20 memorable moments in 20 years of Petco Park

Credit: LA Times

10. Padres comeback vs. Cardinals, 2020 Wild Card Series

Speaking of the strange 2020 season, the Padres had memorable moments of their own. In their first playoff series since 2006 (against the Cardinals), they faced the Cardinals in the inaugural Wild Card Series at home, albeit without any fans in attendance.

The Padres lost Game 1 and were in danger of a quick exit from the playoffs despite being at home for all three possible games.

In Game 2, they were down 4-0 and then 6-2 heading into the bottom of the sixth. Tatis came to the plate with two runners on and launched a line drive over the left field fence into the empty seats, cutting the deficit to one.

That sparked a rally, with Manny Machado hitting a game-tying homer in the next at bat.

Wil Myers and Tatis then smacked homers in the seventh to put the Padres ahead 9-6, with Tatis flipping the bat in such a way to where MLB The Show felt the need to put it as the cover of their iconic video game in 2021.

The Padres held on for an 11-9 victory to tie the series.

In an elimination Game 3, the Padres opted for an opener in reliever Craig Stammen. In a bullpen day, facing elimination, the Padres shut out the Cardinals to clinch their first playoff series win since 1998.

 

9. Slam Diego (2020)

The Padres announced themselves on the national stage in August 2020. First, it was the grand slam heard ’round the world. Against the Rangers, in Texas, Tatis swung at a 3-0 pitch, with the Padres up 10-3, to hit a monster grand slam. It caused a wave of debates about “unwritten rules” and mostly painted Tatis and the Padres in a good light as a beacon of the new age of baseball- fun and young.

In the midst of this, Tatis’ slam sparked a record-setting streak. Wil Myers hit a grand slam against the Rangers the next day. Things really got interesting when the teams traveled to San Diego, and Manny Machado launched a walk-off grand slam, marking three straight games with a grand slam for San Diego, which tied the previous MLB record.

The next day, the buzz in the dugout and on social media was, could they do it again? Could the Padres set the record? In the bottom of the fifth, Machado worked a walk to load the bases ahead of Eric Hosmer. The tension grew. The fans (watching from home) almost expected it. And then, it happened. Hosmer lined one into the empty right field porch for the fourth grand slam in four days for the Padres, setting a new MLB record. That earned them the nickname Slam Diego, which became something of an identity for that run to the postseason.

 

8. Daniel Camarena grand slam off Max Scherzer (7/8/2021)

Speaking of Slam Diego.

The universal designated hitter is good for baseball in most aspects. However, the real shame is that we will likely never see legends created like this ever again. Relief pitcher Daniel Camarena, a San Diego native, was called up earlier that day to spell a tired bullpen. It was just his second big league appearance of his career, with his first coming just a few weeks earlier.

The game was tabbed as a pitcher’s duel between Scherzer and Yu Darvish. It quickly unraveled for Darvish, who allowed six runs in four innings. Enter Camarena for a long relief appearance.

That also included an at bat.

Facing Scherzer, with the bases loaded and two outs, with the Padres down big 8-2, it seemed like an impossible task. A rookie relief pitcher making just his second career at-bat…against the three-time Cy Young winner and likely Hall of Famer Scherzer? No way this ends in anything but a strikeout, right?

Facing a 1-2 count, Camarena golfed a liner deep into the right field seats and sent Petco Park into pandemonium. Not only did he hit perhaps the most improbable grand slam in baseball history, but he cut the deficit to 8-6 and eventually sparked a dramatic comeback victory for the ages for the Friars.

Hollywood would’ve thrown away the script for being too cheesy, too unbelievable. A hometown kid, a relief pitcher, in his second-ever MLB at-bat against a legendary pitcher, and that happens?

Believe in miracles.

 

7. Post-COVID re-opening night walk-off (6/17/2021)

COVID wreaked havoc on the sporting world for the better part of 18 months. The shortened 2020 season saw no fans at Petco Park at all. In 2021, they opened to limited crowds of just under 16,000. It took until June 17, 2021, for Petco Park to be back to full capacity for the first time since the end of the 2019 season.

The Padres welcomed back the fans in style, all 40,362 of them.

This night represented a rebirth of sorts. A new hope in a new, post-pandemic world. Also, the Padres were fun! They were coming off of their first postseason run in 15 years, which no fans were able to witness in person. The city was starving, desperate to be back in the ballpark in full throat. This was the first night that a full-capacity crowd at Petco Park got to witness the new brown and gold uniforms (over 18 months after the unveiling).

