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Springtime for San Diego sports

 April 14, 2023 at 12:00 PM PDT

S1: It's time for Roundtable. I'm Matt Hoffman. This week , we're diving into local sports , not just the success of the Aztec men's basketball team , but how they , the San Diego Padres and the San Diego wave are setting high expectations.

S2: San Diego is starving for a successful sports team. So there's a hunger , there's a fever , and there's just a love for these teams.

S1: Coming up , the Padres season is here , and it's perhaps the most anticipated in team history.

S3: The star power on this club is even beyond 1998 , and that was a heck of a lineup.

S1: All that and more with our panel of experts. Don't go anywhere. Roundtable is coming up next. What a last month it's been for San Diego Sports , the San Diego State Aztecs. They made it to their first ever NCAA championship game. And along the way , the men's basketball team captured the heart and souls of many San Diegans across the region. And during that run , perhaps the most anticipated season in Padres history began. Plus , soccer is also back in town again with the San Diego wave and the loyal taking to the turf again. Joining us to break down the significance of the Aztecs run the Padres and some of their on field changes and the return to the pitch are Todd Strain. He's a sports anchor and reporter for NBC San Diego. Ryan Finley is back with us. He's the sports editor for the San Diego Union Tribune and the voice of the Aztecs. Ted Leitner is here with us. As you may know , he was a longtime Padres broadcaster and still remains with the team now as an ambassador. I want to welcome you all here to roundtable. We're going to start off with San Diego State here , guys , against all odds , the men's basketball team climbed their way to the final game of the March Madness tournament. It caps off a season that's gone down in the history books. First , we want to take you back to the moment that the Aztecs punch their ticket to this championship game. Here's Ted Leitner. His call for AM 760 with a buzzer beating winning shot.

S3: On the drive against puts it up short rebound AG Agee got the rebound Here are the Aztecs now one for three Lamont Butler Lamont Butler pull up jump shot.

UU: Good good good good. They're storming the court They're storming the court.

S3: Who's going to the championship game ? Not for you. No , no , no. The San Diego State as Texas are going to the NCAA championship game on Monday.

S1: You got to love that. And Ted , we know that not many San Diegans could actually make it out to Houston to watch these March Madness games.

S4: Amazing.

S3: Amazing. It was amazing. I've never honestly seen anything quite like it. I mean , it was the singular one moment of of I think San Diego State will I know for sure not just basketball , but sports at San Diego State , the one singular moment that meant so much and the shot meant so much. And I have to see. I have to tell you , I've not heard that clip before. A lot of people have mentioned it to me. And as usual with broadcasting , some people think it's great , other people think it's terrible. And but what it is , is not me. I've never been that emotional in my life and found myself doing that during the course of the latter games. Not so much early on in Orlando , but but in Louisville and then at the Final Four in Houston , that I didn't think I was that emotionally invested or vested with the club. And I found her in the course of the first half that my mouth was dry and I was drinking and drinking and that's not me. I never get nervous before a broadcast. I've always been very lucky about that.


S3: Have a talk with myself. What's going on with you ? And you're drinking all this water. And I realized I wasn't nervous about the broadcast. I was nervous for the kids , for Dutch , for the coaches , for the program. I've never been to a situation where it was that important , that huge. And I understand it's sports and the fun and games department , but it was just amazing to me. So I got I can hear myself being so emotional way beyond anything I've ever called on radio before because I really was into that , like the fans were. And you're supposed to have a little bit of space there , you know , and and not be impartial as a home broadcaster , but at least try. So for me , it was an having done playoffs in baseball with the Padres in the World Series in 98. But this was the single moment on the national stage that it just has not happened in San Diego before with San Diego State. It was just for me at my age and my point in my career. An absolute gift.

S1: Sounds like a lot of excitement there. Ted and Todd and Ryan , you guys were both there , too , in Houston.

S2: So Final Four and what happened Also , it was somewhat unexpected because San Diego State , what made the shot so great is they were down , they were down double digits and they clawed back and then they got a defensive stop , which is their trademark to set up that last second opportunity. And for most of that possession , Butler looked like he was blocked off and nothing was going to come with that possession. He crossed it over , rose up. So it was shocking that he got a shot. He hit the shot. Pure elation. So those two things stand out to me , just the hoops history and the shot and then kind of how improbable it was that he actually got it off and sunk it. And as Ted said , the. Aztecs are going to the Final Four or going to the championship game. Unbelievable.

S1: Yeah , I was actually at Petco Park and they had it on the Jumbotron and the whole stadium just went nuts. And it was during the opposing team's lineup , so I've never really seen that before.

