With the NFL gone and MLS slow-walking their tire-kick on America’s Finest City, San Diego is going to try its hand at being a baseball town.
Written by Kyle Magin
(Scene: San Diego, wearing the suit his mother bought him for interviews after college, along with the tie he still has from high school basketball, and that one nice shirt… basically his wedding/funeral/per-annum church and office holiday party attire, ambles into baseball commissioner Rob Manfred’s Manhattan office. The clothes still hang nicely on him, a little baggy in a good way, even, and he looks like a man ten years younger than his birth certificate says. But, underneath the tan and outward confidence of a guy who can paddle out between big storm sets, he’s quivering. After his gold-digging NFL team walked out on him amid recriminations and curses, he’s shaken and needs Manfred to hire him on as a baseball town. These thoughts are as obvious in his body language as he struggles to get comfortable on a tasteful leather sofa as a Filiberto’s burrito stain on your good tank top.)
Receptionist: Mr. Manfred will see you now, may I get you anything to drink?
SD: Too early for a Sculpin?
(The receptionist fidgets uncomfortably. What West Coast slang is she out on? Is that kombucha or some kind of ethically-sourced water?)
Receptionist: A what?
SD: Uh, never mind. Thanks.
(He’s tight now as he walks into the commissioner’s minimally-appointed office, a photo of his Skeletor-like predecessor hanging on the wall.)
RM: Hi San Diego! Did Elaine offer you anything to drink? Bet you’d like a Sculpin, huh? (winks.)
SD: Hi! Thanks. Uh, she did, but I’m fine.
RM: Swell, then. Have a seat. How do you like New York? You find your hotel alright?
SD: It got a little aggro at JFK, but yeah, all’s well. We’ve actually been having some pretty shi–, er, bad weather, so I was kinda used to the cold.
RM: Oh yeah? A little winter down there? How cold did it get?
SD: So, I know how this sounds, but like, 60?
RM: You poor thing. I bet yoga class got moved inside?
SD: (Remembers that yes, last week yoga class did get moved inside. Goddamnit.) Yeah, ha ha.
RM: Well, let’s get down to it. I understand you want to hire into our “a good baseball town” program?
SD: Yeah! (fumbles in bag for resume, while RM pulls it out of a beautifully-embossed leather notepad case.) Oh, you already have it. Yeah, I don’t know if you heard, but we lost our football team, and I think it’d be best for my people if we really embrace the Pads, you know? I think we have a lot going in our favor on that tip.
RM: You know this is a pretty exclusive program, right? St. Louis, Boston, the North Side, and that’s it. Those rednecks, er, legs in Cincy have been petitioning us ever since Pete left to get back in. Joe Buck doesn’t just say anyone is a ‘great baseball town.’
SD: Well, I think if you’ll look at my references, you’ll see…
RM: Let me stop you there, kid. You listed Ted Williams on this resume. You’re aware that he stopped playing for the then-Minor League San Diego Padres in his teens, right? That he then retired to Florida?
SD: Well, yeah but he grew up here and–
RM: The Bambino was born in Baltimore but I wouldn’t let that town through the door for all the crabcakes and good horse in the world.
SD: –if you read on, you’ll see Tony Gwynn, Trevor Hoffman–who’ll make the Hall next year, and Jerry Coleman and–
RM: …and half of goddamn baseball, apparently. You list Ozzie Smith, Garvey and Sparky Anderson on your ‘Padres in Cooperstown’ section. You put it on a wall in Petco! He was there as a third base coach for one year in the ‘60s, man! Have some respect for yourself. Who proofed this for you?
RM: (Looks confused at first, then begins quaking with laughter.) You mean to tell me you let that sentient bead of Nixonian brow-sweat read this? He’s been trying to crash this club for years. He’d push his wife in front of a Hummer to save St. Louis. That is NOT who you want reading your resume.
SD: (Shifts anxiously in his seat. Strains against the toes of his cheap leather shoes, desperately searching for the thong in his non-existent flip-flops.) Dude, it’s not THAT bad. You took the interview.
RM: (Leans back, nods respectfully.) Too true. We love Petco Park. We like the idea of everybody south of Pendleton being off the gridiron jones. We think if anyone could be a baseball city, somebody like you could. St. Louis does it and his place is basically a hot-boxed alt-right gathering all summer. Boston and Chicago actually aren’t that nice in the fall. If you can summon a little passion, I could maybe see you joining the club. But, we have some concerns. Some have questioned your ability to be a baseball town. Some have–
SD: Hey if we’re going to throw out everybody Matt Kemp has pissed on on his way out of a door–
RM : –OK, OK, point taken. I was saying, some have concerns that you’ve got a lot more to do than head out to the ballpark 81 times a summer. See, that’s the rub, kid. Petco isn’t a Wrigley- or Fenway-style party. It sure isn’t the only viable outdoor activity between Peoria and the Red River.
SD: Listen, that’s out of my control. Yes, I’m beautiful. Yes, the water is damn near perfect and sets are playful during the summer. I can’t guarantee people will come out–a good team here will probably draw in the league’s top third, like the Pads did in ‘84 and ‘98.
RM: So, you’re selling…. What? A nice day at the park? Listen, kid, do us both a favor and keep on keeping on. Build a little more history. We’ll hold onto your resume. Until then, is there anything else I can do for you while you’re in New York? Knicks tickets?
SD: God no, thanks. Say, you got a 6-5-4 suit and some booties I can borrow? I think the swell is up on the Jersey Shore.