Up until the ninth inning, the game zipped by, with the Padres nursing a 2-0 lead with three outs needed for the win. However, the Reds had other plans. Mark Melancon blew the save, with Jonathan India hitting a two-run homer to put the Reds up 4-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth.

The mood went from abuzz and vibrant to near funeral-like. That was before Eric Hosmer launched a game-tying homer with one out, giving the team, and fans, new life.

Backup catcher Victor Caratini came to the plate with a runner on first and one out. He lofted one over the fence in left field for the dramatic walk-off home run.

On paper, it might just look like another walk-off win. Most teams have a few of those every season. This one felt different. It was a culmination of a new era of Padres baseball with the renewed hope for the future for the sport, and the world, post-pandemic. It was the first time in over a year where things felt like they were going to be OK.

 

6. Adam Jones‘ HR robbery in World Baseball Classic (3/18/2017)

One of the best moments in Petco Park history that didn’t directly involve the Padres was the World Baseball Classic. Petco Park has hosted the first ever WBC semifinals and finals in 2006. They hosted a section of Pool Play in the 2009 version.

But 2017 is the big moment. Team USA played against the Dominican Republic with a slot in the semifinals on the line.

USA was clinging to a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning. Tyler Clippard faced then-Oriole-now-Padre star Manny Machado. Machado launched a towering fly ball towards the right-center gap. San Diego native and fellow Oriole teammate Adam Jones tracked it like a wide receiver on a deep pass downfield. He leaped at the wall and made one of the most memorable catches in Petco Park history.

The catch robbed Machado of a homer and basically saved the game for Team USA. They went on to win 6-3 and eventually won the WBC title in 2017. That likely doesn’t happen without the Morse High School alum’s heroics.

All Machado could do was tip his cap to his Baltimore teammate.

 

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5. 2016 All-Star Game 

The final non-Padres moment on the list is a big one. From the second Petco Park opened fans wondered when Major League Baseball would bring the All-Star festivities to America’s Finest City.

It took 12 years.

Finally, when it happened, most fans around the world agreed that it took far too long. Over several spotless, perfect days in July, San Diego, and all its glory, was on full display for the entire world.

The Home Run Derby was a spectacle, as Giancarlo Stanton won it by seemingly peppering the Western Metal Supply Co. building with machine gun fire. Stanton hit 61 homers over three rounds.

Future Padre Eric Hosmer dominated the game itself. He went 2-for-3 with a homer and two RBI, earning himself game MVP. The American League won 4-2.

Overall, it was the perfect stage for Petco Park and the city of San Diego.

 

4. 2022 NLCS Game 2

There is only one playoff game in Petco Park history higher than this. The Friars were fresh off of the big upset of the Dodgers in the NL Division Series. They faced the Phillies with a trip to the World Series on the line.

The Phillies took Game 1, and the Padres looked to equalize things in Game 2. The atmosphere was electric. The fanbase was in a frenzy about this upstart team tearing through the postseason. Now, they were four wins away from a National League pennant.

The Phillies did their best on that sunny Wednesday afternoon to rain on the parade, scoring four runs quickly in the second inning.

Brandon Drury and Josh Bell hit back-to-back homers in the bottom of the second to cut the lead in half. Aaron Nola then settled in to toss two scoreless innings.

With the Phillies still leading 4-2 in the bottom of the fifth, the Padres looked for spark. Ha-Seong Kim scored on a base hit by Austin Nola (against his brother Aaron, no less) to cut the deficit to one. With runners on first and third, Juan Soto lined a double to tie the game at four.

Drury and Bell added RBI singles to push the Padres to a 7-4 lead. The exclamation point was Manny Machado’s solo homer in the seventh, making it 8-4 and sealing the win.

Josh Hader came in to close the door and worked a 1-2-3 ninth. The Padres had tied the NLCS at 1-1. They were possibly three games away from a trip to the World Series. Even though the series didn’t go their way, that game meant a whole lot to San Diego. It was their first ever win in an NLCS at Petco Park and the first one period since 1998.

 

3. Trevor Hoffman sets all-time saves record (9/24/2006)

Trevor Hoffman is one of the two best closers in the history of baseball. Even though the majority of his career stats and accolades were accumulated at the Padres home prior to 2004, at Qualcomm Stadium, he still had a special moment at Petco Park.

Then, 38 years old, Hoffman was still going strong. He earned his fifth of what would be seven career All-Star selections in 2006. He would end up leading the National League with 46 saves for the Friars.

His crowning moment came on September 24. All season, fans counted down his chase of Lee Smith, who was the all-time leader in saves at the time, with 478. As Hoffman crept closer and closer to 479, the excitement grew around the fanbase. The biggest concern was if Hoffman was able to do it at home.