S6: What I love about sports is the power of sports to surprise you. You know , it's one of those very few things in life that I think stuns you sometimes. And you know , that final possession , even in Ted , can speak to this. I think , you know , it was kind of a bad possession until it became the best possession , right. As he's dribbling around and I'm looking at the clock and I'm looking at Price Miller , who's next to me and I'm going , He's got to shoot it. He's got to shoot it , you know , And he gets the perfect separation. I mean , as he goes up for the shot and you can tell that he's got a clear look. I mean , to me , I sort of leaned over and went to Bryce. Good. You know , to me , that was the thing. And , you know , San Diego State , I don't think played particularly well in that game. Their comeback was a lot of offensive rebounds. They ugly the game up as only they can I think that's the secret to their success That final possession was Diego State basketball in a nutshell where it was it was it was it was ugly. It wasn't exactly how you drew it up , but it succeeded to me. I was just floored , floored and surprised and delighted. And it's what sports are all about.

S1: And , you know , guys , when it comes to sports , it's not just about winning and losing winning's obviously good , but it's that culture and community that it brings to a city. And during this Aztec historic run , bars and restaurants across the county , they were packed with people all high fiving strangers , a sea of red and really people just going nuts and crazy.

S2: So there's a hunger , there's a fever , and there's just a love for these teams , whether it's the Padres or Aztecs who are winning suddenly on big stages. So that's the first thing. The second thing is I think Aztec basketball has been building to this moment. They've been building since 2011 , the team they've been building , but they kept running up against it. Whether it was a tough draw on the tournament or something like that , and they just couldn't break through. So each level they broke through. This year , the excitement in the town of San Diego just built and whether it was Al Smith or Vegas , more and more people came out every round. And then once they started winning those , you know , Elite eight Final Four games , San Diego just went bonkers. And let me tell you , we were in the locker room showing the videos , the social media videos to the players saying , here , look what's happening on campus. Look what's happening , you know , in downtown and the Gaslamp. And they were loving they were loving seeing what the San Diego State fans were doing. So I think it's just a whole combination of things and that that's what makes sports more than just a sporting event. It's special. The community gets involved. And here in San Diego , the community has been waiting to get involved for something like this for a long time.

S3: Guys , I have a theory on that. I've always thought that and it's changed from when I was younger and I always on television say , hey , it's only a game. Don't get so excited. It's only a game. And then as I got older and saw what teams meant to communities , I remember the Chargers playing the Dolphins in the playoff at home in the stadium that's no longer with us , and the Dolphins missed the field goal. The Chargers are going to the Super Bowl. This is the 94 season and I remember being outside ready to do a live shot for the TV station and the people were streaming down the ramp. And the degree of happiness that I saw of the people doesn't matter. Color , religion , what section of town you live in , what you work , what you do. It didn't matter. It was just pure joy. And my theory is there are only two things that communities together disaster where it's earthquakes or floods , you name it , that we have and firestorms that you're helping your neighbor , helping your neighbor rebuild , taking them in , that kind of thing. The only positive thing that really brings everybody together is a winning sports team. We saw that with that Charger team in the 95 Super Bowl. We've seen it beginning with the Padres in 84 and then all the other divisions championships in the 98 World Series. And we saw it for the first time on a national level. As as Todd mentioned , this has been building and building with a lot of winning , a lot of winning. And we all knew this West Coast power was the Aztec program. Now everybody knows it's a national power and that makes people really feel proud of their team and proud of their city.


S6: So has the power to bring a community together because it's one game , right , Ted ? You know , 84 , Padres , 98 Padres , right. We all had six months to get used to the idea that this was a really good team , right ? I think in March , you know , you can go from a five seed , right ? I mean , the. Pollsters thought that they were like the 20th best team in America. You can go from a five seed and all the way to the national championship game and all you have to do is win today , right ? And to me , that's what makes it appointment television. That's what makes it such an event for people to to really bond over. You know , it's just one game. It's not a long season like baseball is or , you know , we there was a chance for San Diego State to make history in one afternoon. And that's special. And I think that that attracts. The casual fan a little bit more. I think that that gets people who might not otherwise watch a full season on board. You know , they play this afternoon. If they win , they go to the national championship game. That's a pretty incredible thing.

S1: Yeah , And those are really quick turnaround games. And you know , Ryan going to the national championship game , it has some other advantages for San Diego State. The university says visits to their website and admissions page just skyrocketed. And they estimate along this way of this tournament they racked up around $200 million in free advertising. Do we know what other benefits , you know , SDSU or even the greater San Diego community could see from a run like this ? Yeah.

