On Sunday, the Padres invited 40 or so fans who are active on social media to attend #SDSocialSummit, where we would get to chat with each other face to face and also ask questions of key decision makers. The team fed us and put us up in a suite in the Western Metal Building.
While the free food and seats are much appreciated, you should know that my price for loyalty is a lot higher than that. Yeah, I had to buy my own beer.
Anyway, I didn’t take notes and this isn’t exhaustive, but here are some highlights from the event.
The Padres acknowledged their mistake in the way they communicated the creation of Bud Selig Plaza at Petco Park, but not the creation of BS Plaza itself. They later took us to the physical spot and showed us their plan for the space.
Not that I ever want to see Selig’s name on anything, but if they’d explained to the general public what they were actually doing, this wouldn’t have been such a big deal. As much as I wanted to be angry, after looking at the area, I was underwhelmed.
The idea of honoring former Padres players who are in the Hall of Fame representing other teams (Rollie Fingers, Gaylord Perry, Ozzie Smith, etc.) is noble. I’m glad they’ll be moving the plaques from their current inaccessible location under the batter’s eye to somewhere fans can enjoy them.
I’m less thrilled about having Selig’s name attached to the area. Symbolically it sucks. Then again, we’re free to call it BS Plaza while remembering a bit of Padres history.
And if Tim Raines ever gets inducted into Cooperstown, we can all look back with great fondness at the time Selig and his fellow owners colluded against free agents, thus denying Raines a shot at playing in San Diego and getting his name on a plaque displayed in the plaza that bears Selig’s name. Huzzah!
Black spoke to us for 15-20 minutes in the dugout. I sat next to him and asked about Rymer Liriano. Black said he liked what he’s seen so far, that he doesn’t give away at-bats, but reminded us that there are no Kershaws and Bumgarners in Triple-A. Adjustments will need to be made.
It was a fairly bland response but one that confirmed much of what I suspected. There’s value in having a source corroborate information that you’ve gathered on your own.
Black also is very well spoken in a media setting. This should be expected for a man in his position, but it’s not always a given. He projects well, calls you by name, and looks you in the eye.
Are Black’s communication skills more important than the way he employs the sacrifice bunt? I dunno, they might be.
The GM Search
Mike Dee talked about the search to replace Josh Byrnes midseason. He indicated a desire to be proactive and very thorough, not rushing into anything.
By filling the position now, they wouldn’t have to compete against other clubs that might have openings this winter. They could spend more time evaluating candidates, rather than worrying that the person they just interviewed might get snatched up before coming back for a second look.
The Padres invited 15 candidates and interviewed 12 of them. They were impressed with everyone they talked to, but A.J. Preller’s presentation blew them away. They got the guy they wanted.
Welke and Stein
We then split into three groups, with speakers coming to each of us for 15-20 minutes at time. First up for my group were Don Welke and Josh Stein from baseball ops.
Welke is a veteran scout, in the business for more than 40 years and Preller’s mentor in Texas. He hasn’t been here long and is still familiarizing himself with the organization. I’ve heard great things about Welke from industry folks I respect, and hope to hear him speak at greater length sometime in a different setting.
Stein is from San Diego and has survived several administrations with the Padres. Originally hired by Kevin Towers, he has steadily moved up the ranks. Again, we didn’t get much time with him, but I can tell you from past interactions, he’s a smart dude. He’s also very well regarded within the industry.
My question to them was about the academy in the Dominican Republic that opened in 2008. Although it hasn’t been in the news much lately, they said that the facility remains a point of organizational pride and a key part of their international strategy.
Leitner spoke to us about his experiences and approach as a broadcaster. I didn’t have a question for him but thanked him for his words about Jerry Coleman and Tony Gwynn at their memorials. He thanked me in return and proceeded to tell stories about the Colonel that had everyone laughing.
Dee and Fowler
Dee and Ron Fowler closed it for our group. I don’t remember much of what they said but I did get the impression that they’re trying, which isn’t the impression I always get when they speak in public.
My big takeaway from these two is that they’re a bit like Alex Torres. With a better delivery, they might improve their command and be more consistently effective.
It was brutal. On the bright side, I had a great time chatting with fellow hardcore fans, as well as with Padres Chief Marketing Officer Wayne Partello and other staffers.
Earlier, Partello had led us in a “whiteboard session” to generate future giveaway ideas. I’m the world’s worst marketer, so my contribution was nonexistent.
However, during the game I mentioned that the Padres used to bring the Lake Elsinore Storm down to San Diego once a year to play. I suggested that it might be nice to see the Storm at Petco Park again, so that fans here can get a glimpse of the future and also maybe be inspired to make the hour drive north to the Diamond.
Will it happen? I have no idea. I just plant the seed.
This was a useful event. Obviously, it’s good PR for the Padres to get bloggers and social media types on their side by bribing us with food and nice seats. But beyond that, we had the opportunity to connect with others who are passionate about the team and to hear different perspectives from within the organization itself.
I would welcome the opportunity to participate in something like this again in the future. I also hope that reaching out to social media types is the first step in a larger strategy of improving communications with Padres fans as a whole.
The disconnect between fans and the current ownership group is significant. Some of this is due to sins of previous regimes, some to poor communication by the current regime. You can’t eradicate ill will in a day or even a year, but if you talk to folks honestly, you at least give yourself a chance.
Sunday was a good start. Keep your fans informed, and don’t ever stop.