"Town hall" meetings aren't new for the Padres; they've been regular events for season ticket holders for some time now. But on Wednesday night, they did something different. They televised it. Fox Sports San Diego's Mike Pomeranz moderated a panel consisting of Executive Chairman Ron Fowler, President and CEO Mike Dee, and General Manager Josh Byrnes. Laura McKeeman was also on hand taking questions via Twitter and email.
I got an email inviting me to the Q&A session Tuesday morning, including an offer for a free ticket (which I took because I'm cheap and have no journalistic integrity). Wednesday afternoon I was informed that checkin would begin in the middle of the 8th and the event would start ten minutes after the last out or at 10:30, whichever came first. They also said there would be light appetizers, wine, and beer (which I didn't actually partake in, despite the aforementioned cheapness). After checking in, we were led by Pad Squad members to the conference room on the first base side. We got some advice from a Fox Sports San Diego representative about live TV, and some more advice from Pomeranz. He let us know about the Pomeranz method of covering when you lose your train of thought: Go bug-eyed and slackjawed until somebody covers for you.
Fowler and Dee walked around introducing themselves before the event started. Dee was happy to see someone wearing the orange and blue from his previous tenure in San Diego.
The first question was about some improvements to Petco Park's AV system. Fowler said that they plan to replace the current audio system during the upcoming offseason, but for several unspecified reasons they're holding off on an upgrade to the scoreboard and videoboard. They plan to address that during the next offseason. That was one of several questions about improvements to the park and fan experience. One season ticket holder asked for the early entry time to be moved up so ticket holders can see the Padres take batting practice. Dee said it was a common request and that they'd be looking at it during the offseason. Hearing a complaint and promising to look into it was the theme of the night, with ownership doing more listening than speaking. They also owned up to some mistakes, specifically admitting that they'd cut too much staff, and rotating ushers between sections was a bad call.
I asked if we could hear Gaslamp Ball's own Bobby Cressey at the ballpark more often, and Mike Dee asked for a show of hands of people would like to hear the organ more. The response was pretty much unanimous. He also asked if people would like to hear the mission bell rung more often, with similar results.
Fowler took a question about getting Fox Sports San Diego on Time Warner Cable. He explained that it's more of a national issue than a local one, with affiliates across the country being unable to strike a deal with TWC. He was optimistic that they'd reach a compromise prior to the start of next year's spring training.
There were several questions about adding bats to the lineup and signing big free agents, but regular readers of Gaslamp Ball have heard all these questions before and know that the response is canned. The team is actively looking at ways to improve the team, both via free agency and trade, but they believe they have a strong core to their club.
The biggest news of the night came when one fan asked about some more exhibition games in Mexico. Does anybody else remember the games the Padres played in Monterey? Well, the Padres now have a close connection with baseball in Mexico through member of the ownership group Alfredo Harp. Harp owns Mexico City's Diablos Rojos, and they'll be playing the Padres in an exhibition game a few days before the start of the 2014 season.
Byrnes fielded a question about the designated hitter, but fans didn't have a chance to respond to his comments when Bud Black and Will Venable crashed the party. They'd seen the Q&A on the TVs in the clubhouse and wanted to come say thanks to the fans. Someone asked Will if getting engaged had helped his season, and he showed off that Princeton education with an immediate and resounding "yes". "Absolutely. Give her all the credit, for sure." He also asked Buddy about the rumors that the Angels wanted him to be their new GM. Buddy insisted that he's not going anywhere, but that it makes for good copy.
I know many of you were hoping for a question about bringing back the brown, but it didn't come up. Fowler did mention in conversation with a few fans after the event that they'd done some research on it and found it difficult because 25 to 30 percent of fans love it, but around 50 percent of fans hate it. Feedback clearly has come in on the uniforms and they're looking at new possibilities, but don't expect anything before 2015 at the absolute earliest.
The club intends to have many more of these events during the offseason, so if you have the chance, go let the front office know your thoughts.