If you’ve ever read an article about San Diego sports fans, you know there’s a certain reputation we carry in the media. We’re relaxed. In it for a beer and a hot dog. Easily distracted by the beach. If there’s a way to say we have no passion, some writer has used it to meet his word count. But what I’ve seen during this All-Star Week dispels that myth entirely. Padres fans turned out in force for every event, and they made their presence known.
I’ve had the good fortune to see the Friar fanbase at their best plenty of times before. I got to see most of the 1998 postseason in person. When game four of the NLCS opened and the Padres were poised to sweep the Braves, the crew at Jack Murphy Stadium started it the way they started every game that season, with Republica’s Ready to Go. But if you hadn’t been to the ballpark all season, you wouldn’t know it, because the minute the song started, the crowd erupted in a roar so loud it drowned out everything else and shook the stadium from the highest light to the bottom of the foundation. And then there was the end of the World Series, when the fans, despite suffering a sweep, refused to leave the stadium until Bruce Bochy came out of the clubhouse for one more round of applause.
But even in the lesser moments, you could see the Padres fans shine. Every time AC/DC came on the PA system and Trevor Hoffman started his jog in from the bullpen, you could feel the love from the crowd. It was so impressive, and the response so great, it set the standard for all others.
San Diegans haven’t had much to cheer for since Hoffman retired, and the myths about their devotion (or lack thereof) have only grown since. But what I saw the last few days was a reminder of the glory days. It was tentative at first, with Hunter Renfroe drawing big cheers from a less-than-sellout crowd at the Futures Game. Later that evening, Hoffman was greeted with a healthy roar during the Celebrity Softball Game.
Monday night is when the Friar Faithful really started making their presence known. When rookie Dodger Corey Seager was introduced at the Home Run Derby, he was booed like fans mistook him for his human garbage teammate. But that was nothing compared to when Wil Myers was introduced. The crowd did something everyone wants to do at the Home Run Derby and silenced Chris Berman.
And then there was Tuesday’s main event. It’s no surprise that Padres representatives Andy Green, Wil Myers, and Drew Pomeranz got healthy cheers. Likewise, no one was shocked to hear players from the Dodgers and Giants booed. But despite their casual rep, fans let out hearty cheers for players with local connections like Kris Bryant and Stephen Strasburg. Fernando Rodney, who spent only half a season in town, was applauded like he still wore the brown and yellow.
Beloved Padres were also honored in the pregame ceremonies, and Hoffman joined fellow Padre Hall of Famer Randy Jones, which was special enough. The crowd knew they were in the presence of legends, and they responded accordingly. The most emotional moment came when Dick Enberg introduced the new award for the National League batting champion, named for Tony Gwynn and bearing a replica of the statue that sits in the Park at the Park. A chant rose up from the stands, one that hadn’t been heard at Petco in years. “TO-NY! TO-NY! TO-NY! TO-NY!” It was everything a Padres game used to be, and everything it could be again.
Padres fans are here, and they care, and they will make themselves heard. All you have to do is give them a reason to cheer.