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Promise of PETCO to be fulfilled

PETCO, San Diego see promise fulfilled

SAN DIEGO -- Not long after the jet-engine roar of the crowd at Qualcomm Stadium died down and the sting of the Yankees' sweep of the Padres in the 1998 World Series had subsided a bit, the Padres did something losing teams in the Fall Classic generally don't do.

They held a parade.

Fans lined the streets of downtown San Diego as the parade worked its way from Broadway Pier on the waterfront, through the Gaslamp Quarter and down to a spot near the San Diego Convention Center, an area of old buildings and warehouses, including one called the Western Metal Supply Co. Building.

The destination was an area that would become a new ballpark in San Diego, surrounded by a district that would include hotels, condominiums and night spots -- and the promise of playoff baseball.

Here it is, San Diego.

On Saturday, the final part of that destiny will be fulfilled. PETCO Park, in its second year with modern, sandstone buildings on the exterior and that classic brick Western Metal Supply Co. Building holding up the left-field foul pole, will host its first playoff game.

"You know what, this is what we've been looking for with this new ballpark," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. "Coming into the new ballpark, we wanted to contend. We came close last year. Now we're in the postseason. That was the plan all along, and we're excited to have a postseason game here [on Saturday] night in this new ballpark."

It's not the ideal situation, of course. They're hosting the defending National League champion St. Louis Cardinals with no room for error in the best-of-five series, down, 2-0, after starting the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium.

That fact isn't lost on Bochy, naturally.

"We know we're down two games," Bochy said. "We need to win ballgames. Putting that aside, this is what we were hoping for. Now it's happened. It's going to be great to see a postseason game in PETCO."

For Padres closer Trevor Hoffman, who's champing at the bit to get in a game and hoping it's to close out a victory, it's a little tough right now to see the forest of the ballpark for the trees of a 2-0 deficit.

He's the last direct link to the team that paraded downtown in '98, though first baseman Mark Sweeney has rejoined the team since. It was Hoffman who became the face of the franchise as it made the transition from the cookie-cutter Q to the pristine park downtown, but he's not taking time to step back and look at the big picture at the moment.

His focus, always trained on team success, is all about doing something about this deficit the Padres are facing in the NLDS.

"I think the fact that we're 0-2 kind of overrides this being the first playoff game here," Hoffman said after the Padres' workout there on Friday. "The circumstances kind of dictate how you feel about it right now. You want some momentum. You want to be on top of your game."

That is something the Padres have not been the first two games of the series. And against a powerhouse like the Cardinals, that leaves little time for the players involved to get all warm and fuzzy over hosting a playoff game at their second-year home for the first time.

But it's worth noting. And it's worth celebrating.

We're a long way from 1998 and the parade that wound up in the footprint of the current ballpark, that's for sure.

The parade was part of the events leading up to the vote on Proposition C, the deal with the city of San Diego that funded the ballpark district, paid for in part by the Padres and in part by transient occupancy taxes -- tourist taxes on hotels, for the most part. The proposition passed with 60 percent of the vote, and after two years of delays set back the project, the ballpark opened in 2004.

For the fans, a different and much better experience than the huge concrete confines of Qualcomm Stadium was the promise, and that promise has been fulfilled. For the city, the ballpark district that would revitalize a huge segment of downtown San Diego was the promise, and that promise is being fulfilled as well.

The ultimate promise was about the team on the field. The ballpark would provide better revenue streams to support a winning franchise for the future.

After eight years, six of them with losing records, the Padres have their home playoff game in the ballpark's second season. It might not be the perfect scenario or the perfect season, but it is what it is.

Of course, there's the chance this could be not only the first, but the only playoff game at PETCO Park this year. The Padres are going to have to play better than the first two games to win and ensure there's a second one, that's for sure.

But there's going to be a playoff game in downtown San Diego, and that's a victory in itself.

John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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