Touching base: @PadresNoHitter
Series note: This is the third article in a series of check-ins with fans in the Padres community during the coronavirus suspension of the 2020 MLB season. Previous profiles have included @BobbyCressey and @FriarGal. This week we become more acquainted with Jeff of @PadresNoHitter.
The guy behind the handle
The fact that Jeff keeps watch over the Padres’ bid for its first no-hitter in franchise history is actually just one of six or seven interesting things about him.
He’s also an amateur meteorologist, seasoned storm chaser, marine biologist, space travel enthusiast, uniform geek, ballcap designer, and passionate beer guy.
Jeff became a Padres fan by way of his father, who moved here from Erie, Pennsylvania, and took the family to games at Jack Murphy Stadium in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Jeff started playing the game when he was about 10 years old.
The first team I played for was the Dodgers in Rancho Peñasquitos Little League.
I hated that I was a Dodger …
But Jeff’s team was good and finished in first place. He became a catcher and loved that position because of the mental acumen it required as well as the fact that it’s the only position with a view of the entire field of play.
Fast forward to Jeff scrolling through Twitter about five years ago and seeing someone mention how many games it had been since the Padres pitched a no-hitter. It occurred to him that it might be fun to update his fellow fans on a game-by-game basis.
Does he really keep track of every Padres game in real time and whether the possibility of a no-hitter is alive?
Yup! During the season, I pretty much watch ever single game. I watch either on TV or through the Fox Sports Go app if I’m not at home. Worst case scenario, I’ll keep up to date with the game through the MLB At Bat app.
As most fans know, the Padres have not pitched a no-hitter since the team became a major league franchise in 1969. That’s 8,138 games as confirmed by Jeff and NoNoHitters.com (a site with a wealth of no-hitter facts and trivia run by journalist Dirk Lammers).
The Padres almost got it out of the way in 1970, but manager Preston Gomez pulled starter Clay Kirby after eight innings of no-hit ball in a mid-season game against the Mets. The Padres were trailing 1-0 after a disastrous first inning that included a combination of walks, stolen bases, and a run-scoring sacrifice.
In the bottom of the eighth, Kirby was pulled for pinch hitter Cito Gaston. The decision was booed by the hometown crowd, and hitting coach Bob Skinner even had to intercept a fan who stormed the dugout to get at Gomez. When Gaston struck out, the San Diego Stadium crowd of about 10,000 fans was livid. Gomez replaced Kirby with reliever Jack Baldschun, who gave up a lead-off single in the ninth. The Mets went on to win by a score of 3-0.
I asked Jeff for his thoughts on the game that some have labeled “the curse.”
Preston Gomez did the right thing from a baseball perspective. They were down 1-0 in the 8th inning, and he was just trying to win the game. Also, it really would have sucked if the first no-hitter came in a game that the Padres lost.
In more recent years, former Padres pitchers Tyson Ross and Jordan Lyles came close, taking one-hitters into the eighth inning (Ross, 4/20/18; Lyles, 5/15/18). The Tyson Ross game was especially nerve-wracking for Jeff.
I remember telling a friend [early in the game] that his slider was ridiculous, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened.
When Tyson got through the 7th and into the 8th, my heart was racing. If I had an Apple Watch at the time, it probably would have thought I was having a cardiac event.
Yes, that was a tough one to watch for all of us. Here’s Don Orsillo with the call of the hit by Christian Walker and Franchy Cordero’s attempt to catch it.
But Jeff is optimistic that the club will get its first no-hitter sometime in the next few years given the number of quality arms that the organization has in the minor leagues.
I asked him for his thoughts on “combined no-hitters.”
When it comes to no-hitters, I’m a purist, and I would much rather see a Padres starter go a full nine.
But I’m also a realist and see how baseball is changing. In all likelihood, the first Padres no-hitter will be a combined no-hitter.
Jeff hasn’t counted his caps in a while but the last time he did, the number was between 510 and 520. Think about that. It means he could wear a different cap to every Padres home game for well over six seasons.
Jeff is part of @SDHatCollectors (along with Tony Losoya and Tim Arzaga). The three friends have designed custom hats for limited release as well as Padres-themed hats that are sold to the public in collaboration with local apparel shop Billion Creation (available for sale on the store’s website).
Jeff is a storm chaser. He saw the movie “Twister” as a kid and was hooked on severe weather events from a young age. A family cross-country vacation when he was 13 found him crouching at a window watching a tornado touch down across the street from their roadside hotel in rural Wyoming.
He began chasing storms on his own in 2010 and traveled to the Midwest in search of tornadoes every spring. In 2016, he came across this twister in Dodge City, Kansas.
That photo is from the craziest day I’ve ever chased.
I got on a cyclic supercell that produced over a dozen tornadoes and three at one time … a day I will never forget!
Jeff has captured moments far and wide. Here’s just a sample of his work in slide show form.
The arrival of COVID-19 and associated quarantine measures has put almost everything on hold. Jeff has no Padres games to keep track of, his caps are gathering dust on the shelf, and he can’t go out looking for tornadoes.
He was laid off from his job and his wife Kristie, a dental hygienist, is currently furloughed.
My stress is mainly related to how difficult it will likely be when businesses start to reopen. My wife’s stress is related to the high level of risk she could be taking with returning to work.
We also had financial concerns through most of March and April but both my wife and I have finally started receiving unemployment and our stimulus payment status was finally updated so that has reduced our financial stress substantially.
I also am immunocompromised due to medication that I take for autoimmune issues.
My primary concern is for my parents, aunts, uncles, and my grandmother as they are all 65+ years old and that puts them at a higher risk of dying from the virus if they were to contract the virus.
Jeff also expressed that there have been a few “silver linings” to the situation such as being able to spend more time with Kristie, getting more sleep, and finally getting to know his neighbors.
Bottom line: Jeff is doing okay, but like many of us, he is mostly standing by.