*This piece was originally written last year, little has been done to rectify the problem.
The alumni division has arguably been the most neglected area in the history of the San Diego Padres.
The Padres Hall Of Fame was a nice touch, but was extremely overdue and seemed rushed solely for all-star game purposes.
The fan base sees this. They are not dumb.
Presently, there are dozens upon dozens of former Friars that are all but forgotten by the fans, and more importantly, the team.
Players like Gaylord Perry, Garry Templeton, Nate Colbert, Eric Show, Bip Roberts, and Mark Davis all need to be brought to the modern fan’s attention for what they accomplished. Perry and Davis won Cy Young awards for the franchise. Eric Show is the teams’ all-time wins leader. Colbert is the franchises’ all-time home runs leader. Most younger Padre fans don’t even know that. Where is the recognition’s for these players, and all that they have accomplished for this team?
It’s time to change that.
PAD (Padres Alumni Division)
The formation of an alumni division of the San Diego Padres is vital. It would be a proposed division, within the team, that specifically makes the fans and team aware of the alumni and their accomplishments. This new proposed division will organize fan meet & greets, fundraisers, meetings, support groups, on-field activities, and so on.
A yearly “Old-Timers” softball game should be played. The Padres could easily field two teams of 10-12 alumni players to play in an exhibition game before a Saturday night game. Invite the fans and current players to come and see. Watch the history of the team on the field, and restart a tradition that is long overdue. These games made up of alumni would be a joy to watch, and the former players would enjoy the opportunity to play at Petco Park in front of a current crowd of fans. A crowd that adores them and gives them a brief glimpse into their past glory days. (On June 23 a Padres’ alumni game was played against the U.S. Navy All-Stars. It was the first time an event like this was coordinated by the team and it is unclear if the Padres will continue this tradition. Hopefully they do and perhaps they could make the game more accessible to the normal everyday fan. A game or two at Petco would be amazing.)
That is just the tip of the iceberg too, as the team could easily arrange rounds of golf with former Friars. We all know ball players love to play golf, and there are certainly fans who partake in the activity. The fan base would jump at the opportunity to play a round of golf and run elbows with a few Padres players of the past. While at the same time, the players would embrace giving back to their fans and enjoy a round of golf. Sponsors and local golf resorts would be all over this. Revenue would be generated and at the same time, the history of the team is being treated with respect and cherished. It’s an absolute win-win. It is a no-brainer. The possibilities are endless. Celebrity ballplayer related cruises, casino nights, and other sports functions could be gold for the franchise.
Padres B.A.T Program
Within this Padres Alumni Division (PAD), I propose to form a Padres BAT (baseball assistance team) program of sorts. The idea of this program would be to take care of former Padres players and team members that have fallen on hard times. The nationally used MLB Bat Program is excellent for this, but why not take care of our own without the restraints of MLB and their restrictions? Current players would donate to such a cause, and again, the tradition of the team is being showcased and protected.
There really is no excuse for this lack of respect towards the history of the team.
Eric Show and Nate Colbert are prime examples of this. Both players are all-time franchise record holders. Show winning 100 games in the major leagues is quite the big deal in itself. He also did that as a San Diego Padre. Colbert slugged 163 home runs in his career, including five in one day in 1972. He also drove in 13 runs in two games of a double-header that August, which broke the old record of 11 in a day. Are either of those accomplishments memorialized anywhere? Or have they been? Nope.
It’s shameful. It really is.
I realize Show died tragically due to his drug issues, but the team memorialized Ken Caminiti, so why is Show shunned by the team? A program like the Padres B.A.T. could have helped each player deal with their problems and possibly get them help. Just because a player no longer plays for the team does not mean they are no longer a member of the family.
There has been development within the organization of an alumni division in recent years. Kurt Bevacqua has been instrumental in trying to create this group. His Saturday night Social Hour-Alumni Division specials were fantastic for this effort. Bringing in players like Nate Colbert, Garry Templeton, Dave Dravecky, and John D’Acquisto to speak about Padres’ history, only helps educate the fans. Sadly that show has been discontinued, along with the regular Social Hour show, and that is a shame. It’s like the franchise does not care what the fans want, nor do they care about what the fans expect from them.
There are plenty of moments in Padres’ history that just aren’t celebrated. From Colbert’s extraordinary day in Atlanta, to Rickey Henderson’s record-breaking moments with the team, the moments are there to be embraced. The franchise has mostly ignored these facts. I don’t expect a big deal to be made about each Padres moment, but the instrumental moments in the franchises’ history do deserve a plaque, a statue, recognition. Something. Educate the fans. There are dozens of moments like this throughout Padres’ history that are nothing but a footnote.
Peter Seidler, Ron Fowler, and their group seem to want to help grow the tradition of the team, but they must act swiftly. The constant change in uniforms and personnel on the field must stop. The team needs balance, and there is no way to create balance when you have uncertainty. For decades this team has wallowed in the middle of the MLB pack, too scared to put in the extra commitment towards winning, and also too afraid to rebuild the system correctly. For years, players like Greg Maddux, Mike Piazza, Reggie Sanders, Ron Gant, Aaron Harang, and Jim Edmonds were brought in to appease the fan base and create a “show” that the team was trying to win. At the same time these players only took the Padres from a horrible team to an average team, and the result was no playoffs and no top-10 pick in the draft. Without either, you are just a franchise stuck in the middle.
With the help of the Padres Alumni Division, there has to be a grassroots approach to increase the fan base and welcome them back. The players themselves, both former and current, must literally go door to door and invite fans to the stadium. The ownership must recognize their past mistakes and own up to them. By doing this, the new ownership regime will start out the relationship fresh and can build a successful long-term marriage with its fan base. Tradition is the key to all of this. A “Padres way” must be developed, and that must be the only way to conduct business. By keeping to these values, the sky is the limit for this team. The beginning stages are already being conducted, but you cannot afford to cut corners. Go the distance.
Embrace the alumni, educate the fans, and build tradition. The rest will come in time. It’s exciting to see this franchise headed in the correct direction. The farm system and baseball operations team is on par with a championship-level team. An alumni division within the team would help expedite the tradition building, and at the same time would give the fans something to look forward to while the team is still be constructed. To the Padres- Please take this piece to heart and listen. The alumni need to be embraced and the fans certainly demand it. Pay attention to the team’s past (both good and bad) and we can all take this ride to relevance together.