Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.
Clayton Richard had been with the Padres about two weeks in 2009 when I approached him seeking a favor.
A friend of mine was the youth coach of a left-handed pitcher who had suffered a broken arm. The young man was struggling, so the coach called and asked if I could get an autographed ball from a Padres' left-handed pitcher to boost his spirits.
I approached Clayton Richard with the story.
Clayton not only signed the ball, he wrote a note on the ball to the young man he didn't know.
Then Clayton offered five words I remember to this day.
"Anything else I can do?"
I was taken back a bit. Those are five words you don't often here from a professional athlete in the middle of his busy work day. "I don't think so," I replied somewhat in surprise.
Clayton then said, "Wait here, I've got an idea." He then disappeared around the corner into the players' dining room in the Padres' clubhouse at Petco Park. Two minutes later he walked past, this time headed toward the training room and weight room.
Richard returned five minutes later with a second ball signed by all the Padres left-handers . . . each signature below a couple words of encouragement. "Hope this helps," said Clayton.
I became a fan of Clayton Richard that day. Not the pitcher, the man. And my respect for Clayton and his wife Ashley has grown ever since.
They are more than a Padres family. They are a San Diego family . . . as well as Lafayette, Ind., family. They and their three children love it here. They love the community. And they give back to the San Diego community.
Clayton Richard has natural leadership qualities incomprehensible to many who believe they are leaders. Through his work ethic, personality and desire to serve, Richard sets an example that goes beyond baseball.
Shortly after Richard returned to the Padres 13 months ago, he discussed the hope that his second stay wouldn't be short. "We'd love to remain in San Diego for as long as possible," said Richard, the emphasis placed squarely on "We" and "San Diego."
So, I personally welcomed the news Wednesday that Clayton Richard and the Padres agreed to a two-year contract extension.
It was good news for the Padres, who retain a valuable "leadership" example for the young players scheduled to be arriving here over the next two years . . . as well an extremely competitive pitcher who eats innings.
It was good news for the Richards.
And, bigger picture, it was good news for San Diego. Here is another quality player/person who really wants to be here, be a Padre, be a San Diegan. It's not a long list, though it is top-heavy with legends Tony Gwynn and Trevor Hoffman.
"The people make the difference," Clayton Richard said Wednesday during the press conference called to announce his two-year extension. "The clubhouse and the community. I always wanted to be here."
Plus, Richard wants to be a winner here. He believes in the direction the Padres are headed. And he believes the tunnel is not as lengthy as it might appear.
"I'm confident," he said. "I believe in the organization and the commitment. I don't think we're that far away. I'm think we'll be winning in 2018. I'm excited."
And San Diegans should be excited that Clayton Richard wants to be part of the Padres . . . and us.
--RF Hunter Renfroe Wednesday night recorded the seventh, three-homer game in Padres history. It was the first three-homer game by a Padre at Petco Park and the first three-homer game by a Padres rookie. Renfroe also tied the franchise season record for homers by a Padre rookie (24) established by first baseman Nate Colbert in the Padres inaugural season of 1969.
--C Rocky Gale and 3B Christian Villanueva each hit the first homers of their Major League careers Wednesday night. The last time two Padres hit their first Major League homers in the same game was Sept. 30, 1989, when catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. and Phil Stephenson connected.
--Wednesday's five home runs boosted the Padres' season total to a single-season franchise record of 181, eclipsing the old mark of 177 by the 2016 Padres. The Padres now have a Petco Park single-season record 85 homers. That is two shy of the franchise record for home runs at home set in 1992 and tied a season later.
--The nine combined home runs by the Diamondbacks and Padres Wednesday night is a Petco Park single-game record.
--RHP Dinelson Lamet allowed six runs in 5 1/3 innings Wednesday night, ending a 10-game streak in which Lamet allowed three runs of less in each start. The streak dated back to July 18.