Padres fans enjoying experience at FanFest

Events continue Saturday and conclude Sunday before Monday's opener

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

Aaron Elder of Chula Vista couldn't get to Arizona for Spring Training this year.

So he and his two sons waited for Spring Training to come to them.

Elder took off early from work Friday afternoon, picked up his kids and headed to Petco Park to attend the opening day of FanFest and take in the first of two Padres exhibition games against the Chicago White Sox at Petco Park.

"This is cheaper than the regular season and to the boys, Padres baseball is Padres baseball," said Elder. "They're too young to really know the difference between an exhibition game and a regular season game. If they get an autograph or two, that's what they will remember."

"They know the players like [Matt] Kemp and [Wil] Myers. But to meet any player in uniform will be a memory."

And meet them they did.

The FanFest experience continues Saturday morning before the second exhibition against the White Sox -- and the final preseason outing before Monday afternoon's season opener against the Dodgers at 4:05 p.m. PT at Petco Park.

Like Friday afternoon, the second half of FanFest Saturday morning is free to the public and will be held in the Park at the Park. The gates -- Gaslamp Gate at 7th Avenue and East Village Gate on 10th Avenue -- swing open at 10 a.m.

Various Padres players, coaches and alumni will be signing autographs from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Fans will also be allowed to view Padres batting practice from the left-field grandstands.

The seating bowl for the 1 p.m. game will open at noon. General admission seats are $10. After Saturday's game, fans will be invited to come down to the field and run the bases.

"FanFest is one of the few opportunities to look a player in the eye," said Celia Anderson of San Diego. "They're not as big as I thought, although Kevin Quackenbush is pretty big. I don't think I'd want him throwing a baseball at me."

Twelve-year-old Steve Turk didn't care what players signed his baseball as long as someone signed.

"I just want to prove to my friend that I was here," Turk said.

Children attending Saturday's FanFest will get a preview of what KidsFests will be like on Sundays this season. There will be bounce houses, games, obstacle courses and face painting. The wiffle ball field at the Park at the Park will also feature live games and clinics for kids 14 and under put on by the staff of the Padres Baseball Camps -- promoting the week-long summer baseball camps program.