San Diego fans flock to Rally Monday

San Diego fans flock to Rally Monday

SAN DIEGO -- The banner entering PETCO Park says it simply: "Welcome to the postseason."

Padres fans were welcomed to their team's second straight postseason appearance with "Rally Monday," and not a piece of empty grass could be found at the Park at the Park on Monday night.

Padres broadcaster Matt Vasgersian, one of three masters of ceremonies for the event, said the San Diego version of Rally Monday had a bigger turnout than the similar playoffs rallies staged in six other cities with playoff teams. An estimated 5,500 Padres fans came to the Park at the Park.

Fans could enjoy Randy Jones BBQ, shrimp kabobs or the traditional baseball meal of a hot dog and beer while waiting for the festivities to begin.

"It's nice to have this, just to show there are Padres fans out here that want to enjoy their time and enjoy the team that's doing well right now," said Martin Buelna, a 36-year-old City Heights resident.

"It was great to see them going back-to-back because that's something we haven't seen. There have been a lot of years that were disappointing, you know? Just to see them go back-to-back is exciting."

Fans enjoyed their time after Padres players Jake Peavy, Clay Hensley, Josh Barfield, Adrian Gonzalez, Rob Bowen, Cla Meredith, Ben Johnson and Chris Young made appearances for the event. Especially loud cheers rang out for the hometown boy, Gonzalez, and chants of "Pea-vy" sounded during his time on the stage.

All-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman stopped by via a video interview, shown on the large screen on the back of the center-field wall.

Catcher Josh Bard was also on hand for Rally Monday and had some assuring words for San Diego fans in response to those that felt the Padres might just be glad to be making a postseason appearance.

"I know that's there's 25 guys in that clubhouse that aren't just happy to be here," Bard said.

The fans seemed happy to be at PETCO Park on Monday, where fans had to be filtered into the right-field bleachers to make room for all those in attendance. Kids could get their faces painted, and most of the kids had the best view in the park, sitting atop a parent's shoulders to hear from the players, manager Bruce Bochy, general manager Kevin Towers and even CEO Sandy Alderson.

Just what do fans think of the Padres' chances this time around against St. Louis, the team that swept them in the National League Division Series in 2005?

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"I think they have a better chance to make it all the way," said Buelna. "Especially with the pitching they have now."

Pitching has no doubt been a major factor in the 2006 Padres getting to the playoffs, but as far as succeeding in the playoffs, 70-year-old Padres fan Grace Malone may have put it best: "With sports, you can never tell."

That's the beauty of sports; you can't ever tell. Regardless, in the crowd of Padres fans Monday, there was a homemade sign that read: "We have playoff fever." The San Diego fans do, and they hope their team does, too.

Amanda Branam is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.