S6: I mean , I would look at enrollment and applications at San Diego State , not necessarily this summer , but next summer. At my previous stop , I was in Tucson , Arizona for many years before taking the job at the UT. And the University of Arizona is a basketball school and they had a fact that they got the most applications in school history two years after each of their Final Four appearances. And so people who are high school juniors might not know where they want to go to school. And all of a sudden you've got , you know , a place like San Diego State on TV in there talking it up , and maybe then you go to their website , maybe then you start talking to your parents about , hey , you know , San Diego , California would be a great place to go to college. I think you're going to see that. I think that you're going to see a boost in its prestige. I think that , you know , San Diego State , we all know San Diego State to be a basketball school , a school that's been very good at basketball for the last 20 years. I think the nation now knows that. I think that this may help. This isn't going to be one of the reasons why San Diego State changes conferences , because I believe it is going to change conferences. But this is going to help. And , you know , I think that they're going to be welcomed into whatever new league they end up in , in part because of some of this success. So it's all this ancillary stuff. You know , it's not just T-shirts that you sell in season tickets that you sell. It's the fact that San Diego State now has a national brand in college basketball. And that's a big deal.

S1: And , you know , after the Aztecs lost in this championship game to Connecticut , we over here at KPBS News , we published a headline about the idea of this San Diego sports curse. And it actually sparked a real big debate in our newsroom. And what we're talking about is that our city has never seen a major championship , and yet that is the Padres have never won a World Series. The Chargers never did it while they were here. Todd , I think you touched on this a little bit earlier. Then we want to hear from everybody.

S2: But I do not believe in the curse. I think when you look at San Diego sports teams , they just haven't been good enough. Those Padre teams , the 84 team was magical. They weren't as good as the Tigers , the 98 team against the Yankees. They weren't as good as the Yankees. You could make the case that the Chargers had some really good teams , maybe the best in the NFL , but they never really got got close to the Super Bowl. The one time they did the 40 Niners were a much better team. So no curse , no witches , no spells , no magic wands. Um but I will tell you this. I think this year's Padres team has a very good chance to break that spell. If there is such a thing as a spell , we.

S1: Will definitely dive into that more.

S3: Fresh out of spells. No way. No , there's no spells. I don't believe in that. But the problem is it becomes a monster , an entity of its own. And all of a sudden , oh , my gosh , those all those great teams and Kawhi and all the guys that we mentioned and the recent guys and Matt Bradley and so forth , but they just , you know , can't get over that hump. They can't win an NCAA game. They lost whatever it was three , four in a row , including last year when they blew that big lead to Creighton , Nine points up with 2.5 minutes left. You're supposed to win a game like that. And it just was one of those things. I don't see that as a curse. Creighton didn't know anything about it , but it really was a bad final couple of minutes for the Aztecs. That's basketball. And as was mentioned already , the other teams that went and got to the World Series , they came into that yank. I tell you what , that Yankee team in 98 , they talk about the 61 Yankees , which I saw as a kid in the 27 Yankees with Babe Ruth and Murderer's Row. That 98 club had no flaws. It was one of the greatest , if underrated and being greatest Yankee teams of all time against the Padres team of all time. And it was over. Boom , done and finished. And I think that's just bad luck. It's like the the media loves that sort of thing there. They get in , but they never win the big one. Marty Schottenheimer never wins the big one. The Buffalo Bills , four Super Bowls never could win that. Never mind that they got there. And most of the other teams are watching them on television , The Super Bowl , they just can't win that one. And that's a big a big media matzo ball. That's. Really difficult and the asks what what they overcame in addition that we've talked about in this year's NCAA is not just winning the first one , but then moving on. And when you don't do it , you're not Duke , you're not North Carolina , you state , you don't do it. Then all of a sudden you do it. Wow , what a run. What a wonderful time. Wonderful , wonderful time. No curse.

S6: It's funny how curses go away when you start spending money. You know , the Padres curse went away when they started spending money. The Aztecs got better basketball , and once they built an arena and it's all about , I think when you get to the NCAA tournament , two hour mark Ziegler had something about this last week. It's about getting into the tournament because anything can happen once you get into the tournament. And isn't that the same with sports all the way around ? Anything can happen once you if you can just get there. And what I think we're starting to see with not only the Aztecs , but the Padres is they're just getting more bites at the apple. Right ? And the more bites at the apple , you can get like we saw this year , the more potential there is for magic to happen.

S1: We'd like to hear from you. Do you believe in this idea of a San Diego sports curse ? Give us a call at (619) 452-0228. You can leave us a voicemail there or you can email us at roundtable at Coming up , the San Diego Padres season is underway and it comes with some pretty big expectations.

S2: They have so much talent on this team and this team is loaded. They'll be fine.

