I almost didn't make it out to UTC for the Padres Caravan's first pep rally yesterday. After sleeping in and having problems with my garage door opener, I was lucky to get to the mall with just minutes to spare. Well, I thought I had minutes to spare. It seems the team was having too much fun playing with puppies and got a late start, so the event didn't get going until about 11:10. The delay wasn't so bad, though. The Pad Squad was there handing out some free stuff to the crowd, including those squishy balls they toss into the stands at Petco and a few of last year's giveaway items.
When it was almost time to start the party, the Petco Park Drumline came out to warm up the hundred or so fans in attendance. Those are the guys you see at the ballpark laying down some sick beats on trash cans. After all that, it was finally time to bring in the players. Padres Social Hour host Jesse Agler introduced Matt Kemp, Andrew Cashner, Derek Norris, Ian Kennedy, Wil Myers, Clint Barmes, and Joaquin Benoit. For those keeping score at home, Kemp, Cashner, and Myers drew the biggest cheers.
Before talking to the players about the upcoming season, Agler sat down with Padres owner Tom Seidler. The ownership group is really excited about the team and blah blah blah marketing blah blah blah. The best part of their conversation was when Seidler noted how many people in the crowd were wearing Padres shirts. Agler, without missing a beat, asked "And what color are those shirts?" For the record, I think the blue/camo/brown split was around 50/25/25.
After Seidler left, there were Q&As with the players in attendance. Norris announced that while he trimmed his beard before last month's press conference, he's putting away the clippers for the next six months. Facial hair fans, you are in for a treat. Speaking of luxurious beards, Cashner's is looking fine. He's been in town for the last month working out with Tyson Ross getting ready for the season. He and Agler talked a little bit about pitchers as hitters, and Cashner wasn't shy when asked who the best hitter in the rotation was. He loves to hit, and he's looking forward to picking up a few more stolen bases in 2015, too.
And then, in my personal favorite part of the event, a young fan was brought on stage to play a game with Cashner. The two were given a Nerf bow, and the Friar stood on the opposite end of the stage with an apple on his head. First to knock it off wins. Cashner may be the practiced hunter, but his competition was the first to connect, cleanly knocking the apple to the ground.
Kemp's conversation was pretty light, with him talking about how excited he was to go back to Dodger Stadium on opening day and do some damage with his bat. But mostly he just flashed those pearly whites and charmed the crowd. Benoit and Kennedy talked about the joys of better run support and the success of the bullpen last year (60-1 when leading after 6 innings). Barmes and Myers talked about... well, honestly, I don't really remember.
All in all, it was a pretty fun event. Kind of like a miniature FanFest to help us survive these last two months before Opening Day. Baseball! It's almost here!