Baseball season just started so that means your summer ballpark road trip is that much closer! In a bid to help you with your upcoming journeys, Big League Stew has solicited the help of the locals. Over the next month or so, we'll be hitting up our usual guest blogger crew to feature 10 tips for enjoying each of the 30 ballparks like the locals do. Have a suggestion in addition to the ones listed here? Make sure to list it in the comments below.
So you’re coming to San Diego and don’t know what to expect? Pack the flip flops, plenty of shorts, sunblock and get ready to relax. We are laid back folk who really like breakfast (explained below), our beer and our San Diego Padres. Petco Park is a beautiful ballpark and surely won’t disappoint and I’m here to help you with some key tips.
1. Getting there: Petco Park is located in downtown San Diego. Like many other downtown ballparks, parking is limited and what parking there is, can be rather pricey at times. The common consensus among all the members of Padres Public is to take the trolley. All three lines (green, orange & blue) take you within steps of the ballpark and costs about $5 per person for an all-day pass. If you're staying in Coronado, another cool option is to take the ferry instead of driving over the bridge and dealing with the hassle of finding a parking spot.
Whatever you do, thought, avoid the “tailgate lot” at all costs. While it has a cool name that evokes fond memories of the days when the Padres played at The Murph (AKA Qualcomm Stadium) and tailgating was practically mandatory (and fun!), this tailgate area basically bans everything that was awesome back then. You are not allowed to play catch, skateboard, ride bikes, play music, have charcoal grills, are confined to one spot, can only drink alcoholic beverages 30 minutes after the games start time and the list goes on. So basically it’s just a parking lot. It's also located in a parking lot that takes forever to exit thanks to an awful layout. You have been warned.
2. Got time to kill?: There are numerous places within walking distance of Petco Park. Some of our favorites include The Neighborhood, Mission Brewery and Lolitas. The Neighborhood has a mix of some of the finest local craft beers (27 on tap) San Diego has to offer and great food (don’t ask for ketchup). Mission Brewery just serves beer, so make sure you stop at Lolitas first and grab a California Burrito to go. Bring it in to Mission and bask in the glory of wonderful beer and amazing Mexican food, it doesn’t get much more San Diego than that.
3. Tickets: It’s a fairly new ballpark (2004) so there are very few bad seats here. It’s really up to your personal preference on the view. One downfall is the Padres implemented Dynamic Ticket Pricing last year (2012) and joined the evil Ticketmaster (kind of) this year. So if you want to get tickets at a reasonable price, for San Diego standards, it’s best to get them early. A couple options on the cheap are to bring a blanket and get Park Passes (starting at $10) and sit in the Park at the Park lawn. It’s a grassy knoll beyond the outfield fence with a huge video screen behind the batters eye with the game on. It’s fun for the whole family and they even have a playground and mini wiiffle ball field for the kids there. The bleacher seats are cheap (they start at $12.50) but are an abomination if you want to actually watch the game at all, as the view is horrendous. The kids like playing in the sandbox though. You can get a cheap seat and visit the Pier, at no charge, which has a fantastic view and you can order tacos from Bull Taco or beers and margaritas from the servers and just sit back and enjoy.
4. Honor thy Gwynn and Coleman: While the Padres don’t exactly have as rich of a history as many of the other teams out there, they do have a couple special things at Petco. When entering the ballpark, enter through the East Village Gate (K Street) and “Hang a star” on the statue of long time Padres broadcaster and Hall of Famer Jerry Coleman. The placement of the statue is terrible, as it’s kind of hidden and easy to miss, so look to your left as soon as you walk through the gate. Trust me, it’s there. “The Colonel” is a four-time World Series champion, a Hall of Fame broadcaster, a World Series MVP and one-time All-Star, yet he is quick to list his military career as his greatest accomplishments and the statue pays tribute to that. Next, fight through the Fox Sports set in the Park at the Park and marvel at the statue of the greatest Padre in their history Mr. Tony Gwynn. Rub his knee, I hear it has special powers.
Don't forget to gaze at the retired numbers on the batters eye beyond the center field wall: #6 (Steve Garvey), #19 (Tony Gwynn), #31 (Dave Winfield), #35 (Randy Jones), #51 (Trevor Hoffman) and #42 (Jackie Robinson) reside there. Right below those numbers are plaques of every player in the Hall of Fame with ties to the Padres below the numbers … fenced off …with covers over them … at all times. It makes no sense to any of us fans but that is how it’s been ever since it opened. For cool memorabilia check out the Hall of Fame Bar and Grill (Western Metal Building), the PCL Club (Section 107) and Club 19 (Section 213).
