Daily Sports Smile: San Diego Padres fans welcome team home after playoff elimination

The San Diego Padres made history when they sent the Los Angeles Dodgers packing in the National League Division Series. The Dodgers finished the regular season with 111 wins, a franchise record, but the Padres rained on their parade to reach the NLCS for the first time since 1998.

The magic was short-lived, and the Padres won only one game in the series while the Philadelphia Phillies rumbled on to Bryce Harper's first World Series appearance.

"It's really frustrating at the beginning," Juan Soto, the Padres outfielder who was acquired in the middle of the season in a blockbuster trade, said after being sent home, "but at the end of the day, you see how far we make it, it's pretty impressive and we should feel pretty proud."

On Sunday, the cross-country flight to Southern California was a long one for the Padres, but the Friar faithful were waiting to welcome them home. Fans stayed up past midnight for the team buses to arrive at Petco Park where they cheered on Soto, Manny Machado and Yu Darvish and thanked them for their efforts.

Lifelong fan Alex Velasco posted some of the player interactions on Twitter.

"This year’s run was full of great success and even disappointment at times, but the team managed to stay competitive and grab a spot for postseason ball," the San Diego native told USA TODAY Sports. "Padres represent the community, they see fans first in all events provided. They give back to the community, and now we’re seeing them payback the long life fans these past seasons with great on field talent and performances."

For the Padres organization, the appreciation was mutual.

Outfielder Wil Meyers gave high fives to those who applauded the team from the fence and pitcher Joe Musgrove signed autographs.

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"He came over to me and he was like, 'Do you think you'll be able to fit in these one day?'" a young girl told CBS 8 San Diego that Musgrove asked her as he signed his cleats and gave them to her.

Franchise CEO Erik Greupner handed out merchandise to fans.

"My nephew of age 9 was able to receive a hat handed out personally by Erik, which meant a lot," Velasco said. "Greupner is always communicating with us fans via Twitter and is always listening to suggestions and (making sure our) voice (is) accounted for. Truly amazing to have guys like that here with the Padres organization."

Machado expressed the team's sentiment at how important the fans are to the team.

"Without them, we wouldn't be able to be in this situation," he said after Game 5 of the NLCS. "They're a big part of of this enjoyment and this journey that we had as much as the guys in this clubhouse. So to them, coming out every single day and giving us the support and the love and the energy every single night was a big part of our successful season."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Padres fans welcome team home after playoff elimination