Lunch with Kyle Blanks and the Padres game

Friday, Kyle and I exchanged a few text messages to confirm our time and location. We met at the Tin Fish restaurant, around the block from Petco. Kyle was promptly there and my older son, Jake, and I met him out front. The dude is BIG. And young. In addition to Jake and I was my wife, my younger son Zach, and my Dad. We peppered him with questions about being in the majors and going thru the minors and he graciously answered everything. I did not want it to seem like it was an “interview”, so I didn’t take notes. We wanted to ask him for a tour of the lockerroom but he had to meet someone to get his car back so we decided not to ask. Kyle was pretty subdued the whole time, though he really perked up talking about the home run and the inside-the-park HR. Kyle signed two baseballs (that we brought) for my boys, along with their hats, before taking off. It was a nice way to start the day.

After lunch, the five of us walked around for a while, before heading over to Coronado for some ice cream. Then back to the park at 4:30 to watch batting practice. This is when the day really became amazing.

In case you haven’t been to Petco, in centerfield, there is a bench seating area and sandy ground right after the fence, which, at that spot, is a regular fence, the kind that you see at schools (you can see it on the picture to the right). You can feed pens and stuff thru the fence for the players to sign, if they are willing. The Padres hit first and we nearly caught a ball or two. The vantage point was really great for everyone. Kids can get up close and you can really track the path of the hits.

At 5pm, they open the stadium for everyone and it’s BP ball chasing heaven. No moats. Just go in and have a blast. Zach and I went to the front row in left-centerfield. We nearly caught one. Back in centerfield, I noticed my wife jumping up and down, arm aloft. She got a ball! Not on a fly, but handed to her from Matt Latos. He tossed the ball over the fence to her and she quickly said to him: “Now you have to sign it!” and tossed the ball back over, followed by a pen thru the fence. To his credit, Latos did sign it and tossed it back over. Back in left-centerfield, Zach and I were having a good time, chatting with many of the others there, many of whom were wearing Cardinals red.

A short while later, I notice my wife and Jake, this time each holding a ball aloft. She got another! And she got Colby Rasmus to sign it, this time. Incredible! Zach and I, feeling the pressure (and noticably more people), decided to head back to the beach area. When we got there, we were able to get Bud Black to sign each of their hats and he couldn’t have been nicer. He asked us how we were enjoying the park, making sure the kids were having fun. He signed each hat for my boys and tossed them back over. Ditto for Luke Gregorson, a reliever.

My brother and his son arrived a little while later and all three boys had fun watching BP and playing in the sand. Eventually, as the start of the game crept closer, we found our way into the park to our seats.

Quick review of Petco, from a fan’s perspective: what a wonderful place! The people working there could not be more friendly and helpful, in a genuine sort of way. It never felt fake; rather, that they were sincerely interested in our well-being and the experience we were having. Getting up and down stairs was a bit convoluted, but we managed fine. The only bummer for me was that I wanted the BBQ from one floor down. I walked a flight of stairs and opened the door into a security guard. The BBQ ‘outlet’ was 30 feet away, but I was on some restricted concourse level or something. No BBQ for me. Buzzkill. Back upstairs and had a custom-made chicken burrito from Rubio’s which was quite good, especially for ballpark fare. We had a few “5 for $5″ for the kids, which included a hot dog, soda, peanuts, cookie and popcorn. Best deal I can even imagine. Every park should have something this family friendly. And I mean it. Just a pleasure not to bust your budget feeding kids. The tickets we purchased also came with a hot dog and soda. Did I mention the tickets were $15 each and came with a parking pass? For the cost to take seven people to a game in San Diego (upper deck, so what?), I could have had one decent ticket at Yankee Stadium (but no food!).

Loving San Diego.

The game flew by, thanks to SD shutting out the Cardinals. A 3-run home run mid-game was all the offense SD needed (though they added a 4th run later in the game) and the game was done in a tidy 3 hours. I even managed to snap the picture to the right of Pujols just missing a foul ball. Turns out, later that same at-bat, the guy hit the 3 run HR. Go figure. I love this picture, which is pretty good from the upper deck!

My nephew recently turned 4, so we weren’t sure if he’d be interested or able to stay the whole game, but he was having a ball, so we hung around. After all, Fridays at Petco include fireworks! And not some cheapie fireworks, but a nice 15+ minute show. [Note if you go to Petco on a Friday: get to the centerfield area I spoke about earlier around the 7th inning. They close the Park area and allow those in to go sit on the field for the fireworks.]

All in all, a wonderful day centered around baseball. Lunch with the starting left fielder, batting practice, two balls signed by emerging rookies, hats signed by a bunch of people including the manager, a great game, fireworks and a whole lot of family fun. Does it get any better than that?

I don’t think so, either.

PS: That Blanks dude is really BIG.

IIATMS overlord and founder. ESPN contributor. Purveyor of luscious reality.