Every year the San Diego Union-Tribune chooses a citizen to honor.
In the past four years, the newspaper has named people who’ve chosen to be vaccinated (2021), Dr. Wilma Wooten, public health officer for San Diego County (2020); Assemblymember Shirley Weber (2019), and U.S. Southern District Court Judge Dana Sabrow (2018) as their Person of the Year. For 2022, the local newspaper honored none other than Peter Seidler, the San Diego Padre’s chairman.
The honor stems from his commitment to the city’s baseball team but also his concern for the homeless among us. Late at night, Seidler has a habit of walking the streets. He can’t help but notice the human beings huddled in the dark. Their numbers have increased thanks to a fragile economy, the pandemic, the ever-rising cost of housing, as well as mental health issues and substance abuse. According to the U-T, Seidler “sees homeless people not as a problem, but as people.”
Seidler meets regularly with the Tuesday Group, which focuses on the homeless population, and works with the Lucky Duck Foundation, whose mission is to “alleviate the suffering of the homeless throughout San Diego City and County.” In 2018, the National Conflict Resolution Center honored restaurateur Dan Shea and Seidler with their Philanthropy and Peacemaking awards for their work on providing tents for the unhoused. Other award winners have included John Lewis (a civil rights activist and member of congress until his death in 2020) and actor Richard Dreyfus.
Seidler’s passion for helping the homeless has also been matched by his historic commitment to the Padres. Since 1969 the franchise has seen owners come and go from C. Arnold Smith, Ray and Joan Kroc, Tom Werner, John Moores, Jeff Moorad, and Ron Fowler to Seidler. Not one of them came close to Seidler’s level of commitment.
Seidler has stuck with general manager A.J. Preller through losing seasons, multiple managers, and an ever-changing cast of players and has been rewarded with the most successful season since 1998. Since taking over a lead owner in 2020, Seidler has committed to payrolls never imagined in San Diego.
In November 2021, Preller made one of his best moves by hiring Bob Melvin, who played in the major leagues and went on to manage the Arizona Diamondbacks, Seattle Mariners, and the Oakland A’s. In his 11 seasons with the low-rent A’s, the team had a record of 853-764 and reached the playoffs six times. By comparison, before 2021, the Padres made it to the playoffs just six times in 53 years.
In 2022, the Padres defeated the dreaded Los Angeles Dodgers, who have owned the local team for decades, and went on to the National League Championship Series. Since then, Preller has added to the payroll and put the Padres near the level of the most successful and freewheeling franchises, including the New York Yankees and the Dodgers,
Seidler’s business acumen has built a business with an estimated value of $3.5 billion, so he certainly has the wherewithal. He’s given Preller the leeway to add Xander Bogaerts’s yearly salary ($25 million) to Manny Machado’s $32 million and Fernando Tatis Jr.’s total of $340 million over 14 years.
Of course, a successful and exciting team attracts fans, who averaged almost $37 thousand in 2022, second only to the $38,000 in Petco Park’s maiden season. With no other major franchise in San Diego since the Chargers left town in 2017, the Padres have a distinct advantage. That advantage increases exponentially with each win.
From 1969 to 2021 the Padres didn’t inspire confidence with a record of 3,863-4,495 or .462 average, and attendance understandably lagged. But fans have proven that “if you build it, they will come,” as they did in the movie Field of Dreams https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3c_pJ_CLJQ
If San Diego baseball fans had a vote for the San Diego person of the year, Peter Seidler would be the obvious choice. He has given them hope after so many seasons of disappointment.