's opening day and all the hoopla.
CAVANAUGH: Now, summer, you're speaking for the fans here today. Tell us about your group. What is it that do you?
SERRANO: The San Diego Madres, we're a group of men and women who love baseball and love the Padres, but more importantly we raise money to support the youth baseball and little leagues and softball of San Diego County.
CAVANAUGH: How long have you been a season ticket holder?
SERRANO: I've been a Padres fan since I was walk because the Padres and me are the same age.
[ LAUGHTER ]
SERRANO: I was about nine-days old at opening day.
CAVANAUGH: So how do you celebrate the opening day of Petco Park tomorrow?
SERRANO: Opening day is the best day of the year. It's a national holiday for us.
CAVANAUGH: You're not alone in that.
SERRANO: We actually go down, start tailgating really early. We start about 9:00 or 10:00 in the morning. And it's more the excitement of getting down there, and getting our spot, our favorite spot in the lot, and just being with our friends and getting ready for the season.
CAVANAUGH: Now, your group does a lot of volunteer work at Petco; isn't that right?
SERRANO: Yes, we do. We start off with a garage sale there where they sell off the Padres gear, and volunteer at that. And we have quite a few volunteers out for that event. Then we end it at the end of the season, the Padres foundation sells the shirts off your back, and we go and walk the stadium and sell those tickets for them.
CAVANAUGH: Opening day is as much a celebration as it is a baseball game. And from a business standpoint, from a downtown standpoint, what does a new season of the Padres mean?
SAUER: Well, it's of course hope springs eternal, and everyone -- nobody's lost a game on opening day. So everyone hopes the team will do well. The excitement builds down there in the Gaslamp. A lot of owners see the crowds come back. It means a lot for businesses. Game day folks come down to have maybe a little ginger ale or two before the game and something to eat and walk over to the stadium. The Gaslamp thrives on that. So it's important from that standpoint. And the team's fortunes this year --
CAVANAUGH: Well, I want to get into that. We were getting giddy about opening day, and why not? I know it's a big day for baseball fans. But tell us what most sportswriters are saying about the Padres' prospects this season.
SAUER: They did have a successful spring, and won a number of games over in Arizona. Of course those are practice games. And the real thing starts tomorrow. This is a team that's seeing a lot of stars lost, free agency, trades, they couldn't afford it. They bumped up their payroll this year to almost --
CAVANAUGH: So we have a phone call there.
SAUER: That must be the owners calling me now to give me the latest.
[ LAUGHTER ]
SAUER: They have bumped up their payroll this year. It was just $38†million a couple of years, two, three years ago. And now it's up to almost $60†million, but they are one of only two clubs under $60†million. The Yankees have $195†million to pay for stars. So we've got young players, players who have come back from injuries in the past, and they have had down seasons. So it's a very -- questionable. You have to be very optimistic.
CAVANAUGH: What is your take on that, summer? When you read the predictions of what the sportswriters say about the Padres and about the fact that it's been not too great for the Padres the last couple of seasons? What do you think?
SERRANO: Well, watching the 2010 Padres, when they were nobodies and they came back and they were winning, they had a winning season and a fabulous season. It was fun games to watch.
>> Right down to the end.
SERRANO: Right down to the end. And seeing the organization has actually signed a few players recently to big contracts, Cameron Mavin is the Madres' favorite new Padre.
SAUER: He's terrific.
SERRANO: And we really acknowledged that with all the plays he made in the outfield. So to see him get that contract was really nice.
CAVANAUGH: It sounds to me it doesn't matter whether or not the Padres win or lose.
SERRANO: No, we love the game of baseball. And it's really a chance for us to go out and get to know some of the guys and even their families and just to watch them out there like Cameron to give it their all. And these young guys really do.
SAUER: We should talk about the park itself. It is quite an experience. You've got that marvelous park at the park, it's unique in baseball. This beautiful green grass out there. Folks can bring a picnic blanket. You've got the beach out there for toddlers and kids. Very family-friendly. You've got the wiffle ball diamond, and just going there and watching a major league game in that ball park is a terrific experience.
CAVANAUGH: Well, I have to be Gladys Gloomy again though. If this is another bad season for the Padres, some people say that that may have implications about how San Diegans feel about building a new stadium for the Chargers. Do you think that's fair?
SAUER: I think it's fair. It's connected to a point. If you go back to the stadium, Petco, that was built her, their timing was absolutely perfect in 1998. They come off there marvelous run to the world series, played the Yankees in the world series, and just a few weeks later, the vote came. And we had that window of exhilaration and success for that team, and of course they voted and the tax portions funded that stadium. Since then, it was bogged down in lawsuits, the stadium finally got built, now we've seen the Chargers have had nothing but an uphill climb in generating that excitement.
CAVANAUGH: And we do really have to talk a little bit -- I know that we have on this program last week talked about the shakeup in the Padres' front office. Who is the CEO of the team now?
SAUER: Tom Garfinkle has come in. Jeff Murad was in the process, three-year process of buying the team. That was set to go and was supposed to happen in January, February, and then suddenly that fell through. Apparently there's a lot of major league owners, Murad is a former agent, and they're not keen on him buying this team. So he's at this point -- he and his group have 49% control. And it's just a murky situation. Murad doesn't of the to appear to want to own the team long-term. The dodgers were just sold in this $2†billion deal. Some people said that group with magic Johnson as its face wildly overpaid for that team. Does Moors in light of that. To open the bidding again? Who knows? All of this is happening behind the scenes.
CAVANAUGH: And in the meantime, some people in San Diego County won't be able to watch the games on TV.
SAUER: Well, if you want to be a cynic again, that's good news and bad news. The bad news is you can't watch the Padre, the good news is you can't watch the Padres. There's a couple main cable carriers in town who are not going to carry them. I believe Cox is, and then a couple of the other major carriers are.
SAUER: So that's up in the air. That's day to day on what may happen with it.
SAUER: It's unfortunate because I get it, and my mom doesn't it. So it's really a shame.
CAVANAUGH: Well, you have one good way to solve that and just come down and see a game, right?
[ LAUGHTER ]