by Nacho Padre
To start, I’d like to say thank you to all those who inspired me directly, indirectly and inadvertently to write this piece. I dedicate this piece to my children that one day they come to love the game as much as I do.
My name is Nacho Padre. I have been a baseball player since the age of 5, played on teams through college and ended with a high school coaching stint. After I left my hometown at age 12, most of my exposure to the game came in the North County town of Vista. Pony League, High School and Mira Costa were the infields I dug out picks. El Camino High School was the field I gave back a few years transferring any hitting and infield defensive skills I could offer to local aspiring players. It was not until the opening weeks of Petco that I discovered my fan capabilities. The first few games of that inaugural season I quickly noticed visiting fans berating, humiliating and down right verbally blasting our Padre players and their fans. As someone who was baseball cultured, taught, and coached with the hitting and overall game spirit of the late, great Tony Gwynn during the 80’s and 90’s, I simply couldn’t bear it and here I was in our brand new stadium with sparkling new turf and the visiting fans were wasting no time to piss on it. So having just received a Nacho Libre movie promotional mask promotional giveaway, and still possessing my baseball infield loud voice, I instinctively donned the mask and from my new favorite RF/CF spot in section 135/137 began to commit to improving my fan status to a diehard, home town, family respected heckler. After 10 years of watching the Right Field Mission and Petco Park fan base grow, I offer to all, in my opinion, the actions necessary to be a Championship Fan.
Before the Game
1. Get to Petco 2/3 hours EARLY minimum.
Arriving early allows you and your party to avoid stress, frequent local Padres supporting businesses, find premier, even free parking, watch batting practice, and overall promote with your passion, presence and money your love of our Padres. A championship fan IS a more trusted news source for fellow fans, especially a frequent one. They make great efforts keeping folks informed of Padres related news AND especially helping fans know what it takes to get on the championship bandwagon. Share everything you know from favorite beer flows to cheapest eats to favorite sections etc. BE the fan folks call Mr. Padres. It’s an honor to get to that level and be called that! Of course I immediately make sure they understand there is only one true Mr. Padre! Thank you #19! But it sure is nice to know that in their circle YOU are their Padres insight go to fan for information.
2. Wear as many Padres logo apparel as you can.
In sports, nothing speaks louder about your passion for your team than what you wear. A fan wears a hat or a shirt but a championship fan wears both AND a jersey. Championship fans often carry bags full of branded schwag and apparel stock to share. They do NOT leave shirts and hats at home while their friends attend games with absolutely no Padres logo of any kind. It’s NOT an option UNLESS they’re a fan of another team. And in that case I still try to get them to wear something Padres. If you get caught with a friend with no logo apparel walk them to any of the various vendors around the stadium and for $10-20 they can buy a shirt and/or a hat. Championship fans simply don’t take no for an answer. Threaten their ticket as a last resort but definitely do it! *Nacho Padre’s flag was given to him as a GIFT from a St’ Louis fan who said my passion was worthy of it and he literally went to the Padre’s store and bought it for me without telling me until he handed it to me. THAT’s a championship fan! Thank you sir again!
3. Bring as many people to the game as possible.
Many times I notice during losing seasons that half the fans don’t really want to be there or just come to get drunk. However, during a winning season, a championship season even, you must raise the bar. Tell your poser, drunk, or ‘uninterested in the Padres friend’ no offense but unless they plan to cheer that perhaps they might better enjoy themselves at any of the bars outside Petco and then call another more passionate fan. You can bring those less passionate fans during losing seasons. Last thing you want is your friend drunk, starting a fight or distracting fans from what’s going on in the game, especially during really close games where standing and losing your voice is common. A small group of loud ‘into the game’ fans can stir an entire section even an entire side of the stadium into excitement for our championship team. Fans in the stands who aren’t as knowledgeable of the game will follow your cheers and cues as when to cheer and especially when to stand up. Most fans want to be diehards but don’t know where or how to become one. So show them! Small to large Padre groups in your community are perfect to commute and travel to and from games and with the shared passion it won’t take long to become a very large group by end of season when the playoffs start.