S1: You're listening to KPBS Roundtable. You're listening to KPBS roundtable. We're talking about San Diego sports this week. Joining me is Ryan Finley from the San Diego Union Tribune , NBC Seven's Todd Strain and the longtime voice of the San Diego Padres , Ted Leitner. You know , guys , this sounds a little weird to say , but the Aztecs March Madness run , It may have overshadowed the San Diego Padres season opener , at least in terms of initial excitement. But the season is here. It's in the early stages. The team just started its second homestand of the season and this year's roster , It's expensive. I mean , we're talking like around $245 million expensive. Quick question for all of you. What's jumped out to you so far ? And Todd , we can start with you.

S2: Well , like so many teams outside of the Rays in early season baseball , it's kind of hard to get a feel for what your team is. Um , I'm not worried about this Padre team. They're off to a seven and six start. Not great. They're trailing the Diamondbacks in the West standings. Who knew ? But the bones are there. As , as Ted mentioned earlier , they need to get Musgrove back. That'll stabilize the rotation. Um , they'll be fine. They have so much talent on this team , and this team is loaded. They'll be fine. And then , as Ryan said , you just need to get into the postseason , whether they're in as a wild card. Of course , if they win the division , that'll be great. That sets them up for more success. But get in there. Let your hitters hit. Let's you're starting on frontline pitching , take you deep into the games. And that's the recipe for success. The Padres have the talent. They have the roster to do it. Sure , they can add some things to the back in the bullpen , but this this season is all about the postseason. I'm not going to get too concerned over a seven and six start where people already are wanting more.

S6: I mean , 13 games.

S3: Go ahead. Go ahead. Oh , no , no.

S6: Ted , please.

S3: I think the wild card in that is what was mentioned. And if they need to add something to the back of the bullpen , if they need a starter and another team has realized that they're not in the race and they let it go this summer during the coming up to the trade deadline. There's a there's a total different feel to this team for the entire most of the 41 years that I was there. And I think the last eight years I worked for for with Peter Sadler's group as my boss. But there's never been a Padre feel and never been a padre model like this , as in , I mean , this is like George Steinbrenner. Whatever it was going to take , I'm going to pay it. Now , what we have here is no George Steinbrenner. This is a terrific , sweet guy that everybody loves who literally , when they talk about this team as a family , This team is a family just like the Aztecs. With with Peter in charge. And that trickles down and they are a family. More importantly , he has basically stated , as the Dodgers did when their group took over and they were asked to keep adding and adding and spending , is there really a limit ? And their guy of the chairman of their group up there to say , no , you know , there really isn't. And now Padre fans all about the small market and can't afford this guy and trade Adrian can't afford him and that's over. That's totally over. And they believe it. They know what they've seen it. Who thought of the Padres when Manny Machado was a free agent ? When did that get in the conversation ? It was going to be Philadelphia. The White Sox done same thing with with getting to and and extending his contract and going after Bogart's and you Darvish and all these guys This has never happened. Peter will spend whatever it takes to have this team third highest payroll of Major League Baseball in the so-called small market. So the insight anticipation because of Peter's ownership and whatever we need by God , failure is not an option. We're going to go get it. That was not there in 98. It was not. It was the a terrific team. We had a great build up and anticipation. But this anticipation with Bogart's added with Pomeranz by the way don't forget him. What do you talk about a breaking ball with a yellow Yellowhammer as they call it and a fastball mid 90 seconds if they get Pomeranz healthy for the first time in a couple of years , that's that huge addition to the bullpen. But the bottom line is they will do whatever it takes and I believe the anticipation for this season is greater than 98 and the idea that it could anyway overshadow the could overshadow that opening. That's saying something for the Aztecs.

S1: And Ryan , what about you ? Some initial first impressions here.

S6: You know , small sample sizes , right ? It's been 13 games. If this were a football season , we'd be through like the first game of the season , right ? So I don't think that there's a whole lot to take out of it outside of they are pretty much who we thought they were. Nelson Cruz has been much better than I expected. Seth Lugo has been a revelation in the rotation. Some guys aren't performing as well. But you know , as Ted knows , you know , it's a long season. And so I think they are they are who we thought they were. And that's good news for San Diego sports fans. That means that it's going to be a very fun summer. Yeah.

S1: You know , Todd , the last time we had you on , it was just before FanFest and I actually ended up going. And it was nuts. I mean , it was so crowded , I couldn't even get inside. They kept saying , We're at capacity. At capacity. The Padres say that was their busiest fan fest in history. And they also tell us that they expect to set a new home attendance record this season. And that's even with some games down in Mexico City.

S2: Not at all. Because you look at that lineup. Stars in the lineup , you look at that ballpark , that is awesome. Whether you like baseball or you just want to drink , craft beer and look to Skyline or hang out with your friends. Everything about this Padre team from roster construction to the ballpark to basically no other options professionally in San Diego , it all lines up to a huge amount of fan excitement. And I think as as Ted and Ryan have been talking about this window of Padre , baseball is basically unprecedented. And it's a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a team that has the potential to be a baseball super team , if you will , a lot of those Yankee powerhouses and the Dodgers run. So , no , I expect and I expect demand for tickets to increase in San Diego as the season goes on. People want to spend money. They want to see this Padre team. Well.

