Outgoing Commissioner saved baseball in town, honored with Selig Hall of Fame Plaza
SAN DIEGO -- By the time Padres president and CEO Mike Dee caught wind of Bud Selig's farewell tour of Major League ballparks, the wheels were already turning as to how the team was going to pay tribute to the outgoing Commissioner.
Many ideas were considered, but one clear and decisive winner eventually emerged from the pack, Dee said Tuesday.
"It's tough to find something to give someone who has the experience and background he does," Dee said. "I think at this point in his career, his legacy speaks for itself. But to commemorate it here today was not only fun for us, but important for us to do."
On yet another sun-kissed day in paradise, the Padres honored Selig with a dedication ceremony of the Selig Hall of Fame Plaza at Petco Park, which sits behind the Western Metal Supply Building, next to 13 palm trees, waving gently in the breeze during the 20-minute ceremony before Tuesday's game against the Brewers, which the Padres won, 4-1.
Dee said the area will serve as a home to the Padres Hall of Fame and eventually statues in the plaza to honor Padres greats as well as a plaque to honor Selig, not just for his overall achievements to baseball during his 22-year tenure as Commissioner but the specific accomplishment of helping to keep baseball afloat in San Diego.
The Selig Hall of Fame Plaza will be open year-round to fans.
"We wanted to do something to recognize his contributions here in San Diego because they are unique," Dee said. "Make no mistake, his contributions to the creation of Petco Park are profound. For those of us who were around and know the trips he made and conversations he had with local officials."
San Diego County supervisor Ron Roberts declared Tuesday as "Bud Selig Day" in San Diego County and its 18 cities.
Roberts was one of four speakers at the ceremony, including Selig, who sat next to former Padres closer Trevor Hoffman and made mention of another Padres legend during his speech. Executive chairman Ron Fowler also spoke at the ceremony.
Selig's comments were brief, but he made it clear how much the organization meant to him -- especially one of its greatest players.
"One of the great ambassadors we had was Tony Gwynn," said Selig of the Hall of Famer, who passed away in June. "... He loved the game, he loved the city and he loved the fans. I couldn't help but think of him today."
Several speakers praised Selig for his role in helping to keep baseball prospering in San Diego, first during its difficult financial period of 1993, the infamous "fire sale" that saw the trades of Gary Sheffield and Fred McGriff and then, later, when the team was trying to get its downtown ballpark built.
"Your help in creating this beautiful ballpark ... it has truly reinvigorated downtown San Diego," said San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer. "You shared the vision for the ballpark and you saw what it meant for the fabric of our community. [Selig has] truly been an All-Star when it comes to supporting San Diego."
Later Tuesday, Selig watched as his former team -- he, of course, once owned the Brewers -- took on the Padres. He might have even been swayed to root for the Padres on a day that caused him to feel a little bit nostalgic.
"This is wonderful. It's sort of tough when you look around and see your name up there. It really is nice. I meant what I said here today: I have great admiration for the Padres ownership," Selig said.
"They came into a difficult situation and I can't tell you how well they fit in and how well they're doing. I look at this ballpark and remember Jack Murphy Stadium. So we've come a long way. We had a lot of challenges and this franchise was emblematic of that. But this sport has emerged from a lot of that challenge and this franchise is proof of that."