I didn’t know Peter Seidler. I met him once years ago at some Padres event when Ron Fowler was still “running” things. I’m also not gonna pretend I know him. Or pretend to know anything about his charitable work with the homeless, his philanthropy, or anything else outside of Baseball. Many people have and will continue to talk about those things, and they should.
I wanna talk about Papa Pete.
Being a Padres fan sucks. It does. We are an afterthought of an idea someone dreamed about alongside surfing and burritos. The Padres are about as relevant to the world of professional sports as I am to the world of entertainment. And their fans are looked at as hopeful dreamers who split their time between baseball games and Sublime cover bands.
We are not looked at as serious fans, and our team – until recently – was looked at as a relegated club who every decade or so sniffed the promised land.
That “until recently” phrase is important. Incredibly important. That “until recently” part packs a lot of drama, joy, tears, and beer into two relatively short words.
That “until recently” part is where Papa Pete was born.
Under Ron Fowler’s oddly careful, but muted flash, he made some moves to take the Padres from lovable underlings to interesting side bets. His signing of Hosmer made people pay attention, but his next two moves as Chairman were clearly championed by a new voice that seemed to be pulling the strings: signing Manny Machado and bringing back the brown. We all knew Fowler hated the brown. This wasn’t a secret. And signing a legitimate free agent to a huge contract was never Fowler’s cup of tea. So who was it that was pushing Uncle Ron to the background and leaving a door wide open for change? Peter Seidler.
When Papa Pete took over control of the team he glided through that door with his arms patently wide open and a grin so big it could fit the entirety of Gallagher Square inside it. He immediately became the type of owner Padres fans didn’t think was ever possible. Not only did he spend money he single handedly revived a culture most lifelong fans thought would be lost forever. Re-establishing that our city deserved superstars, icons, and a color-scheme all our own.
I think it’s important to reiterate a few things here: for decades – DECADES – being a Padres fan meant hoping players like Milton Bradley, Ryan Ludwick, Will Middlebrooks and an unbelievably past his prime David Wells could take this team to the next level. Sure, we had some fun moments with Adrian and Eckstein, Chase and Jake, and even fell in love with some harmless yet enjoyable fan favorites like Eric Owens, Ryan Klesko and Solarte.
Being a Padres fan meant hoping that no-namers, aging stars, and one legit good player could put it all together for us.
It meant letting yourself fall in love with the idea of success while watching the team you adored fail over and over again as you waited for another 1996-1998 scenario. And, you knew it wasn’t going to happen.
Sure, AJ gave us “Preller’s December” where he filled the team with marquee stars only to end that year hoping to extend Melvin Upton.
We’ve been put through every ringer known to fandom, while constantly being mocked, laughed at, and looked down upon. But, through it all we hoped we’d have someone who owned and operated the Padres like we would do it if it was our team. Legally.
And, with Papa Pete we got it.
Seemingly out of nowhere. It was like a splash of fresh water on a hot day. Suddenly, someone gave a shit.
Suddenly, we had generational talent on the team. And, not just one player, but several.
Suddenly, we had a reason to not care that an IPA was $47 and a hot dog was $23. Because, we had a chance. We had a team to not just enjoy watching cause they were our team, but because they were an objectively good team. We had a team that Pete wanted to watch, and Pete wanted that team to win it all.
I don’t think there’s a sports fan alive who would say they believe their owners when those owners say “they wanna win it all”, but holy Lord did we believe it when Papa Pete said it.
It just felt like we finally had someone in charge who didn’t want us to thank them for the simple honor of watching Baseball in San Diego. It felt like he was one of us. A fan. He cared more about fun than the bottom line.
When it comes to being a Padres fan it’s never like what Cubs fans say or feel or Red Sox fans, etc. How they fein the role of destitute losers or whatever they whine about. We are more than lovable losers. We never even had an owner drag us from the depths and make us a force to be reckoned with. But, Pete did it. He fucking did it.
Over the next few weeks so many things will be said about Peter Seidler. So many things should be said and celebrated. He lived a long and incredibly fruitful life before the Padres were ever in his purview. Many people knew he was not well. Many people figured he was spending like there was no tomorrow, because perhaps there wasn’t one. And, even more people respected and admired him.
I didn’t know him. I can’t pretend to speak to his character. All I can do is two things: Read the tributes and remember him the only way he was accessible to me – as someone who changed the lives of literally millions of people myself included.
He made it cool to be a Padres fan. I mean, hell, Emma Stone.
Papa Pete cared about winning, and when it comes to Padres fans that’s all we ever wanted. Even if we didn’t win. Just the true effort meant everything.
The mural is already up, and there’s no hyperbole that a statue should be next.
Since 2008 I’ve been a tortured Padres blogger and podcaster. I watched mistake after mistake and has-been veteran after never-was no-name, and then Papa Pete came along, and under a tearful sky with Tom DeLonge’s voice echoing through the rows, he was able to wash that all away.
A city thanks you. You’ll be missed.