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SAN DIEGO – In 12 days, the Holiday Bowl returns for its 43rd edition of America’s most exciting bowl game. This year, it takes place at Petco Park, so who better to serve as honorary chairman than Padres pitcher and El Cajon native Joe Musgrove?

It caps off a memorable 2021 in which the Grossmont High School product came back home — and in truth, took the city by storm.

“A real special year, man,” Musgrove said. “But you get a taste of it and it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

Musgrove’s special year started in January with a trade that brought the right-hander back west from Pittsburgh. It reached a crescendo in April when he fired off the first no-hitter in Padres history against the Texas Rangers.

And it culminates this month in becoming the honorary chair of the 43rd Holiday Bowl as well as grand marshal of the Holiday Bowl Parade.

“I said, ‘Man, if you can find a way to get me in there, I would love that,’” Musgrove said.

It marks his first foray back into football since he played at Grossmont his sophomore and junior years. And somewhat a surprise from a right-hander who can throw a baseball 95 miles per hour, Musgrove was on the offensive line and not quarterback.

“I got a pretty good arm,” Musgrove said. “I always wanted to be quarterback, but they felt like I wasn’t agile enough and I don’t know if they didn’t think I wasn’t that good of an athlete or wouldn’t pan out to be what I am now, but I never sat and complained. Just did what they told me to do.”

Sitting at the home he bought this summer in Point Loma with his 5-month-old puppy Theo by his side, Musgrove reflected on a robust run of good fortune this year – and says it only whetted his appetite.

“The no-hitter, as special as it was in San Diego, I don’t want that to be my legacy in San Diego and be all that I’m known for,” he said. “I have a lot more planned for the city of San Diego and the impact I can make here. So, be able to take some joy from that and use it as continued motivation but also not to just hang on that and use that as a driving factor to accomplish more.”

Musgrove, who turned 29 earlier this month, has a one-year contract offer for next year with the Padres. He says he would love to sign a multi-year extension to stay in San Diego, but he isn’t dwelling on that.

“It’s one at a time,” he said. “You gotta just focus on preparing yourself. You start looking down the road on what’s coming, and what could come. I feel like that’s always bit me in the butt and cost me some quality on the field so I’m trying not to think about that too much. It’s nice to be tendered a contract and know that I have a spot for next year and not be in limbo, especially with the lockout being in play now.”

ARLINGTON, TEXAS – APRIL 09: Joe Musgrove #44 of the San Diego Padres celebrates with Victor Caratini #17 after pitching a no-hitter against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field on April 09, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. This was the Padres first no-hitter in franchise history. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

That lockout prevents Musgrove from talking with anyone in the Padres organization, but he can work out with his fellow players. He’s been doing that in his garage-turned-gym lately.

Musgrove also says he believes the labor dispute will end before next season’s scheduled start, though he admits he has kept his distance from the negotiations.

“I’m somewhat naive to the inner workings of what’s going on, but in a way I try to keep it that way,” he said. “I try to stay informed and up to date on the things that are essential and things you need to know when it comes to how arbitration and free agency works. I feel like the more you get into the ugly workings of what is really going on behind the scenes, I don’t want that to change my perspective on the game.

“I have so much fun playing this game and I love it so much that I almost don’t want to know about some of the ugly things that are going behind the scenes.”