S1: Well. And we know.

S3: That the reaffirm reaffirm what Todd saying is that during the time that I was there through several owners , once Petco Park became part of what they were selling , they did marketing research and focus groups and all these things. And then they would tell us , as the broadcasters back then , this is the not this ownership but previous ownerships. We have to sell the ballpark people. It's a beautiful jewel. It's wonderful. It's absolutely people think this and PNC in Pittsburgh are literally the perfect ballpark. So as close as you can get to the ballpark with the Western metals building and the park at the park and all these things that no other ballpark really has. What we have to do now , again , this is with a $50 million payroll or whatever it happened to be , we got to sell the ballpark experience they would call it. So that's the thing. Come on out here , the Gaslamp , all the restaurants , and you'll have a great time with Petco Park. There's nothing quite like it. And then the all star game in 2016 , when USA Today said , Wow , look what we just discovered went to the all star game. It's the greatest ballpark in America ever. So it really was sell the ballpark experience. Now that's not important. Now it's we got the steak. When you don't have the steak , you got to sell the sizzle. The Padres have the sizzle and they have the steak. And the as in as mentioned by both these by both Todd and Ryan , they have that lineup. They have the pitching. They spent the money. They'll spend more money. And the fans are just delirious. They've never had a situation like this. And it's just literally one of it's a one off. It's one of its kind because it's a one of a kind ownership.

S1: And let's transition a little bit here. You know , guys , baseball looks a little bit different this year. It's the first season that Major League Baseball is using a pitch clock. It's meant to speed up games. And it basically means that pitchers have about 20 seconds to throw each pitch.

S6: I think it's some fans think it's a little too fast , which is funny. I think , you know , all we heard for years from fans complaining that , you know , some baseball games take too long. You know , you watch a Sunday night game on ESPN , it takes four hours. Right now they're saying , whoa , whoa , whoa , whoa , whoa , hey , We're trying to enjoy ourselves here. And you know , it it changes the calculus a little bit. If you go to Petco Park and if you get up in the third inning to go get a beer or go use the restroom , it's possible you could miss whole chunks of the game now. So I'm curious to see how the experience in TED talked about the experience , how the experience will change now that the games are going a little bit faster. You know , will , you know , are people going to be less willing to wait in lines for stuff or people going to be less willing to to to sort of do the timeless things , to walk around the ballpark , to hang out in the team shop , to do stuff like that because the games are going that much faster. I personally think it's great. I think it's been fun to watch. I don't know how a broadcaster would handle it. I mean , I've grew up listening to Ted. I can't imagine what the how the changes must affect people who have been doing this for years. But I think it's a step in the right direction.


S2: And it's not just for this year. They're trying to build baseball for ten , 20 , 30 , 40 years down the road. But as Ryan mentioned , there's an interesting dynamic at play. Watching a two hour game on TV is wonderful. Going to the ballpark and paying hundreds of dollars and sitting through a two hour game is not so great because you're paying a lot of money for a product that is now shorter and it's not a good or as fan friendly of an experience. If you're spending a large portion of that time waiting in line for concessions. So there's an interesting dynamic that they have to figure out. I know the Padres have pushed beer sales now to the top of the eighth , and some other teams have done the same thing. But that's something you definitely got to baseball's definitely got to keep an eye out and figure out how that plays.

S3: And I think it's like review. I think it's like replay that there was so much that needed to be tweaked early on these ones that. Would go on and on and on like Tolstoy. Mean. Good Lord. Come on. To spend two minutes , make a decision. You know , whatever. You're just wrong. Make a decision. And they got better at that. And I think they will tweak this and they'll adjust it. But when you're thinking about what is it about 26 minutes off , those spring games and spring games were never short in my lifetime , that's for sure. Using guys from A and A and pitchers who can't find a strike zone and it's ball four , ball four and an error and innings that went on forever forever and here's the and the pitchers who would hold the ball hated them hated them they killed the pace of the game and the game that I love and I would say for years come on Ramon Martinez or whomever. Come on while we're young. That had to change that later in my career because I was no longer young. But that's , I think is something that has already shown it works. But now I think you're right. When they're calling somebody out of Manny's not ready and not ready at eight seconds , ready to go with a clock at 15 or 20 seconds. I think they've taken enough time off that they could extend that , I think 3 to 5 seconds and still have a shorter game with good pacing. And I think they'll do that. But the absolute I think initial returns on the experiment is positive , is good.

