Shildt, Preller share goal: Win for Seidler

November 22nd, 2023

SAN DIEGO -- Two years ago, after the Padres first hired Mike Shildt to be an adviser in their organization, chairman Peter Seidler reached out to Shildt with a proposition.

Once a month, Seidler said, the two should get together and talk ball.

Shildt, during his introductory press conference as Padres manager on Tuesday, described himself as a "baseball rat." Seidler was assuredly the same. So they put it on the calendar.

But Shildt quickly came to realize there was so much more to those meetings than a few updates on Shildt's role as a player development consultant.

"Candidly, I thought the owner of the team would follow up on his word but maybe carve out 10 minutes here or there," Shildt said. "He actually carved out an hour to an hour and a half every time. I cherished ... the times I was able to sit down with him, talk baseball, talk life, talk community, talk charity. What a beautiful soul."

On Tuesday, a week after Seidler’s passing, Shildt was introduced as the Padres’ 23rd manager. In a press conference at Petco Park, Shildt and general manager A.J. Preller spoke of their goals for the Padres in 2024 and beyond. They spoke of a roster they believe is primed for contention, in spite of a disappointing '23 season.

But before any of that, they spoke about Seidler. They spoke of his legacy with the Padres and his legacy in the community. And Shildt made it clear that he knows precisely what it means to be named Padres manager in the aftermath of Seidler's passing.

"I'm going to be a big part in helping carry his vision for the San Diego Padres moving forward -- to, ultimately, us winning a first World Series championship for the San Diego Padres and the city of San Diego,” Shildt said. “And I'm really excited about it. That'll be one way we can remember the great legacy of Peter Seidler."

Indeed, Seidler was never one to hide his ambitions. He spoke broadly about his desire to bring a championship to San Diego. He spoke often of a parade and once wondered aloud whether that parade would be by land or by boat.

Seidler, of course, backed those ambitions with investments. He's the owner who brought Manny Machado and Xander Bogaerts on board, who financed trades for Juan Soto, Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove, who extended Fernando Tatis Jr. and supported him through thick and thin.

Speaking of which, on Monday, Tatis posted a message addressed to Peter on his Instagram story, which noted:

"You and this organization have changed my life. You were a man I truly admired and respected, and I knew you wanted only the best for me and for every player on this team. You taught me to stay true to who I am and respect others for who they are, and showed us what that all meant. We promise to continue your legacy. We will win one for you."

Make no mistake, that's the goal. Last Friday, Eric Kutsenda was appointed chairman and interim control person of the Padres, succeeding Seidler, his longtime friend. In a statement, Kutsenda noted, "Our north star remains the same: to win a World Series championship for the city of San Diego."

Preller echoed that sentiment on Tuesday when asked about his understanding of the team's direction under Kutsenda.

"I think we understand and everybody's on the same page in terms of: This is long term, the vision that Peter set out," Preller said. "In terms of long term, every single season having the ability to compete for championships, playing into October."

Preller and Seidler, of course, were very close. In his opening statement during Tuesday's press conference, Preller grew emotional.

"It's been amazing to see the outpouring of love and support for Peter from Padre fans, from the San Diego community, from the baseball world throughout the country," Preller said. "For me, personally, he was an amazing boss, mentor, friend. Our main connection, we shared the love of the game of baseball."

Preller paused a moment, then offered a rare moment of levity for a general manager who almost never breaks character in his media availabilities.

"Fortunately or unfortunately, we also shared a love of big baggy clothes, a strange fashion sense," he quipped.

Often, jokes at press conferences elicit forced laughs. This was not. The laughter in the room was genuine, and Preller continued.

"Not that we needed any extra motivation this year," he said. "But Peter's message of being best in class -- we'll make sure that we follow through on that this year down here at Petco."

Then Preller invoked one of everybody's favorite Seidler-isms:

"I'm looking forward to the baseball gods smiling down many moments this year on our club. Peter would be very excited about today, as we announce Mike Shildt as the manager of the San Diego Padres."