Thousands attend Padres' Fanfest at Petco Park

Fans, team get ready for start of season

SAN DIEGO - The Padres held their annual Fanfest Saturday, giving fans a chance to meet players, purchase team gear and buy season and single-game tickets.

It is not every day Karen Gerstin can play catch with her son on the field at Petco Park. Usually, they are in the stands watching from above.

"It's pretty neat," she said. "It looks a lot bigger than it does in the stands."

On Saturday, thousands of fans got that rare opportunity during Fanfest, which is the day the Padres gives fans a behind-the-scenes look.

People toured the clubhouse and even got to run the very bases the players do.

For many like Tira Wakayama, this has become a tradition. As a young girl, she watched the Padres. Now, she brings her three kids, giving them a glimpse at what it is like to be a Padres fan.

"This makes it real," said Wakayama. "You really feel like, 'Wow, this is what they do.'"

About two dozen players were scheduled to participate in Fanfest, including new acquisitions Joaquin Benoit and Josh Johnson. Also scheduled to appear, among others, were Yonder Alonso, Everth Cabrera, Andrew Cashner, Chris Denorfia, Jedd Gyorko, Nick Hundley, Cameron Maybin, Xavier Nady, Carlos Quentin, Tyson Ross, Tim Stauffer, Huston Street and Will Venable.

Alonso was scheduled to lead a hitting clinic for fans and Ross was scheduled to offer pitching instruction.

Players, along with owners Ron Fowler and Peter Seidler, executives Mike Dee, Josh Byrnes and A.J. Hinch, manager Bud Black and broadcasters will take part in forums discussing their various roles.

For players like Johnson, it is a way to connect with the fans.

"They are passionate about the game," he told 10News. "They want to come out here and support. They're ready for a win. Hopefully we'll give it to them."

Also scheduled was the annual team garage sale, in which fans can purchase game-worn jerseys and batting helmets. Proceeds go to the Padres Foundation.

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., fans who visit the statue of Jerry Coleman can record their favorite memories of the team broadcaster, Yankees star and Marine aviator who died last month. The tributes will be played throughout the upcoming baseball season.

Finalists for the public address announcer's job performed throughout the day. They popped up on the big screen and could be heard over the loud speakers.

10News was at Petco Park two weeks ago during the first round of auditions. Now Barrett Cohen, a hopeful 10News interviewed, is one of almost 30 people who have made it to the next round.

"This is the fun part because you get to see all of the fans here," Cohen said.

Fans can vote online for their favorite candidate.

The free event began at 8:30 a.m. for Padres Platinum, Gold and Blue members. Doors opened to the general public at 10 a.m. at Petco Park, 100 Park Blvd. Parking will be free at the lots around the ballpark, and the Padres Parkade.

In the end, it was about giving the team and fans something to be excited about as the season approaches.

The Padres pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to their Peoria, Ariz., spring training site Thursday. The rest of the players are due Feb. 18, with the first full-squad workout set for the next day.

The exhibition schedule opens Feb. 27 against the Seattle Mariners.

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