S1: And when you mentioned right there Padres , you know , they did announce , you know , it used to be if you haven't gotten the games or if you've gone to games before the end of the seventh , the beer sells , the alcohol sales would end. Obviously , there's a lot of concessions. But they did move that to the eighth inning with one out now and they say it's directly because of this of this pitch clock.

S2: I think I mean , you're looking at hundreds of thousands to million dollars potentially in lost revenue when you have games that are 20 to 40 minutes shorter over the course of , you know , 80 plus home games a year. So that's one way teams are getting some of that revenue back. But the whole point of that beer sale thing was they wanted to cut it off in the seventh inning so fans could sober up and not fight after games and drive home safely. So you're getting shorter games , but then all of a sudden you're I guess you're diminishing fan safety in a way. So so it's definitely a challenge. And I don't have an easy answer and I don't I haven't heard an easy answer to figure this out.

S3: Yeah , they will keep on working on this because it's really important. You know , they always talked about the fact that when you watch a game on , when you watch a baseball game , period , whether it's in person or you're the broadcaster or your fan watching on television , that the ball is actually in play about 12 minutes , about 12 minutes total. And then Major League Baseball did marketing research over the last whatever number of years that of a three hour and 20 minute broadcast and sometimes with the Yankees and Red Sox who take so many pitches and so many visits to the mound before they limited that these were four hour games that people were just tuning out especially , you know , later on the on the on the East Coast. So they just had a situation where they could not have this , where people were saying of the three hour and 20 minute game , he watched about 20 minutes. So from a marketing the sports standpoint , it's not like basketball. It's not go , go , go , go. Not designed to be it's not like football to snap. And 22 people are going nuts. It's a leisurely kind of a game. But in competing , you know , they already have the real true purist. But to get the other people , the young people who have been brought up on NFL football and college basketball and so forth , to get that , they have to have a faster paced , shorter game. So they will do whatever it takes and adjust the beer sales and all those things. But I think they're on the right track. I really do.

S1: And Ryan , if there's one thing to maybe nitpick with this team early on and again , it's very early in the season , it might be the pitching , but it sounds like the Padres are about to get some help from a San Diego native , I should say an East county San Diego native.

S6: Yeah. Joe Musgrove is set to return here shortly. He had a little bit of a setback in his rehab start through the first kind of awkwardly. And I got a cortisone shot , I believe , in his shoulder. Yeah , he'll be back. And then , you know , the beauty of that is that that allows them to push everybody sort of further back. So all of a sudden , maybe Ryan Weathers becomes a long man. That gives your bullpen a little bit more depth. That means that you're not taxing them where they're taxing their bullpen now to start the season , getting him back , getting you. Darvish throwing deeper into games simply because , you know you spent most of his spring with the World Baseball Classic. These are all good things for the Padres rotation going forward. I don't think that there's anything to be concerned about at this point. I don't think that they're going to go adding anybody just getting Joe Musgrove back and getting Yu Darvish building up a little bit more pitch count wise is going to do wonders for this pitching staff going forward.

S1: You know , Todd , the Padres , they've been without one of their superstars who contributes to this thing that they call Slam Diego. That's home runs leaving Petco Park. And of course , we're talking about Fernando Tatis Jr. He's wrapping up an 80 game suspension for performance enhancing drugs. What can you tell us about his return ? What should fans expect ? There.

S2: He's in El Paso now. He just made a Triple A. Padres. Triple A team. No , Paso , LA. Was. And he's going to come back and he's going to lead off. And whether it's the El Paso manager , Weltman or Bob Melvin talking about what he's seen watching from a distance , they are all impressed with what Tatis is doing in the minor leagues and his approach at the plate. It's a little bit different than we've seen before. That's positive. El Paso Chihuahua manager Willman , He said , We're not trying to teach him anything down here. We're just trying to have him , you know , get his approach right , pretend like he's in this Padre lineup. And that's his approach at the plate. And he's been tearing the cover off the wall. So watching from afar , I think it's very positive. And as Tatis has said , he's changing how he approaches the game specifically within the lines and outside of the lines. And you would tend to think from what you see that he's on the right path.

S1: And a question for Ted here. You know , Ted , the Padres , they're among the top ten teams in terms of home runs this year. And many are expecting Tatis to help contribute to some of that. But we know that baseball season is long. Some people might be a little mumbly about , you know , not some epic , amazing start. Undefeated start 162 games. It's a marathon , not a sprint.

