The 1998 Padres baseball team will always hold a special place in my heart. I went to so many games back then. I lived within walking distance of Qualcomm Stadium and spent countless nights at the games. It was a team very different than the team today. From top to bottom you couldn't find fault with anybody. Sure guys had their ups and downs but it seemed like every night they'd find a way to win and even when they lost, they were in it until the final out. They could make a comeback with 2 outs in the ninth. It was just a special team and a special time.
I was but a boy back then and I made a special connection with that team and that roster that I may never make again. I was innocent and they were so very gentle with me -- anyway...
Jonny Dub and I went down to the park extra early to try and get some autographs from the 1998 Padres team. I dropped Jon off right by the entrance at about 5pm and he got a place in line. He had his 1996 Chris Gwynn Signing Day jersey and he wanted the team to sign the front of it. When I walked in later I took his place in line, while Jon made the rounds. I waited in longest line which was for Gwynn and Rettenmund with a baseball.
Jon took his jersey around to the other players to have it signed. Here's how some of the conversations went. Feel free to print off these scripts and act them out at home.
A little background, in 1998 we saw Hamilton and Brown driving around in Brown's Blue Dodge Viper with racing stripes, which led to this exchange..
Jonny Dub: Hey Brownie, you crash that Viper of yours yet?
Kevin Brown: Nah man.
Jonny Dub: You still got it?
Brown: I still drive it!
For some reason that really cracked me up. Brown seemed to be in really good spirits considering he was a hard ass 24/7 during his playing days.
Then Jon approached Carlos Hernandez and made a comment about Carlos wearing leather pants to Gwynn's retirement ceremony. I get the feeling that Carlos had no idea what Jon was talking about.
Jonny Dub: Where's the leather?
Carlos Hernandez: [blank stare and long pause]... it's too hot dude.
Too hot indeed. Remember back in the day, when Ashby would pitch in a cool San Diego night with a temp of 68 degrees and he'd be sweating like a pig? Well Ashby's sweat glands haven't changed much. He was in the direct sun and was flooding the place.
As I waited in line I flagged down and talked to Pad Squad Loxie and Pad Squad Andre at separate times. Pad Squad Loxie was nice enough to show me where all the players were sitting so we could do a hard target strike on the ones we wanted to see.
Jon came by and threw me his jersey as I approached the front of the Gwynn line. So all in all he was able to get 10 autographs on it.
Before the game the entire 1998 team threw out the first pitch. Which led to the question, could the 1998 team as they are today (at their current age) beat the 2008 team in one game winner take all? I said yes.
There was an awkward moment in the car on the ride home. We drove in silence, just XX Sports Radio playing low and soft in the background. We sat without talking for ten minutes, presumably each remembering the year 1998, perhaps reflecting on how our lives had changed...regrets, loves lost. When suddenly Jon breaks the silence -- "Should we be hanging out with Pad Squad Andre outside of the ballpark?"
"Seriously Jon what is wrong with you? That's what you've been thinking about this whole time?"
Jon just starts cackling for like two solid minutes.
Here's some more pics: