Padres to face Dodgers in sold-out home opener

Annual block party, pregame festivities planned

SAN DIEGO - The San Diego Padres will face the Los Angeles Dodgers Tuesday in their 10th home opener at Petco Park, billed as a celebration of baseball in San Diego, its past present and future.

Greg Vaughn, the team's Most Valuable Player in the 1998 National League championship season, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch to Carlos Hernandez, a catcher on the 1998 team, now the Padres Spanish-language television analyst.

In celebration of the second year of the Padres Youth Baseball Initiative, 25 players from the Lemon Grove Little League will accompany Padres starters onto the field during line-up announcements.

10News caught up with Tom Garfinkle, the president and CEO of the Padres, before the big home opener. 

“It’s a relief to come home,” Garfinkle said. ”These guys have been gone for 58 days from spring training and going straight to San Antonio after spring training and then to New York and Colorado. I think for all of them it truly is a homecoming, not just to Petco park but home to their families.”

Pregame festivities are scheduled to begin at 3 p.m., with the game starting at 3:40 p.m.

The pregame ceremony will include former reliever Trevor Hoffman paying tribute to the late bullpen coach Darrel Akerfelds, who died last year following a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer.

Miss California 2010 Arianna Afsar will sing the national anthem, sailors from the USS Russell and the USS Boxer will unfurl the Holiday Bowl's giant American flag, and two San Diego Police Department helicopters will conduct a flyover.

All gates, including Park at the Park, will open at 1:30 p.m. Because of the sellout crowd -- the stadium can seat more than 43,000 people -- fans are strongly advised to arrive early and use public transportation.

The Metropolitan Transit System will run extra trolley trains on the Green Line beginning at 1:30 p.m. between Qualcomm Stadium and downtown San Diego. Enhanced service will begin on the Blue Line starting at 1:45 p.m. from San Ysidro.

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The first 150 fans boarding trains at Qualcomm Stadium, Spring Street Station in La Mesa or H Street Station in Chula Vista after 1:30 p.m. will receive a free soft drink and box of Cracker Jacks while supplies last, according to the MTS.

There will be 5,000 free "park and ride" parking spots available at the Qualcomm Stadium Mission Valley stations.

The North County Transit District will offer a special Padres Coaster train that departs from Oceanside Station at 1:51 p.m. and includes free trolley connections, if riders have Coaster monthly passes or purchase RegionPlus Day passes, not single ride or round trip tickets.

The NCTD said its scheduled 7:10 p.m. northbound departure from San Diego might be held until 7:30 p.m., depending on how long the game goes.

Fans who do drive are encouraged to pre-purchase parking pass at padres.com. Padres parking lots are expected to fill up by 1 p.m. Thereafter, fans are encouraged to park along Harbor Drive and utilize the pedestrian bridge from the Hilton Bayfront Hotel.

Suggested routes and maps can be found at padres.com/transportation.

The annual East Village Opening Day Block Party was also held at 11 a.m. The event featured live entertainment and food along J Street between Seventh and 10th avenues.

At the block party, 10News spoke with fans who are hopeful about winning even though some key players are down for the count.

"Let's not talk about the Dodgers," said one fan. "We don't even mention the word Dodgers in my house."

Even baseball great Jerry Coleman seemed giddy about the Padres home opener.

"I think as a rule -- except for World Series -- I think it's the most electric day in baseball," said Coleman.

Fans said they want to see home runs from the team.

This season, it's within reach. Park officials moved the wall at Petco 11 feet in, making it easier for a player to hit a home run.

The field wasn't the only one to get a facelift, fans wants to know what the new management will do differently.

"Basically, it's a young club, they're fighting their way in, and they're trying to get things going and let's wait and see," Coleman said. "We need a little time. Talk to me in July, and we'll find out where we're going."

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