S3: They do. They have it for the entire team and they have it for Fernando , quite frankly. And it's always , always interesting. And I have been through my career. I won't want another media culpa here. I've been very hard on the steroid guys and guys who cheated and others who have cheated and then lied and so forth. And Fernando is not in that final one. He said that he did it and so forth. And whatever the particulars were and whatever the reasons were. But it's it's the kind of thing where. No , no , no , that's their guy. It's always been like that for broadcasters and fans. No , we've got to stop that. It's terrible. But that's that guy on that team , not our guy. Not our guy. And he'll be treated so well because he is such a dynamic. And by the way , having known him , I mean , he and Manny , they had bad reputations for different reasons. That's not Manny now. And I talked to other broadcasters and writers who think about Manny did this when he was the Baltimore , and he did this with the Dodgers and so forth. That's not Manny. This is this is a leader now that beloved by his teammates , worshiped by some of the young Latino players for forever. So the star power on this club is even beyond 1998. And that was a heck of a lineup with Finley and Tony Gwynn and Greg Bond and then Ken Caminiti. That was that was a star lineup. This one is beyond that. To add Bogart's that and get Fernando back with Machado and so forth. Mean this is a team of stars it's not a small market team anymore it's a big market team in terms of its lineup and its pitching and the fact that Fernando is coming back to that. And even if he struggles early , he's a phenomenal athlete. And I think whether he gets to exactly where he was or he's going to be a 40 home run guy like he was , nobody knows because nobody knows what happens after that , sort of a use of PEDs and then come back. Some do , some don't. But in terms of the excitement level that he brings back , it's off the chart. Off the chart. I personally can't wait.

S1: Let us know your thoughts on the Padres. You can give us a call at (619) 452-0228. You can leave us a message there or email us at Roundtable at After the break , there's another team making its mark with San Diego fans. That's the San Diego Wave FC.

S2: So you get a perfect combination of an invested front office , a star laden awesome team on the field and a fan base that is there and that rocking and rolling.

S1: We'll get into it just after the break. You're listening to KPBS Roundtable. You're listening to KPBS roundtable. We're talking about San Diego sports today. Joining us is Ryan Finley from the San Diego Union Tribune , NBC Seven's Todd Strain and the longtime voice of the San Diego Padres , Ted Leitner. We want to turn our attention now to a different sport. And we're talking about soccer. TODD The San Diego Wave FC. They're off to a strong start , and it's just their second season. They're led by one of the top women's strikers in the world , really , Alex Morgan. And they won their first two matches. This is after they made the semifinals and the National Women's Soccer League playoffs last season.

S2: Everything is lined up. They have a front office led by Jill Ellis , of course , the legendary former US women's national team coach , who has a lot of respect in the game. And she is running that organization proper from the top down under her. They have Casey Stoney , who's an excellent coach , and then of course , they have star power. Alex Morgan If you're going to play professional soccer or follow professional soccer , Alex Morgan is a number one right now in the women's game and she's in San Diego. They have filled the pieces around her that fit perfectly. They have a lot of good young talent , some local San Diego girls that are sensational and some veterans that are awesome. And really not only has the magic of the team like on the field been great , but they're capturing and they're tying into this huge , huge like soccer like pool to draw from of young girls all the way up to teenage girls in San Diego who play rec or club or high school soccer. They have tied into that. So their games become electric and fun. So you get a perfect combination of an invested front office , a star laden awesome team on the field and a fan base that is there and that is rocking and rolling. So it's really like it's a dream rollout for the wave right now.

S1: Ryan We know that the San Diego wave are just one of several professional soccer teams in the region. We also have the loyal , the cellos over in TJ and the soccer's among some others.

S6: Yeah. We're seeing a much a surge in soccer readership and interest. A lot of that has to do with the wave. The wave not only play at the highest level of any women's league in the world , they have Alex Morgan , who's an absolute superstar. They're super popular. I mean , they're filling Snapdragon Stadium. This is a team that has a chance. I mean , we had something in the U-T earlier this week. You know , Padres have a chance to lift a trophy , obviously , this October. The wave have a chance to do it , too. This is a team that really lines up as one of the best teams in their league. Fun to watch. It's it's a cultural moment right now with the wave and what Snapdragon Stadium So that's definitely a very big deal and something to watch for later this summer.

S1: And the Major League soccer season is also underway , though there's no team here in San Diego that could be changing by the end of the year. Their commissioner , Don Garber , says San Diego was one of the most likely opportunities for an MLS expansion team.

S2: So my answer to that is I'll believe it when I see it. I've since I arrived in San Diego , I've been hearing about an MLS team. It makes too much sense for there not to be an MLS team here already , so I'll believe it when I see it. I know they say they want to come here. You also need somebody in San Diego to pony up hundreds of millions of dollars to for the franchise fee. I'll believe it when I see it because there are some as much as we love San Diego , there are some other viable cities on the West Coast that could also host an MLS team , and it's not like they're going to hand out multiple expansion franchises. They're saying there's going to be one. So if it's San Diego , it's going to be a huge success. But I wouldn't say that's a for sure thing to happen yet.

