SAN DIEGO — If you were a Dodger fan – to be precise, one of those thousands of Dodger fans who have made Petco Park a second home so often in recent seasons – you can at least be secure in the knowledge that you’re living in the heads of Padres management, rent free.
The home team’s geofencing of the online ticket process for Games 3 and 4 of the National League Division Series worked, considering that Friday night there was very little blue in the stands, thousands of yellow rally towels being waved and repeated “Beat L.A.” chants loud enough to be heard in Fallbrook during the Padres’ 2-1 win. Or maybe Lake Elsinore.
How crazy was it? The 2.8-acre grassy area behind center field, formerly the “Park at the Park” and now known as Gallagher Square, was jammed an hour before the game, and the color scheme was almost exclusively mustard and brown.
But if you’re a Padres fan living in Riverside, say, or Laguna Beach – and yes, that species does exist – and you could afford a Game 3 ticket but found yourself shut out because your zip code was just north of the artificial border where online orders were filled rather than rejected, do you figure you were just taking one for the team?
San Diego’s fans have brought the noise for postseason games in the past, to be sure. The crowds for the 1984 NLCS and World Series in what was known then as Jack Murphy Stadium were maybe the loudest ever heard in that yard, emotional and heartfelt and with no need of artificial enhancement. Since it was the franchise’s first playoff and World Series appearances, that was to be expected.
It was similar in 1998, the Padres’ second World Series in Mission Valley, and in 2006 for the NLDS against St. Louis, the first postseason series in Petco Park and the Padres’ last home playoff games with fans in the seats until Friday night.
Obviously, the Padres’ season ticket holders resisted the siren song of the resale market and kept their tickets. As a result, this might have been the first time in a decade that the home team had a true home-field edge during a Dodgers-Padres game in San Diego.
The Padres’ game ops folks did what they could to stoke that fire.
This was what Dodgers starter Tony Gonsolin said during Thursday’s off-day availability when he was asked about starting in what the questioner termed “enemy territory”:
“Yeah, we’re fortunate enough to play here in Dodger Stadium, and we get 45-50,000 people every night when we play. Can’t imagine it’s any more loud than that.”
That clip was, naturally, played on the scoreboard and drew thunderous boos, right before the public address announcer implored the fans to get loud for the start of the FS1 broadcast. They did meet the challenge, although I’ll leave it to those who measure decibels to determine if the Padres crowd was any louder than Dodger fans at their loudest in Chavez Ravine.
But there are a number of factors here. San Diegans (and their sympathizers in the counties to the north) have been waiting for this moment since, well, ’06. The Padres and San Diego State basketball are the only true big-time sports entities in town, with the Chargers now in L.A. and the football Aztecs off to a less-than-rousing 3-3 start in their new stadium. The Padres embarked on a four-year rebuild just as the Chargers were preparing to leave town … and when it finally came to fruition, in 2020, fans weren’t allowed into the ballpark.
Do you think the citizenry here isn’t hungry for this?
Padres Game 3 starting pitcher Blake Snell, talking to reporters Thursday after the off-day workout, said with a laugh, “Everyone has asked me for a ticket that I know, like just friends, people I talk to. So I stop replying. Sorry.
“So I know everyone wants to be here. I know they all feel the energy and how good this team is.”
This is probably a new experience for San Diego manager Bob Melvin, who before this season managed in Oakland with its loyal but small – and this year, increasingly discouraged – fan base. The Padres drew 2,987,470 at home this season, second best in club history to the 3,016,752 in 2004, Petco Park’s debut season.
“A’s fans are fantastic,” Melvin said. “Maybe it’s not every night, but when there’s a playoff game or there’s a big game, they’re pretty spirited there.
“The difference here is it’s every night.”
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(Except, he didn’t add, usually when the Dodgers are in town. And sometimes the San Francisco Giants, as well.)
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts understands the dynamic. He grew up in San Diego, still lives in north San Diego“ County in the offseason, and was the leadoff man for those ’06 Padres. He undoubtedly heard it from some of his neighbors when he spent Thursday night at home, although they weren’t the ones to remind him of that ’06 moment. It was his son, Cole, an infielder at Loyola Marymount.
“It’s going to be fun,” the elder Roberts said before the game. “Snell said it was going to be insane. It’s going to be electric.
“That’s why we do what we do, to have the fan interest, excitement. We feel it in the dugout, both dugouts. It’s going to be a heck of an environment.”