The Dream Realized
By Tom Cushman
Bruce Bochy’s first exposure to a major-league ballpark came in 1967 and was the stuff of a Saturday Evening Post cover. Father and 12-year-old Bruce rode a bus (fare: 10 cents) through the streets of our nation’s capital to D.C. (later RFK) Stadium—then home to the Washington Senators. There, they purchased two upper-deck seats for 50 cents apiece.
“I don’t think anyone ever forgets his first glimpse of a major-league park,” the Padres’ manager says on a warm, scented mid-January afternoon in San Diego. “The stands, the scoreboard, the neat base paths. Above all, the grass. I remember being almost overwhelmed by how green it was.
“I felt the same way the first time I walked out here.”
As Bochy speaks, we’re standing near the infield at Petco Park. A sea of green, just a long fly ball from an ocean. The view is stunning. “Breathtaking,” Padres owner, John Moores, says several days later. Certainly, it’s unlike any lawn most of us ever have mowed.
A contingent from this magazine has come for a tour of the facility that, next month, officially becomes San Diego’s host for Major League Baseball. Our tour guides arrive following morning workouts, where they’ve used items from $300,000 worth of equipment in the new ballpark gym. First baseman Phil Nevin and bullpen closer Trevor Hoffman—constants on a roster that has seen more movement than an escalator in recent seasons—guide us through inner areas most fans never will see, and eventually out into the sunlit sweep of emerald green.
“Hopefully, we won’t have as many different guys coming through here as we did last year,” Hoffman says, standing in a clubhouse that makes its predecessor at Qualcomm Stadium look as though it had been commissioned by a slumlord. In addition to being far more spacious, Petco’s clubhouse is round—the intent being to create more of a family atmosphere than was possible in the cramped, uneven Qualcomm quarters.
Players were the first to be impressed, and quick to say so. The design is such that everything—weight rooms, video rooms, trainer’s facility, indoor batting cages—easily can be accessed from both the clubhouse and dugout. Injured athletes have in-ground whirlpools to treat aching muscles. One such pool has a treadmill on its floor. There, the wounded can work out amid a soothing stream of warm water.
“At Qualcomm, our batting cage was on the third level,” Nevin points out. “When bench players wanted to get loose during a game, they had to take an elevator.”
At Petco, the cages are on the clubhouse level and feature one-way windows, so diners in an adjacent restaurant can watch men at work. “They can see us, but we can’t see them,” says Nevin. “That wasn’t one of our ideas.”
Not all has been perfection. Reaching his new office one morning, Bochy discovered it was flooded. “For a while, they couldn’t find where the water was coming from,” he recalls.
Fortunately the source was located, thereby eliminating the possibility of another major-league first—a manager drowning in bed.
“Show them your bed, Boch,” Nevin says.
And Boch does. Reaching behind him, he pulls a Murphy bed out of the wall. “I live in Poway,” Bochy says. “When you have a day game after a night game, this might come in handy.
“As impressive as everything is inside, though, for us to walk out onto the field and see the finished ballpark—that tops everything.”
Players are not without concerns. The deepest part of the field is right center. “That’s kind of disappointing when you have two left-handed power hitters,” Nevin says. “And a lot of my long balls go in that direction. One of the neat things, though, is come mid-August, we won’t have football lines all over the field.”
Hoffman: “Lack of foul territory is a concern for pitchers. And there are a lot of open spaces. We won’t know how airflow is going to affect things until we get in here and play.
“As for fans, I think they’re going to fall in love with this place.”
There’s much to admire. Seats have been situated so that most face home plate. The outfield isn’t entirely symmetrical—there’s an outcropping in right field that should make for some interesting decisions by those patrolling that pasture. The Park at the Park, a source of controversy and not completed at the time of our visit, includes a beach volleyball area.
The Western Metals building that was incorporated into the left field design adds a wonderful flavor, first seen at Baltimore’s Camden Yards.
“I’m delighted we were able to keep that,” says John Moores. “It’s a bona fide historic structure.”
The ground floor of that building will house the Padres Store. Box seats will occupy two middle floors, a restaurant is being planned for the top floor, and bleacher seating will be available on the roof.
“I think the ballpark and what’s going on around it significantly exceeds expectations,” says Moores. “It’s the largest redevelopment project in North America.”
What’s going on includes the high-rise Metropolitan, an upscale residential structure that includes on one of its top floors a condominium owned by John and Becky Moores.
“Becky made the decision on location of our unit,” says John.
From their windows, they’ll be able to see home plate.