4. Know what is going on with the club, lineup and starters.
Before you get to the stadium a championship fan will know the starting lineup, their challenges, the injury report and any clubhouse rumors, streaks or concerns. 25 and 40 man rosters are always being shifted and you should be in the know and stay in the know. And if you don’t know, stay connected to your Padres network so you do know. You want to be the person who fans come to for last minute information. Better yet, give them your media resources so they can be and do the same. Be reliable and consistent and don’t be afraid to be late in the information as the old saying goes, better late than never unless it’s a bad call.
During the Game
A. Establish yourself as a diehard fan
As soon as you get to downtown and into the stadium waste no time greeting everyone with a smile and share your passion and excitement to be there. It’s contagious and fun and makes for a wonderful experience. Parking attendants, police, security, walking guards, bar folk, ticket agents, ushers, concessionaires, and especially players and coaches all appreciate a smile and a greet. Be the championship fun you want to experience.
The Ushers and Security are very important for long-term protection. Last time I checked they were still rotating stadium shifts and if you are well known by ushers and security alike then when trouble finds you, and it will, they will have your back especially if you take the time to get to know them and thank them for keeping you safe from drunks, unruly fans and vulgar verbal assaults. If you are a loud championship fan you WILL come head to head with visiting fans and if you get thrown out with them for a conflict they win that battle by getting you out of your stadium. It will disrupt your group and your section. Do NOT get thrown out. Proactive self-promotion is absolutely important here and if the ushers know you they are less likely to say you are part of the trouble. When it comes down to a he said she said about who started a conflict the usher is many times the deciding factor in that decision and if they don’t know you, you will join the kicked out group. Any time you have to stop cheering you are no longer a championship fan but a distracted fan. Become one with the stadium staff. When they shift, greet the new replacement immediately and clue them in and welcome them to YOUR section. Show them respect and kindness. Most of the time they have to turn their back to the game to watch for flying projectiles or other bad behaviors. They keep it together and have their own challenges to deal with. When they know you are in their sections many times they will ask you for Padres info, updates and who’s who in the stands and even who the troublemakers are. Let’s face it, they need help during sell outs as much as any stadium worker especially when fans are lost looking at their tickets like foreign tourists except that they are from our county. Hey FO, how about you drop a simple stadium pic with a fat dot on it where their seat is on their actual ticket so they can get in their seat on time? And yes, on occasion I have sent visiting fans to the wrong side of the stadium, especially the drunk ones. “Up the escalators right next to the guys in military uniforms! Enjoy the game!”
B. Synch up with the crowd & lead it if necessary
Now I’m biased, as I honestly believe the Right Field Mission has the best chants historically. Between Roll Call and the Ole Ole Ole* chants and a few more I tend to follow their lead. If they are overly excited then something is going on. Maybe we’re about to strike out the side for the 2nd inning in a row or maybe one of our players is on first and he’s on his 8th steal going for 9th in May or we’re on the verge of knocking out their starting pitcher with a 2nd walk one ball away. Whatever it is, if a chant starts in section 118, 230, 311, Western Metal Roof, 128, 127 or 107, it doesn’t matter, JOIN IT! Teach fans to join ALL chants! When we stand, we all stand especially in the 9th! A championship fan can FEEL the crowd, the players and the WIN!
*Ole, ole, ole, oleeee Padreeees Padreeees
Ole, ole, ole, oleeee Padreeees Padreeees
(Chanted anytime Padres move a runner and/or advance a runner into scoring position)
Make signs! Any and all baseball signs are great to motivate your sections. If it’s good enough it will most likely get on the big screen. It’s pretty crappy when visiting fans make signs and are sitting in the front rows sucking up the camera angles. By having one of your own you can sign bomb them! Signs are greet for chant synchronizing your sections as well. Signs relative to a individual player’s performance are passionate indicator’s that a fan gave some time to make it. Hard to imagine a championship fan without a box of markers and previous season signs in their Padre’s room.
