SAN DIEGO – Dust off your brown and gold and break out the Swagg Chain: the Padres are back in town.
Thursday’s home opener against the defending-World Series champion Atlanta Braves is sold out, but tickets remain for the rest of the four-game series running through Sunday, the club’s Senior Vice President Chris Connolly said.
Gates at the park open at 3 p.m. with much of the ballpark’s pageantry starting around 4:30 p.m.
Fans can expect Switchfoot frontman (and Encinitas native) Jon Foreman to sing the national anthem, Olympic gold medalist Kallie Humphries of Carlsbad will fire off the ceremonial first pitch and there will be a large American flag on the field as well as flyovers by two F35-C Lighting II from Strike Fighter Squadron VFA-125 Rough Raiders from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
“What I’m most excited about is El Cajon’s own Joe Musgrove throwing out the first pitch,” Connolly said. “I mean, how cool is that gonna be? We’re really excited about that.”
The Padres return home with a 4-3 record, opening the season last week by taking three of four games from the Diamondbacks before dropping two of three against the reigning NL West champion Giants. Their opponent Thursday had Opening Day in Atlanta, splitting a four-game series with the Reds and losing the rubber match Wednesday in a series against the Nationals.
Both teams are likely to factor into the National League playoff picture this year, though each has challenges in replacing stars with shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. out until at least June with an injury and ex-Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman now wearing Dodger blue.
Even so, Thursday marks a milestone in San Diego after two consecutive home openers were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Fans weren’t allowed in the ballpark at all throughout 2020 and when the club returned in 2021, only limited capacity crowds were permitted until mid-June.
Last month, several East Village businesses said they were eager for the team’s return after a grueling nearly 100-day lockout threatened the start of the season.
“We were capacity constrained last year so 44,000 San Diegans in the house tonight is really going to be special,” Connolly said. “I think I’m gonna have goosebumps when Joe takes the mound tonight.”
What to know if you go
At the time of first pitch, it’s expected to be 64 degrees with temperatures likely to cool through the evening, FOX 5’s Heather Lake said, urging fans to bring a jacket to the ballpark this evening.
Ken Kawachi, the team’s vice president of ballpark operations, also encourages attendees to come down to Petco Park with a plan for parking and public transportation.
“MTS has got three great stops all within walking distance of the ballpark, especially with that new Blue Line opening up in that mid-county, North County area,” Kawachi said. “It makes an easy trip to the ballpark.”
Planning to park? Click or tap here for a downtown parking map showing locations and prices. Details are available here for public transportation using MTS bus and trolley services as well as on taking the North County Coaster train and the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner.
For fans entering the stadium, Kawachi said single-compartment bags are allowed, measuring no larger than 7 inches by 10 inches. Drawstring bags, plastic grocery bags and fanny packs are allowed, too.
Fear not, parents: Diaper bags, bottles and snacks also are allowed, according to Kawachi.
“Especially for kids, bring your gloves,” he said. “Come down and catch some home runs down at the ballpark.”
See a full list of Petco Park’s entry policies here.
Previewing the matchup
Musgrove, 29, has pitched just once this season thus far, giving up five hits and two runs over six innings on Saturday against the Diamondbacks in a game the Padres won, 5-2. His start came one year to the day Musgrove tossed the first no-hitter in franchise history, a triumph celebrated with loads of ‘No-No Joe’ merchandise and a mural at Grossmont High School, his high school alma mater.
Musgrove is slated to take the bump against 38-year-old Braves right-hander Charlie Morton, who won his first decision of the year last week against the Cincinnati Reds. That start was notable for Morton, a crafty starter who famously was hurt in Game 1 of last year’s World Series against the Houston Astros when he took a ball off the leg that was hit by Yuli Gurriel.
In a story by MLB.com beat writer Mark Bowman, Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud called Morton “one of a kind” upon his return.
Morton has a career record of 108-85 with a lifetime 4.00 ERA in 15 years with the Braves, Pirates, Phillies Astros and Rays. Musgrove is 40-47 in his seven-year career, but had a breakout campaign a year ago, emerging as a dependable force every fifth day in San Diego’s rotation.
Former Padre weighs in
It was a daunting task to replace Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman at the backend of the Padres bullpen, but Heath Bell proved he was the right man for the job when the opportunity came in 2009. The Oceanside native, now 44, was a three-time All-Star in San Diego, winning the NL Rolaids Relief Man Award in 2009 and 2010 and he saved 134 games over five seasons.
Speaking to FOX 5’s Raoul Martinez, Bell said baseball’s Opening Day is exciting “no matter where you start off,” but there’s nothing like the feeling of coming home.
“When you get a chance after the first week to come to Petco Park, your home ballpark, you have your fans out there cheering,” he said. “It’s almost like you’re blessed to have two opening days, one of the road that’s the official Opening Day and then come home and do that.
“It just gives you this sense of pride and energy. Just thinking about it right now, I’m getting all giddy and like a child inside.”
Bell said the Padres’ chance of success improves considerably if the team can avoid injuries this year.
“Our starting pitching is a lot better than it has been,” he said. “I think the team’s going to do well. As long as we can avoid injuries and play above .500 baseball and just stay right there, about mid-season we get Tatis back and I think that would be a huge jump for our team.”
How to watch
If not for attending in person, the game airs live on Bally Sports San Diego and Bally Sports Southeast.
The game’s first pitch is at 5:10 p.m.
FOX 5’s Jacqueline Sarkissian contributed to this report.