5. Breakfasttown USA: Did you know that San Diego is known for being a breakfast town? No? Well neither did we until Padres President Tom Garfinkel told us so upon his arrival to San Diego in 2009. The Breakfasttown moniker has grown on all of San Diego. Some of us now eat breakfast for all three meals. And yes, the Padres even have Breakfast at the Park before every Sunday home game. Embrace the breakfast and you’ll do just fine here.
6. Ballpark eats and drinks: Local favorites like Randy Jones BBQ (duh, BBQ), Hodads (burgers), Phil’s BBQ (BBQ again), Chocolat (gelato & crepes), Wings and Things (wings and, uh, things), Anthonys (seafood), Filippis (pizza), and numerous other “standard” stands, there is something for everyone here. Also if there is one thing that San Diegans like more than breakfast, it is beer. San Diego is consistently ranked as one of the top cities for craft beer and the Padres have taken notice. They have quite the local selection from Green Flash to Stone to Karl Strauss and a 27 different brews at Neil the Beerman’s stand at the Brick House Deli in the Western Metal Building (@NeiltheBeerman). There are also a couple additional craft beer stations scattered throughout the ballpark. Ballast Point just opened a new Beer Garden for 2013 (located behind the scoreboard). There are about 8 TV’s there and some benches. Go there and grab a Sculpin and enjoy one of the finest beers out there now. There is also a brand new Jack Daniels Old No. 7 Deck in right field that I have yet to experience.
7. The Bullpens: When Petco first opened up the visiting bullpen was along the right field line and the home bullpen was beyond the left center wall. This year the team moved in the fences and moved the visiting bullpen right next to the home bullpen. You can walk over there and watch the pitchers warming up. You are pretty close to the action here and can really see how fast a Major League pitch really is up close and personal.
8. Mock the stupid Taylor Made Golf Club Foul Pole in right field: It’s stupid. We all know it’s stupid. They continue to leave it up year after year. I don’t know what else to say about that.
9. The Western Metal Supply Building: One of the coolest things about the ballpark is the Western Metal Supply Building that has been incorporated into the field and is even the left field foul pole. It was built in 1909, has a brick facade and is a registered San Diego historical landmark. It houses many things, one of which is the Padres team store on the bottom floor. If you have no intention of buying anything, still go in there and just look around. Up until last year they used to allow the fans to go outside and stand along the fence. It was about as close as you could get to the action. Now it is a private suite. The next couple floors house more private suites. If you ever get the chance to sit in one of these I highly recommend it as they have a great view. The next floor is the Hall of Fame Bar and Grill. It normally fills up fast, so get there early. They have a deck outside that you need to wait in line for and they break into two groups. Innings 1-3 is the first group and the rest of the game is the second group. This is highly recommended.
10. Inning number 19 of a 1-1 game and a backup infield is now pitching? Hit up Twitter: Petco Park is notorious for extremely long (and sometimes boring) games. Twitter makes things 100 times more interesting. Padres beat writer Corey Brock (@FollowthePadres) leads the charge. If you have any questions about the Padres or the San Diego craft beer selections he’ll gladly answer your questions. We are a one-newspaper town and Bill Center mans the ship here (@UTPadres). Padres President Tom Garfinkel (@TomGarfinkel) is very active, and often times pretty amusing, on Twitter. Radio announcers Andy Masur (@PadsCast) and Bob Scanlan (@HeyScan) and TV guy Mark Grant (@Mudcat55) also have some words of wisdom for the masses. Plus Padres Hall of Famer Randy Jones (@RJBBQ35) always tells it like it is. It’s also a certainty that someone from Padres Public (@PadresPublic) will be on Twitter at any given time considering our list is rather long:
I hope your visit to San Diego and Petco Park is an enjoyable one!
Rick Romero writes for RJ’s Fro and .400 in ’94 and at Padres Public. He is a bobblehead connoisseur, enjoys drinking beer and unlike most Padres players, has never had Tommy John surgery. He can be found on Twitter, so shoot him a tweet when you come visit.
Previous parks: Citi Field, Marlins Park, Great American Ball Park, Petco Park,Comerica Park, Progressive Park, AT&T Park, Rogers Centre, Wrigley Field, O.Co Coliseum, Yankee Stadium, Coors Field, Minute Maid Park, Fenway Park