New players, video board excite record crowd at FanFest

New players, video board excite record crowd at FanFest

SAN DIEGO -- Before easing his car into the private parking garage at Petco Park on Saturday, Bud Black witnessed an uncommon sight on his early-morning drive to the ballpark.

There were long lines of fans dotting Park Avenue, which runs outside the home plate entrance of the ballpark -- fans who had gathered early to get into the team's annual FanFest event.

It made Black, the team's manager, smile.

"I got here a little after 8 [a.m.], and there were already a lot of people here in line," Black said. "… That was pretty cool."

FanFest, presented by State Farm, attracted a record crowd of 23,472 to the team's downtown ballpark, which also hosted an exhibition game between the Padres and the Mexico City Red Devils.

The Padres won the game, 8-0, as two of the team's notable newcomers, Matt Kemp and Justin Upton, each knocked in two runs.

Upton's two-run double

The fans, though, got more than a game.

There were autograph sessions, interactive forums and the chance to play catch in the outfield before the game. Fans also got a chance to see the team's new HD video board in left field, the largest of its kind in the National League.

"I've been here the whole offseason, hearing how excited the fans were," Kemp said. "This is amazing ... the atmosphere here."

Black on upcoming season

After six weeks in Arizona, the team returned home -- briefly -- to face the Red Devils ahead of Monday's Opening Day game at Dodger Stadium. The home opener at Petco Park is Thursday against the Giants -- which will draw another big crowd.

It wasn't just the size of the crowd that impressed Upton, one of general manager A.J. Preller's notable offseason acquisitions, but the disposition of the fans, who he said were more than just optimistic about the 2015 season.

"I've done a few FanFests before, but the people here seem really excited," Upton said. "It was nice to see that kind of energy in the ballpark."

That the players were impressed didn't surprise Padres senior vice president and chief marketing officer Wayne Partello in the least.

"It was great to see so much of the community come out and support the team," Partello said. "And to see the players excited about it as well was great. We've seen the excitement [build] here but they've been in Arizona the last six weeks."

The Padres got to show off many of their new and upgraded areas of the ballpark, including the new left field seating and renovation hospitality spaces, while fans were able to sample new concessions and craft beer selections.

The team's annual garage sale of uniforms and other memorabilia raised more than $85,000 for the Padres Foundation.

The fan forum slates consisted of Black, executive chairman Ron Fowler, lead investor Peter Seidler and James Shields, the team's Opening Day pitcher. The other session included Preller, team president and CEO Mike Dee and pitcher Tyson Ross.

One of the biggest hits of the day -- aside from Kemp and Upton's contributions in the game -- was that new HD video board.

"It was nice to see the board in action," Partello said.

Corey Brock is a reporter for Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.