Petco Park a Padres Palace, and a Playful Place!

Petco Park in downtown San Diego doesn’t even come close to being a dog house, RMT’ers.

Speaking of San Diego professional sports teams (please, no anti-San Diego sports jokes now, RMT’ers!), T and I also headed on down to Petco Park during our visit to grandma’s house last week. I had no idea until I stopped to think about it that the San Diego Padres have been playing at Petco Park for nine seasons now! Woweee! That means there’s now almost an entire generation of kiddos who have no idea what they missed when the Pads played down at Qualcomm Stadium. Then again, after a few visits to Petco Park myself, it becomes harder to remember (or easier to forget?) what that experience was like for me more and more, too!

T at “The Beach” nomming on his cotton candy (courtesy of Grandma Beep) with the Padres-Cubs game going on just behind him through the right field fence.

I know I said it before last year, but I’ll say it again: Petco Park is just one freakin’ amazing place to take in a ballgame. Then again, when you are with a four-year-old who just isn’t that into spectator sports just yet, it’s one freakin’ amazing place to grab a $5 “park-in-the-park” ticket to just hang out, grab a beer, nom some dogs, and watch the kids play from first pitch to final out (and have no idea that the final out even happened because the kids are having way too much fun running around in the park to sit and watch a single pitch).

Last summer, T actually let us sit down for about a half a game of actual baseball while he played in “The Beach,” but not this year. There was just too much fun to be had. Once we got inside, it first was all about lining up for the kids’ baseball batting practice and running the bases. No, this isn’t on the actual MLB playing field but a scaled-down version in the park-in-the-park. But once T got to be second in line, he ran into a bit of a delay-of-game when someone on staff came over and asked the kids who wanted to be on TV.

Tony Gwynn walks out to the diamond at park-in-the-park for a live televised bit with a local San Diego station.

Tony Gwynn helps local television personalities (and other former Padres) put on a 10-minute clinic on how great batters know how to pickup the pitch. With more than 3,000 career hits on his stat sheet, who would know more about that than Mr. Padre himself?! T looks disinterested but hey, at least he sat nicely for the entire 10 minutes!

Tony Gwynn and colleagues take a look up on the video monitor of some clips of how batters pick up the ball from the pitcher’s hand.

That’s T there in that bright green shirt (AKA the non-MLB team shirt) in the front row. This was one of the video screen shots I captured of the kids as they wrapped up the television spot with the local station.

As it turns out, San Diego Channel 4 (the Padres local and official broadcast station) needed the small diamond for a live, on-air baseball clinic. To detract from the fact that they just kicked about 20 kids out of line, the staff asked those kids to come onto the field to sit in the background while they filmed the clinic. And guess who joined in on the clinic? Yep, it’s Tony Gwynn, THE Mr. Padre and overall MLB great. The bit lasted just about 10 minutes or so, and could be viewed up on the park-in-the-park video screen nearby (which actually gave me the best view and the best picture I managed to capture – Tony is still one popular, crowd-drawing guy!).

T takes a swing at Petco Park’s park-in-the-park baseball field that’s just for kids. So, yeah, not on the correct side of home plate, but he’s trying.

T stands on second base at the park-in-the-park baseball field at Petco Park in San Diego.

After that, T finally got his long-awaited at-bat. He had a bit of a challenge trying to decide if he wanted to bat right- or left-handed, so he kind-of mixed them together, and then he ran the bases. I think he liked running the bases more than batting on this trip. He also gave fielding a try… as a base runner on second base.

T noms some more on that cotton candy! These might be the only photos we have of us in our seating area this time around at Petco Park as T just had too much fun out in park-in-the-park to sit still for very long!

We next got to check out our seats – in “The Beach” – and thankfully there were some extras still empty in the shade (oh yeah, I forgot to mention, RMT’ers, but it was HOT in San Diego last week, as in, monsoonal moisture and beaming, hell-hot sun). We sat there just long enough to catch an inning or two of the game, for me and my mom to enjoy our beers, and for T to enjoy some cotton candy. Yep, a whole 10 minutes, maybe! Note to self (or mom) for next summer: Get park-in-the-park tickets for half the price.

T having a blast at the playground at Petco Park’s park-in-the-park.

Red licorice and cotton candy… it’s what’s for dinner at Petco Park, RMT’ers!

Then T was up and off again to the playground, where he played and ran for almost two solid hours. My mom and I got to hang out and chit-chat (very nice) while T made a few new friends and took over the playground. The kids all shared their snacks (with parental permission, of course!) and everyone got along famously. I even got to reminisce about classic journalism (you know, the classic format called newspapers?!) with a fellow alum who was at my University as a freshman when I was a senior. It was a pretty picture-perfect Petco Park pleasure trip for all of us!

A street musician plays us out of Petco Park.

T enjoyed the show by a street musician on our way out of Petco Park, and I enjoyed the music AND the view (check that out behind T there… simply a gorgeous evening after what was a very hot day).

Once the game was over, we literally got kicked out of Petco Park – as in, we were asked to hustle our bustles out the gate by a couple different ushers (including the ones who came to close down the playground). Considering that we didn’t last more than an hour or so on our last visit, that was pretty remarkable. What a difference a year makes, right RMT’ers? Then again, the game had a lovely late-afternoon start (versus a 7:30pm start), so we had a much better chance of lasting the duration from the get-go.

I definitely recommend Petco Park to anyone with small kids. Even if baseball isn’t your game, Petco Park is a San Diego attraction that should not be missed. Check out the Padres schedule to see if there’s an upcoming home game that you might want to put on your own calendar. And while the park-in-the-park tickets won’t set you back too much, don’t forget extra money for those beers, dogs, and cotton candy (all major credit cards accepted)!

This is the pedestrian suspension bridge that connects a parking garage ($16 on game day in the garage near the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, by the way, so, no, our parking was not free) to Petco Park. The bridge was necessary due to the train tracks running between the two locations (MTS trains and freight lines).

T takes a break on our walk back across the pedestrian bridge outside of Petco Park.

The San Diego Trolley is a red train of fun (well, fun to T anyway!) that runs all over San Diego County. This is at the stop outside Petco Park and across from the San Diego Convention Center.

PS – want to save even more money on your outing to Petco Park? Don’t forget about the San Diego Trolley! Schedules and lines vary, but it lets out and picks up right at Petco Park. There are several free lots to park your car in the Mission Valley and Old Town neighborhoods if you want to make it a short run to downtown, or you can park in East County San Diego if you want to make it a longer haul by rail.

Game over, RMT’ers! T runs out of Petco Park as they close down the house.

PPS – By the way, I heard that the Padres won 2-0 against the Chicago Cubs.