C. Learn the game and cheer accordingly
This may be very difficult for some and requires patience with yourself and your fellow fans. ALWAYS take the time to help someone understand what is occurring during the game and why. Telling someone how to cheer versus teaching how and why builds long-term passion for the game and will eventually encourage them to pass it forward. This is the only way to build a championship base. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I get approached during a game from those I respect as game experts wanting to know, reaffirm or be updated having just went to the restroom and missing the best rally of the game. I have to be honest. I cheer from a player perspective, meaning individual players accomplishments do contribute to the team’s goals and deserve cheering recognition and fellow players know this. Having come back from the DL to throw a complete game is a classic example. You cheer that player on passionately to the last pitch. A well executed double play, an all out hustle, a smash your face into the fence no catch, a 7 foul off at bat, a relief pitcher coming in to shut down visitor’s rally, and hitting streaks are all examples of extra cheering efforts. Learn your game, your team and your own voice. And when in doubt, listen to the crowd. Collectively, we know when to cheer more than any one of us as individuals.
D. Cheer for the entire game especially the late innings
A championship fan does NOT leave the game before the last out. They also realize that there are 9 innings maybe extras in a game and that you must save energy and your voice for the final outs. That does not mean you don’t cheer a 1st inning 4 run rally. In fact you cheer at the top of your lungs. Most fans don’t realize that ANY rally requires full passionate cheering especially during a championship season. You think a team and player don’t notice the silence? Sure they will just say the fans haven’t got to and into the game yet (which sucks to begin with) but believe me, if more fans were in their seats in the first inning and the stadium erupted for a rally in the first, I am willing to bet there would be more 1st inning rallies! As Matt Kemp implied recently, the fans DO matter and players do hear us and when fatigue calls them in the late innings sometimes, just sometimes, the crowd’s passion and energy helps make the difference so BE that difference.
E. Keep your section involved
During boring innings, fans can be distracted with phone calls, social media, and non-baseball conversations. Much like the family member who went to your little league games because they had to not because they wanted to and seemed bored to be there, the championship fan carries hope for runs and good defense on their shoulder and on the tip of their tongue. They are the 10th man inning by inning NOT achievement by achievement. At the beginning of every inning they lead a chant, they yell out to players on their good at bat or great play the inning before, they keep their learning fans updated on players to watch for that inning and who look hot at the plate. There is always something to say or do to keep fans involved. If you don’t, then the minute something happens guess who gets to answer questions to what they just missed or what just happened. Paying attention also lets you smell steals, coach’s plays, and many other in depth game play action. Stay focused. As a championship fan most of the time you will be the first to jump out of your seat and cheer when you saw that cheesy 3 and 1 fast ball down the pipe to Upton get ripped to the bricks in left.
F. Protect your fans
Now I can’t speak for all sections of Petco but I can say that what we had to do to protect fans from unruly behavior was nothing less than challenging. Do NOT let a fellow Padre fan take verbal heat from another fan even if we are losing. It’s our park. A championship fan can verbally and respectfully take the heat off a fellow fan. If alcohol is a factor or vulgar abuse do NOT waste any time to inform the ushers and security. Visiting fans could care less if they get thrown out and would love to tell their friends they took out a local in the process. As soon as you see cheering banter immediately involve yourself so as to let the visiting fan know you are listening an watching and more importantly to let your fellow Padres fans know you are not afraid to stand up to visiting fan bullies. Remember, children are watching, so do NOT curse, denigrate nor abusively slur visiting fans. It will only escalate the situation. Simply remind them they are visiting, you are home, and there are families here. And don’t stop doing so until they respect those facts. Most of the time unruly fans will back down and become cool towards all, retreat to another part of the stadium or get approached by security. If I had a dollar for every thank you I got for stepping in on some visiting fan’s berate on a fellow fan, I’d be able to afford full season tickets.
G. Know the existing diehard fan bases, join one and/or create one
By this point in this article you have come to the conclusion that you are possibly a championship Padre’s fan, wish to be one or know some. In any case, they are all around and unless you have the time, resources and energy to start a passionate fan base in your community I suggest you simply join an existing one. Friarhood, Gaslampball folks, Padres Public, Madres, The Right Field Mission are some of the more organic passionate fan bases happy to receive most depending on your style and preference as a fan. Collectively, I trust these groups for in the know information about the Padres before any other. They have a passion to go the extra mile to get the scoop on players while spending time and resources doing so. As for cheering in game I prefer the Right Field Mission and Friarhood. They control sections and over a decade of watching late inning games they seem to stay until the last outs and passionately LEAD cheers in the largest groups. It was a couple of seasons before Nacho and Dancing Friar began to synch up as we had to build our sections first. We respectively handled our sections on our own for a few seasons until the fan base grew into each other’s. There are plenty of sections of Petco that need championship fan bases. Along the 3rd base line, under the new scoreboard, behind the visiting dugout, are vulnerable to visiting fans. We pay for that every season. Championship teams with deep championship fans don’t have gaps in their sections. We must fix this. So feel free to buy a half dozen seats in these sections and take it over for a game. Personally, I really want to sit behind our visitor’s dugout and cause cheering and heckling mayhem in the heart of that visiting fans section.