Those concerns were put to rest.

Facing the Pirates and clinging to a 2-1 lead, the Padres turned to Hoffman to notch the save and the win. As always, he came out to the sound of “Hell’s Bells,” which became synonymous with Hoffman’s dominance. Hardly a fan sat down the entire ninth inning in anticipation.

He worked a 1-2-3 inning to seal the deal and become the all-time saves leader, cementing his legacy and essentially punching his ticket to Cooperstown.

He eventually finished his career with 602 saves, which was the highest at the time and still is the National League record. He rightfully got the call to the Hall of Fame in 2018. Petco Park was able to celebrate him properly moments after he became baseball’s all-time save king.

 

2. 2004 Petco Park Grand Opening

It’s hard to tell the history of Petco Park without mentioning its grand opening. Granted, the first baseball game was played at Petco Park on March 11, 2004. The San Diego State Aztecs baseball team, coached by Tony Gwynn, defeated the University of Houston. It was the largest attended game in college baseball history.

The city was ecstatic to open a sparkling new ballpark right downtown. For decades, it had to endure a decaying cement palace out in Mission Valley, and after fighting year after year for a new home, it happened. They broke ground on the park in May of 2000, but they experienced numerous delays for political and financial reasons. It was a long fight but well worth it.

On April 8, 2004, the Padres took the field at Petco Park for their first-ever regular season game at their new home. The game itself was something of a dream script as well, at least until the ninth. David Wells, an accomplished veteran pitcher, got the honor of being the starting pitcher and delivering the first official pitch. It was fitting, since he also is a native San Diegan and an alum of Point Loma High School.

The Padres held a lead for the majority of the game until the Giants got two runs against Trevor Hoffman in the ninth, spoiling what would’ve been a dream opening act. The Padres fought back with a run in the bottom of the ninth thanks to Sean Burroughs.

Once again, it appeared as if the Giants were going to play party pooper, as Marquis Grissom hit the first home run in the park’s history in the top of the 10th.

The Padres were not going to let them ruin the party. Kerry Robinson led off the bottom of the 10th with a single. He eventually scored on a Miguel Ojeda double, tying the game once again. However, it being a ground-rule double held runners on second and third, still with two outs. Sean Burroughs got to play hero for a second straight inning as he lined a ball down the left field line, driving in the winning run as the Padres won walk-off style.

They had won their new park’s grand opening game in dramatic comeback walk-off fashion.

 

1. 2022 NLDS Game 4

Were you expecting the swarm of bees? No, this is the type of game in 20 years where 90,000 people will claim they were there.

The vibes were immaculate. “Electric” is too cliché of a term to describe the atmosphere. The rain delay. 45,000-plus in brown and gold belting out blink-182’s hit “All The Small Things” in unison as they welcomed another downpour late in the game.

But first, the Padres were down 3-0 in the seventh. Losing this game would mean facing the Dodgers in Dodger Stadium in an elimination Game 5. If the Padres were going to win this series, they absolutely had to erase that deficit, win that game, and end it in San Diego.

The bottom of the seventh started with Jurickson Profar working a walk and Trent Grisham singling. That put Austin Nola at the plate with runners on first and third. He shot a bounding ball to the right side of the infield, which caromed off Freddie Freeman‘s glove, allowing a run to score and everyone to be safe.

Ha-Seong kept the rally going, dribbling a double down the left field line, scoring Grisham, and putting runners on second and third with no one out and San Diego trailing by just one. It began to feel inevitable.

Juan Soto came up in the biggest at-bat of his Padres career. He came through, lining a ball short of the right fielder, sending Nola home to tie the game at three. Kim was at third, representing the go-ahead run. Soto let out a primal, victorious scream, and Padres fans made the ground of Petco Park shake.

An underrated part of this moment is Soto stealing second without a contested throw, with the Padres now down to two outs and the game still tied.

Enter Jake Cronenworth.

Facing the lefty Alex Vesia with a 2-2 count, Cronenworth lined a ball in shallow center field for a base hit, scoring two runs. The crowd let out the most cathartic roar ever heard at Petco Park as the Padres were up by two runs, six outs away from eliminating the Dodgers and advancing to the NLCS.

The Friars had scored five runs in the seventh inning after entering the frame being shut out 3-0. Perhaps it is the single greatest inning in Padres history.

Two innings later, Josh Hader sealed the deal and the series. The Padres had slayed the dragon in a colossal upset and advanced to the National League Championship Series. No one wanted to leave the ballpark. Many fans stayed as long as they possibly could, just soaking in the pure joy, knowing they would remember that night for the rest of their lives.

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