Before today’s All-Star Game, the players were driven through the streets of San Diego to Petco Park in a parade. The streets were lined with fans, loud music was blaring, everyone was having a good time. As those cars were approaching the stadium, I was inside the gates with a group of season ticket holders who had some special access.
I was fortunate enough to get to experience a member’s event where we got early entry into the park and could line up where the players walked from the left field gate to the corridors leading down to the clubhouses. It was quite the treat to get to see the players and their entourages come through. Some of the players were gracious enough to sign autographs and interact with us a little as they made their way past. Neither my brother-in-law Steve nor myself are professional photographers, but we snapped up some photos as they passed by.
We lined up at the Member’s entrance not too far from the main entrance to the park. We were handed credentials and our tickets were scanned, and we were led to the left field corner of the lot, where a red carpet was laid out and barricades set up to guide the players into the park. A table was out with cold water and sodas and some peanuts and Cracker Jacks, which we eagerly snatched up.
We took up our spot on the line. Talk of autographs spread, and clearly most of us didn’t expect to have the chance to get some ink from some players. Earlier in the weekend, I had bought a cap that caught my eye a while back. I looked for my blue sharpie, but apparently I left it with Mark Grant just an hour prior when I found him at the FanFest! Fortunately, the nice man next to us had a spare silver sharpie, which was perfect for the dark blue brim and crown of my cap.
As we waited for the action to start, I wandered off and found the stadium as empty and as perfect as I’ll ever see it, so I had to snap a shot. The grass was perfect, the painted "shooting stars" fresh and crisp, and the seats were vacant and quiet.
As I rejoined the group, the mascots were running amok flooding out on to the streets. They came back up the carpet, high-fiving and tossing stuffed baseballs to the kids. MLB had mascots from each organization in town for the event. It was neat to see them all in one place, when we would never have a chance to see them unless we visited each ballpark. Here’s a selection of the beasts we got to see today:
Next, Mike Dee and Wayne Partello came out to do some glad-handing with the STH’s. As a guest of my BIL, I kept my mouth shut and just smiled as they walked up the line. Dee seemed genuinely gracious and Partello was cracking jokes with everyone. It was clear to me that they were focused on keeping everyone happy but their minds were on much higher-level concerns as they shuffled their way past.
The parade caravan was starting to arrive, and the first people up the carpet were Padres legends Dave Winfield and Trevor Hoffman. They passed by quickly, shaking hands and high-fiving the fans as they passed.
Finally, the players started to arrive. Each came with his entourage in a truck bed, with his name on a placard on top. It was weird seeing the players in plain clothes, and we kept having to wonder amongst ourselves who was about to walk past us. Chris Sale was the first to come by, and we didn’t even realize it was him until we saw the back of his kid’s jersey. He just looked like a tall lanky dude. Several of the players held the hands of their wives and kids and walked straight up the middle of the gauntlet, and others spent a lot of time at the front of the line only to rush past us. Wil Myers was the most disappointing culprit of that tactic.
Mark Trumbo was my first successful autograph get. A kid bellied up to the rail just to my right, so if the player saw him, they would sign for him, the guy next to me with a baseball, and my hat. Josh Donaldson was next. I thought he kinda looked like Kid Rock as he approached.
Carlos Beltran was next. With his bald head and glasses, I thought he looked like Kelly Tavalas of Kojak fame.
Big Papi aka David Ortiz didn’t sign autographs, but it was clear that he was the main attraction. The crowd went nuts as his truck made its way down the road. He stayed at the end of the parade route for a while, hamming it up with everyone. He kept the act up as he walked past us. I noticed the latin players and WAGs wore sunglasses with flat lenses. Must be a new fashion trend.
I don’t have any stories to tell about the rest of the guys who came through, so I’ll just post the photos that we got.
Mike Trout didn’t sign autographs, but he seemed like a genuinely likeable guy, true to his reputation. He waved and engaged with the fans, and kept interacting with his kid.
Bryce Harper was the opposite of Trout. He didn’t look near the fans and kind of shook his head in a dismissive manner as people called out to him. It doesn’t take much effort to make a good impression, but he puts effort into seeming aloof and unapproachable.
Players with San Diego connections like Cole Hamels and Kris Bryant got extra love, but none got the cheers that Stephen Strasburg received. It was clear that the local fans took a strong liking to him during his time at SDSU. I’d love to see him with us at some point.
I think the only autograph that I got that didn’t get caught on camera was Drew Pomeranz - but someone from the Padres did! That’s me in the far right of the frame! I told him that we love him here and I want to see him signed to an extension. He said "So would I."
In the end, I got some neat memories, a sunburn, and a hat covered in autographs. I bought the hat because I thought it was flippin’ rad, but now I love it because it represents a really cool experience that I was fortunate to enjoy. Thank you for coming along for the ride!