H. Respect the Family
This is probably one the most sensitive areas for me as I still see this as a serious problem. When you see other championship organizations you see that they have deep rooted championship fan bases, cultures and families. In my opinion with all the step owners we have had, our organization has serious dysfunctional family traits. PCL, Qualcomm, Petco, social media, radio, cable and multiple diehard fan base families all operate individually for the most part in our organization known as the Padres baseball family. I don’t have an answer to uniting our cause as many still argue that our cause is a winning team while others say nothing less than a ring is our cause. I suspect when we actually get our ring our family will mature into a Championship team with a championship fan base. Until then, I suggest that if you want to be a championship fan you must be focused on doing what is necessary to helping the Padres get to championship status regardless if it bothers one family member or another. I have been booed, and you will too, for cheering too loud. You will take grief for disagreeing with any media family. You will get harassed by rookie security and rookie ushers. Until the family becomes unified as a base, a championship fan endures the pain for their fellow fans, for their love of the game and for their Padres family. Much like championship players, they ARE the difference.
After the Game
1. Use Social Media to keep your network & yourself updated
After the game is a great time to celebrate, relive and recap your experience. A championship fan stays focused on the SEASON and how this game plays into it. Visiting local businesses, calling friends, and using social media to keep our fans in the loop only keeps the passion alive. In San Diego with the never-ending options for entertainment, many fans have obligations that prevent them from staying in the loop. I know a lot of diehards who are out of it for a month or so and need a championship fan they can go to to get the information they need to keep their base updated. Cable, Radio, Padres website and Twitter* are excellent sources for minute-by-minute updates. I always tell fans not to follow me but to go to my Following list and follow the Padre sources.
*Twitter Warning* If you are new to Twitter or sensitive to back and forth banter, debate, and endless mind boggling opinions and insights, then I would suggest you NOT take ANYTHING on this media source serious. However official a tweet may be it is only a tweet (small statement). Overall media will confirm and affirm any truth to a tweet so if you read something, be patient, and eventually the truth will come out. Twitter is great if you are a I need to Know NOW fan and/or want to keep your network updated with article links, instant game info, or live picture sharing. With some investment of time you can also discover the many wonderful bloggers and blog sites that are dedicated to sharing all things Padres and San Diego sports related. I don’t suggest anyone stay away from Twitter just wear your helmet before you get into this box as you might take one to the head before you even know what happened but I definitely believe Twitter is a valuable tool to being a championship fan.
2. Listen and Watch local media news outlets
When you get home from the game after listening to the local radio game caps and are all tired out, sometimes it’s nice to grab some tea and sit in front of the TV and watch the highlights. Derek Togerson is my favorite as he doesn’t pull any punches and seems to convey that he would like to see our Padres win a championship ring as much as any other late news sports announcer. That and he is actively engaged on Twitter has shown that he doesn’t miss much related to our passion for the game and sports in general.
3. Pray and be Thankful
Last but not least. Before I rest my head I like to take the time to be grateful for being allowed to enjoy baseball in this great country and I pray. I pray for the day, my family, and for all the military families that sacrifice so much so I can cheer for grown men to chase a small ball around grassy fields. I am thankful that our sport builds community, builds hope, creates jobs and brings people together in my favorite city in the world. A championship fan never forgets any of this and acts accordingly. It’s a privilege and a grace to enjoy the game and I truly believe baseball is God’s game but that’s another article on another day.
Thanks for giving some of your time to read my lineup. God bless.
Nacho Padre – aspiring Padres championship fan. Got #RING?