S1: I'm just curious , Ted , I know you're a big baseball guy , but since you've been here in San Diego , you've seen soccer really grow here.

S3: And I had a couple of the the women from the wave come up to me and said , Hey , we want to get you out to the to the sea. And my granddaughters were just just. And that's never happened in terms we've we've always heard this through the years that soccer is going to catch , going to catch on , soccer is going to catch on. And I've heard that literally over the 45 years plus that. Been here in San Diego. And I think , as Todd was saying , that now is the time and I think it's not the men's and they had fun in the indoor Soccers were really terrific for a long time. And then when I was on television sports for for those 25 years , we had a lot of the indoor soccer and so forth. But I think now really is the legitimate time. And it's the women , it's the wave. You go in there and they talk about people don't show up for the WNBA games or soccer games they do here and they do with the wave and they sell out Snapdragon , those kind of things during the other alleged this is the time. This is the time because kids are playing it. Kids love it. They love to play it. Now they're going to want to watch it. That never really took hold 20 and 30 years ago. It has now. And I think the wave is at the forefront of that and Alex is at the forefront of that. And that's not been the case during my time , but it is now.

S1: All right , gentlemen , so we know it's a very busy time for sports right now in San Diego. I'm curious what you all are keeping your eye on in the coming weeks. And Ryan , quick final thoughts here on On Sports in San Diego.

S6: I'm a native San Diegan , grew up going to Padres and Aztec games all the time. Had you told me in the year 2023 , the Aztecs would be playing for a national championship and basketball ? The Padres would have one of the highest payrolls in baseball and be considered a World Series favorite that San Diego State football would be good , that the San Diego wave would be a big deal. I'm not sure I would have believed you. I think this is a charmed once in a lifetime time to be a San Diego sports fan , and I'm super excited to be here for it. And just a super , super exciting time for for San Diego sports fans.

S7: TODD Well.

S2: First off , I'm going to be watching the Aztec transfer portal. Who's coming ? Who's going ? I think most of the guys will come back. I think obviously Key Shot is gone , but they added the hotshot transfer , Reese Waters Dixon from USC. And I think they're going to be a couple other big names and big bodies. But other than that , this summer is all about the Padres. This is the summer of the Padres. They have the team. They have the front office to do something special. The sum of their rivals in the National League appear to have taken a step back. This is the season they are going all in. That is where my attention is. It's on the Padres and I'm hoping it's a super summer that translates into a deep run into a fantastic fall.

S1: I'm sure a lot of fans are , too. And Ted , you have the final word here.

S3: Boy , it's the truth. And I agree with Todd in terms of the anticipation of the Padres season. Like I said , I was there as a broadcaster in 98. I couldn't wait. I couldn't wait. And they got off to a good start and they played well. They clinched my gosh , they clinched in the old stadium and the middle of September with that win over the Dodgers and they were down six nothing and came back. So it was a marvelous , marvelous run there. I expect better and more this season. Looking forward to that with Fernando coming back. Like I said , with the Padres , I missed the broadcast , but I had 41 years and as an ambassador now I couldn't be more excited about them. They are something special.

S1: Well , it's been a really fun discussion. We could go on for a long time , but we're going to have to end it there for this week's edition of KPBS Roundtable. And I want to thank our guests so much , NBC Seven's Todd Strain , San Diego Union-Tribune sports editor Ryan Finley , and the longtime voice of the San Diego Padres and current voice of San Diego State's men's basketball team , Ted Leitner. We'd love to hear your thoughts on today's show. You can leave us a voicemail at (619) 452-0228. You can also email us at Roundtable at Remember , you can listen to our show anytime as a podcast roundtable airs on KPBS FM at noon on Fridays and again at Sunday. And that's at 6 a.m.. Roundtable is produced by Andrew Bracken , and Adrian Villalobos is our technical director. I'm your host , Matt Hoffman. Thanks so much for being here with us and have a great weekend.

San Diego State fans cheer before during the first half of the men's national championship college basketball game against Connecticut in the NCAA Tournament on Monday, April 3, 2023, in Houston.
David J. Phillip
San Diego State fans cheer before during the first half of the men's national championship college basketball game against Connecticut in the NCAA Tournament on Monday, April 3, 2023, in Houston.

On KPBS Roundtable, San Diego sports is having a moment in the national spotlight. The San Diego State men's basketball team made it to the NCAA national championship game, and a highly anticipated San Diego Padres season is underway. Also, the San Diego Wave FC is seeing success both on the pitch and with soccer fans.


  • Todd Strain, sports anchor and reporter for NBC 7 San Diego
  • Ryan Finley, sports editor for the San Diego Union-Tribune
  • Ted Leitner, former radio voice for the San Diego Padres and current play-by-play radio announcer for the SDSU men's basketball team