Stadium Stories: Ex-Padre Finley says Qualcomm was ‘one of the better’ parks

Sports

SAN DIEGO – Many regard the former Qualcomm Stadium primarily as a football venue. But not longtime big leaguer and ex-Padre Steve Finley.

SAN DIEGO: Steve Finley of the San Diego Padres (R) high-fives teammate Tony Gwynn after Finley’s two-run home run in the fifth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sept. 22, 1996 in San Diego, California. (Vince Bucci/AFP via Getty Images)

“To me, it was a baseball stadium they played football in,” Finley said. “It had its quirkiness down in the corners but for the most part it played pretty normal. It played like a very fair stadium, one of the better ones around the league.”

Finley played four of his 19 seasons in San Diego after being traded there (with future NL MVP Ken Caminiti) in a 12-player deal with the Houston Astros ahead of the 1995 campaign. The slick-fielding outfielder won two his five Gold Gloves with the Padres and made the All-Star team in 1997.

He also was a part of the Padres’ National League championship team in 1998, his final season in San Diego before signing with the Diamondbacks that winter. He went on to play nearly another decade in the sport, winning the World Series with the Diamondbacks in 2001, nabbing his last Gold Glove in 2004 at age 39, and later retiring in 2007.

Today, he recalls the so-called “trampoline wall” that used to be placed inside of the concrete wall at the stadium and how loud Qualcomm was at the time.

“I remember when they enclosed the stadium for football and it created a 70,000-seat stadium,” he said. “I just remember how loud it was, especially in 1998 when we went to the playoffs. Every time that left there, they’d say it’s the loudest place they’d ever been in their entire life for a game.”

He also notes how the stadium allowed “no cheapies,” meaning players often would have to muscle up to hit a pitch out of the park.

In fact, one of his favorite moments of Qualcomm was when he did just that.

“I hit a walkoff grand slam in ’98 there,” he said. “It was the beginning of the season, that first week. That was a pretty cool feeling. It was a Friday night so it was a big crowd. For me personally, it was a moment that was probably one of the best.”

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