Friday, June 26, 2009

Justin's Review: Petco Park

Ballpark Design: Petco Park is without a doubt one of the most unique and cool looking ballparks we’ve been to yet.  When you walk in the left field gate, one of the first things that strikes you is how much space there is behind centerfield.  There is a large area – the size of half a city block – called the “park at the park” behind centerfield, where people can sit on the grass and just watch the game (or sit in the sand located right behind the center field fence and pretend they’re at the beach).  That alone adds a unique feeling to the park when you look at the field from the stands, making it feel as though the actual playing field is just one baseball diamond within a much larger urban park.  The other obviously unique feature of the park is the large Western Metal Supplies building that acts as part of the stands in left field (the corner of which is also the left field foul pole).  In many ways, it is reminiscent of the B&O Warehouse at Baltimore’s Camden Yards, because like the Orioles, the Padres turned a preexisting building into one of the defining features of their ballpark.  As much as I loved the look of the field, with the park behind it and the old building in left field, it was the concourses of Petco Park that really were most interesting and unique.  While many teams have done a good job of making the interiors of stadium concourses look good, the Padres created some truly beautiful areas within the ballpark.  The open concourses on the lower level were the best looking, with brick and limestone walls and green vines hanging down from the upper levels.  Right behind home plate was a gigantic fountain with majestic steps leading up from the street level to the main concourse on either side of it.  The upper concourse were just as pretty, with views of the city in all directions and more plants and flowers all around.  One final thing I loved about the ballpark was how all the buildings around it felt almost as if they were a part of the ballpark.  You could just imagine during the playoffs or a World Series people standing on every balcony in sight, making it feel as if literally the entire city had its eyes on the ballpark.  There was very little that I didn’t like about the ballpark – I suppose if I had to mention something, I would point out that some parts of the upper deck felt a bit far from the field, or the fact that the upper concourse wasn’t open to field.  But really, there is little to dislike, it’s truly a beautiful park. A

Scoreboard/Sountrack: The main scoreboard was located next to the Western Metal Supply Co building in left center field, and was big enough to provide all the information and replays you could need.  The out of town scoreboard, located in the right field wall, was effective as well, showing the score and inning of every game at once, although not giving more than that.  An auxiliary scoreboard located in the left field wall gave information on the pitch (including speed and pitchcounts), and strip scoreboards along the facing of the upper deck offered another place to find the count and score. A-

Food/Drink: We had just eaten a big dinner before the game, so neither of us had much to eat at the ballpark.  However, our tickets did come with a coupon for a free soda and hot dog each, so I did eat a hot dog, which was fine, if not particularly delicious.  There did seem to be a wide selection of food, however, particularly on the lower levels, although nothing in particular stood out to me. B

Fans: This stadium was almost the complete opposite of Dodger Stadium – the ballpark itself was beautiful, but the fans were among the worst (if not the worst) that we’ve seen yet.  Despite it being a Friday night in the summer, the stadium was nearly empty (only 20,000 in attendance) and the few fans that were there didn’t appear to be watching the game.  It was so bad that the team sent out their cheerleaders and various mascots into individual sections holding signs prompting the section to chant different things – and even then, people barely responded.  There was one group of fans that were pretty loud though – the visiting A’s fans.  While they were clearly the vast minority of all the fans there, the Oakland fans were much easier to hear and clearly much more behind their team than the Padres’ fans.  Certainly, some of this has to do with the lack of success San Diego has had the last couple years, but there is still no excuse for such a poor showing on a Friday night.  F

City/Stadium Neighborhood: We spent the whole day in San Diego, and ended up liking it very much.  We spent the afternoon at Ocean Beach, one of San Diego’s bigger beaches, and had a great time walking around both the beach and the surrounding area.  Then, we spent a few hours before the game exploring the Gaslamp Quarter, the fun area of downtown right near Petco Park filled with bars and restaurants.  We would have loved to stay in the area after the game to see what it was like on a weekend night, but simply from what we saw in the late afternoon, we really liked it.  While much of San Diego is a spread out, driving city, it was nice to see such a large downtown with so much to do all in one place.  Additionally, having the ballpark located in the middle of a vibrant downtown was great, and adds a lot to the park both when you’re in it and when you are entering and leaving it.  City: B+/Neighborhood: A

Game:  Not that you could tell based on the interest of the fans, but we actually saw a pretty good game in San Diego.  Each team scored 3 runs in the first 4 innings, one of which (for the Padres) came off of a Chase Headley homer to deep left field.  The Padres took the lead in the 6th inning off of a 2 run Kevin Kooooooooouzmanoff single, but their bullpen couldn’t hold it.  Down by 2 in the eighth, the Padres scored three runs (off of hits by Jason Giambi and Orlando Cabrera) to take the lead.  Despite getting 3 batters on in the eighth, the Padres could not score (mainly because of a double play hit into by gritty David Eckstein), and the A’s held on to win 7-5. B+

Overall Experience:  I loved the ballpark, the stadium neighborhood, and had a good time watching the game.  However, the disinterest of the fans certainly took a lot away.  I really want to go back to Petco sometime when the Padres are in the playoffs and see what it’s like then. B

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