Padres amped for 'San Diego's Opening Day'

June 16th, 2021

DENVER -- knows a thing or two about Padres Opening Day. When Musgrove was a kid growing up in El Cajon, a nearby suburb of San Diego, his family loaded up the car each spring and set out for the opener at Qualcomm Stadium.

The Musgroves arrived several hours before first pitch. Joe's father grilled. His mother brought the fixings. Joe brought his glove and played catch, and when the gates opened, he descended upon the outfield bleachers, shouting the names of his favorite players, hoping one of them might throw him a baseball.

Those Opening Days have a special place in Joe Musgrove's heart. But none will be as meaningful as Thursday.

And, no, technically it won't be Opening Day. The Padres are already nearly halfway through their roller-coaster 2021 season. But for the first time since September '19, Petco Park will be at full capacity for what has been dubbed "San Diego's Opening Day."

"It's been a while since we've been in front of a stadium full of people at maximum capacity," said Musgrove, who will get the start Thursday. "The team that we have now, and the excitement around San Diego for the team and the support I know they want to show is going to be something I haven't experienced in a long time."

Thursday's game against the Reds -- a 5:40 p.m. PT first pitch -- will feature all the trappings of a traditional late-March or early-April Opening Day. The Padres will announce lineups in an on-field ceremony prior to first pitch. A firework display will follow the final out.

"We're incredibly excited," said Padres manager Jayce Tingler. "We want to make sure that we're doing our end of the bargain. We need to play good baseball. If we're going to have a packed house, that's what they want to see."

No kidding. The last time Petco Park was open to a full-capacity crowd, the Padres were in the midst of finishing a wholly disappointing 70-92 2019 season, their ninth straight losing campaign.

In the time since then, the Padres have overhauled their roster and blossomed into legitimate World Series contenders -- albeit amid some current struggles.

"We're excited to show off this great team to the city of San Diego," said right-hander Craig Stammen. "We know they've been behind us all of last year. They weren't able to show it by being in the stadium."

Wil Myers has already noticed the difference. Myers is the longest-tenured Padre and was around for some lean seasons in San Diego. With the ballpark at 33 percent capacity for most of the first half of the season, Myers said the energy has already reached a different level.

"There were some days early on where it almost felt like it was full," Myers said. "It's been really cool to see that energy. ... If you're going to add another 25,000 in there, you can only imagine what that'll be like. It should be fun."