I had already been a fan of the Padres since September of 1988, but it wasn't until the next summer that I realized it. When I showed up to kindergarten that September, a kid in my class happened to be the nephew of one John Kruk. Since that was a big deal in a jerkwater one-horse town, I became a fan of Kruk, his team, and the sport of baseball in one fell swoop.
I spent most of the offseason between the 1988 and '89 seasons hanging out at the library my mom worked at, reading anything about baseball I could get my hands on. I got in trouble in class repeatedly for reading about baseball when we were supposed to be learning about letters, something that strikes me as beyond ridiculous to this day. Looking back on that now, I think that's where a lot of the defiance in my life stems from; I was appalled that authority figures were more concerned with the appearance of order than they were with actual progress.
Right as that first year of school was wrapping up, the Padres traded the player who made me care about them in the first place. A quarter-century ago to this day, they sent Kruk and his best friend on the team, Randy Ready, to Philadelphia for Chris James. Although I wouldn't have known the San Diego Padres from the San Capistrano Swallows if not for him, the strangest thing happened: I kept on loving the team. I didn't know it until he was sent packing that I had become an actual Padres fan, not just a fan of the team John Kruk was playing for.
Kruk blossomed into an All-Star in Philadelphia and I rooted for the Phillies as a secondary team while he was there, but never at San Diego's expense. I even had a Phillies hat and a Phillies shirt that I had turned into a shirtsey with fabric paint since shirtseys weren't a thing that had been invented yet, but those took a backseat to my trusty Padres hat and homemade Padres shirts I wore as I threw myself ground balls off a brick wall for hours on end. After the Phillies let him walk following the 1994 season, they became dead to me since I never really cared about them in the first place. I'm just grateful I found out about Kruk when I did, not a year later. Then I would have been baptized into baseball as a Phillies fan, developed a weird fascination with Mickey Morandini, and ended up posting over at The Good Phight as TriumphantTommyGreene or something. I think everything turned out just the way it was supposed to.