Musgrove seeks 'the ultimate dream' in SD

January 20th, 2021

SAN DIEGO -- Here's a timeless story of a local kid who loved his hometown baseball team.

He attended Grossmont High in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon and grew up loving the Padres. He went to games at Qualcomm Stadium, and by the time the team moved to Petco Park, his family had season tickets.

Those seats were just behind the right-field wall. Mark Kotsay once threw him a baseball, and he cherishes that memory dearly. Jake Peavy was his favorite player, and he did his best to channel Peavy’s fire every time he took the mound. When he turned 18, he got a tattoo of a baseball on his arm with an interlocking "SD."

Now, here's where that story gets interesting: That kid became a big league starting pitcher. And suddenly, he's been called upon to help his home city end its championship drought.

Yes, at long last, is a San Diego Padre.

"It feels so special, man," Musgrove said on his introductory video call Tuesday night. "To be back in my hometown representing the city I grew up in, where all my dreams started, it's extremely special."

Earlier in the day, the Padres had finalized their trade for Musgrove -- a three-team, seven-player swap that also involved the Pirates and Mets. And while Musgrove already has a World Series ring from his stint with the Astros, he made it clear that it would mean something different to win one in San Diego.

"Anywhere you play, you're trying to win a championship," Musgrove said. "But no championship would mean more than one for my own city."

Musgrove figured he'd be dealt this winter. The Pirates were rebuilding, and he was a prime trade candidate. Musgrove had two years remaining before he hit free agency and was coming off one of his best seasons. He decided to spend the offseason back in San Diego, awaiting word of where he would land.

Musgrove knew the Padres were looking for starting pitching. But in late December, when they traded for and , he essentially wrote off that possibility -- until this week, when a deal came to fruition, and the Padres had added yet another coveted arm to their stable of starting pitchers.

Musgrove's assessment: "They're not messing around."

No, they are not. The Padres felt their contention window open in 2020. In their first offseason as contenders, they’re making sure it stays that way.

That's why -- with a rotation already loaded with three aces and tons of depth -- general manager A.J. Preller wasn't content to rest on his laurels. He wanted another big league starter, and he got one with a huge upside. The San Diego ties didn't hurt.

"It's about getting pieces that fit and the right guys from a talent and makeup standpoint," Preller said. "But with Joe, being from San Diego, there's a motivation there, a guy that knows the city. He's a Padre fan, he grew up there, and wanting to win for his hometown club -- we viewed that as a positive."

Perhaps only Musgrove's parents were more thrilled than he was. His mother -- "full-blooded Sicilian," Musgrove said -- gets to cook for her son regularly again. His father, meanwhile, hasn't been able to catch many of Musgrove's games through the years.

"My dad's had some health issues in the past, which has partially handicapped him where he just has a difficult time getting around, so he doesn't get to make it to nearly as many games as he would like to," Musgrove said.

But Mark Musgrove was always there when his son pitched in San Diego. When fans are allowed back into Petco Park, he'll be there again. In fact, Joe Musgrove might have quite the vocal cheering section.

"I've got a lot of friends and a lot of people that I grew up with and a lot of family that have high expectations for me in San Diego," Musgrove said. "I can promise you, they're not any higher than the expectations that I have for myself here. [Winning a World Series here] is the ultimate dream."

Roughly the same dream he had two decades ago. Except Musgrove isn’t sitting in those right-field seats. He's on the mound.