Fox Sports San Diego began broadcasting Padres games during the 2012 season. It followed a 15-year run by Channel 4 San Diego, with the broadcast switching hands from a group with established infrastructure to what was essentially a brand new television station. With the short timeline and lack of a studio, Fox Sports set up a stage (along with equipment) for pre/post-game shows at the Tony Gwynn statue in the Park At The Park. It’s unsightly, and an obstruction to what’s supposedly a tribute to the greatest Padre. Fans immediately took issue with the location, but logic allows time for a permanent solution. Fox Sports eventually took over the Channel 4 studio in the Diamondview Tower prior to last season, but the stage and equipment setup remains at the Gwynn statue. It’s long past time for it to go.
The Padres commissioned the statue, and built the surrounding courtyard, in tribute to Tony Gwynn’s Hall of Fame induction in 2007. More than that, it was a tribute to a player who means everything to the San Diego sports fan. Hard work, dedication, loyalty; these are the lessons Tony Gwynn imparted upon a generation of young baseball fans in San Diego (amongst which, I count myself). In his understated manner, Tony said of the unveiling “To be the first guy, the first statue out here in Petco Park, I’m thrilled to death to be a part of it. But more importantly, I’m a San Diegan.”
The courtyard is made up of fan-purchased bricks, upon which said fans were able to have a message of tribute inscribed. On their official website, the San Diego Padres describe this as a “meaningful program”. Today, those bricks are somewhat inaccessible, covered by camera equipment, lights, etc. Exactly what meaning is left by that, I am unsure. What I am sure of is that this isn’t what Padres fans had in mind when they paid for their bricks. What’s more, from inside of the park, the statue had once been visible atop the Park at the Park berm. It was a fantastic view, included amongst the fans, with the backdrop of the city of San Diego itself. This is no longer the case.
Adding further insult, Fox Sports has doubled down on the Gwynn statue disrespect in 2014 by using it as a backdrop for in-game “infomercials”. During the top of the third inning of home games, the Padres and Fox Sports have been disrupting the baseball broadcast by pitching various amenities within Petco Park (a subject for another post, another day). A tribute to San Diego’s most beloved public figure, relegated to a cheap prop. It’s sad.
I’m not the first person to write about this; just the latest. Gaslamp Ball wrote about it BACK IN 2012. You can see even more pictures of the setup there, as well as a poll where 94% of fans wanted the stage setup removed. For Fox Sports San Diego’s part, the stage remains because of a stated desire to keep the pre and post-game shows “fan accessible”. Speaking for myself, I don’t think having fans with a glazed-over look standing behind Pomeranz and Sweeney, wavers, or fans of visiting teams pulling on the front of their jersey/holding up their cap (because, hey, this is a PADRES broadcast and I’m REPPIN’ MAH TEAM) adds much (if any) value to the broadcast. And at the cost of accessibility to the Gwynn courtyard? It’s just not worth it.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve been learning more about Tony Gwynn’s recent health struggles. He’s stepped away from his coaching role at San Diego State to focus on on his health. To what extent Tony is ill is somewhat unclear, but there’s been an outpouring of support, emotion, and solidarity from the San Diego community since the news broke. Now would be as good of a time as any for the Padres and Fox Sports to do what’s right, and give that statue back.
The Vocal Minority posts on Mondays, and wishes Tony nothing more than a speedy recovery. Follow me on Twitter, because why not?