Sept 4, 2013 by Wayne McBrayer & Rebecca Herman
The Last Stand …
Tucson Padres 8/27-8-29
We really enjoyed our trip to visit the Tucson Padres in June and since we knew the team would be moving to El Paso, TX in 2014, we hoped that we would return for the final Tucson Padres games at Kino Veteran’s Memorial Stadium. For 43 years, Tucson has had minor league baseball, but with the Padres AAA team moving and no team in need of a new facility, Tucson will be without a club for at least one year, maybe more. We knew we needed to be a part of the last home stand of the Tucson Padres and experience firsthand the end of an era. So on Tuesday morning, August 27, we packed the car and drove 7 hours to Tucson, AZ and checked into the nearby Holiday Inn.
Batting Practice was to start at 4PM so we arrived just before that time to get checked in, pick up our media credentials, and head over to the clubhouse area to watch BP and interview players. We were able to interview two players – Danny Cortes & Dean Anna; a huge fan – Maria “Momma” Brown, and the manager – Pat Murphy. After batting practice, we had some time to check out the gift shop where we picked up some slick 1980 Tucson Toros jerseys. On our last trip, they wore these jersey on a special retro night and we wanted to get some. We picked up 4 of them (an early Christmas present from Rebecca) and selected jerseys worn by Cody Decker, Daniel Roberson, Nick Vincent, and Miles Mikolas (we also got them signed the following day at BP except for Vincent’s jersey but we hope to resolve that in San Diego). We chatted with David Rodriquez in the gift shop who told us he knew we were Padres360 and he had followed us and was happy that we started following him. It was very humbling and wonderful to know that folks in Tucson appreciated our work. After leaving the gift shop, we walked down to our seats down behind home plate and settled in for the game. The crowd wasn’t very big and sadly, the T-Pad lost 10-1 to the Reno Aces. We headed back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep to get ready for the next day.
On Wednesday, the Tucson Padres posted on Facebook and Twitter that there would be selling all hats in the gift shop for $5.00! We got there at noon and bought some Toros and Tucson Padres hats. We headed back to the hotel and watched the Travel Channel. One of the shows mentioned Sonoran Hot Dogs at El Guero Canelo, and a must go to if you’re in Tucson. Heck – when in Rome (or Tucson!!!). We went there and weren’t disappointed as the food was great. Heading back to the ballpark, we interviewed more players including Sean O’Sullivan and Keyvius Sampson before game time. We also spoke with Kyle Blanks but he was on a strict rehab schedule and wasn’t able to speak with us (he did sign autographs for our boys). He apologized and said, “if I have a moment, I’ll come back and talk to you.” We then went outside to lineup for their last giveaway; a choice between several different shirts, some 2012 team cards, a mini-poster of Daniel Robertson and a Trevor Hoffman bobble head. Trevor and I selected 2 different shirts while Rebecca and Alex couldn’t resist the Trevor Hoffman bobble head. We sat down and watched a great game in which Tucson overcame a 2 run deficit to win 4-3. Pitcher Matt Andriese was nice enough to interview with us post-game. We headed back to the hotel, had a couple of drinks at the bar and prepared for the final game, the main reason we came on the trip.
On Thursday, it was announced that Tucson was selling all t-shirts for $5.00. Not one to pass up a sweet deal, we went to the stadium to score some bargains. We bought tickets for the last game and 2 extra for Joseph Pyritz and his wife whom we met during our June trip. We walked to the office and dropped off a bottle of Wilson Creek Almond Champagne for Mike and Pattie Feder. We then bought 11 shirts total and headed back to the hotel to rest – shopping can be exhausting!
Arriving back at 4PM in our nifty retro Toros jerseys, we interviewed Jaff Decker after BP. The Tucson Padres announced they would be holding a “shirt off their back” silent auction where you could bid on a player’s jersey. We did some wine tasting (sparkling Barefoot wine) that was pretty good. We then walked down to the field to prepare for pictures and videos. The Tucson Padres introduced their front office staff who lined up on the first base side and then the players were introduced one at a time and lined up on the 3rd base side. Padres Manager, Pat Murphy, then walked to home plate to talk to the fans and the men’s choir that was there to sing the National Anthem started singing. Pat quietly waited and when they were done, he addressed the crowd… thanking the fans and the front office staff for making the three years in Tucson so terrific [WATCH VIDEO HERE]. Mike Feder, the Tucson Padres GM was emotional – but so were we all. But for him, this was his last game after 30 years of working in sports, he was retiring but would still be helping the community of Tucson in many ways.
Pat finished speaking and now it was time for the first pitch. Pattie Feder, Mike’s wife, was going to throw out the first pitch to her husband Mike. She walked up and tossed the ball. Fans cheered, tears were shed on the field, and Pattie was presented with a bouquet of roses [WATCH VIDEO HERE]. Debbie Clark (Director of Game Day Operations) told us, “tomorrow will be the first time in 13 years I won’t have a job to come to.” She said it not as a fear of being unemployed but with tears in her eyes acknowledging how she would miss her co-workers and everything to do with this organization. Lots of tears were shed and yes, we both cried. This wasn’t “just a job” – it was a part of their lives.
After the ceremonies, we walked to the area behind home plate where workers and media could stand. Mike Feder started telling his wife how to toss a ball; “you toss it like you’re throwing a dart” and (surprisingly) then he tossed the ball to me. I tossed it back and he once again said, “toss it like a dart” and tossed it to me again … it was really fun to watch him coaching her. I tossed it back and Mike and Pattie walked out the tunnel. We exited a few minutes later to find the mascot – Kino Bambino – taking a break. He had the head off the costume and I asked if I could try it on. He said, “I warn you that it smells in there” and I said I was ok with it. I put it on and took a picture wearing it.
After arriving at our seats, we sat down for some baseball. The Tucson Padres took a 1-0 lead in the 4th on a single by Gregorio Petit. We then walked up and placed bids on jerseys. Rebecca bid on Pat Murphy’s jersey and I bid on Burch Smith’s jersey. We sat back in our seats and watched Burch Smith mow down the Reno Aces holding them to 3 hits and no runs, no walks and a season high 10 strikeouts in 7 innings. During the 7th inning, we walked up and hovered around the jerseys we bid on. Joseph came with us to help and keep an eye on people he knew who might try to bid at the last second. The auction ended after the 3rd out in the top of the 7th inning, and yes we won our jerseys. I looked at Joseph and said, “I just bought my interview with Burch Smith!” and he high-fived me.
Back at our seats, we were called and officially told we won our jerseys and to walk up to guest services. We would be led onto the field after the game to get our jerseys. Meanwhile, Brad Brach came in and got the Aces out in order 1-2-3 in the 8th to keep it at a 1-0 game. Tucson failed to score in the bottom of the inning, so Tucson started the 9th inning still up 1-0. Brad Brach walked the first hitter. Manager Pat Murphy replaced Brad with lefty Tommy Layne. Layne walked the next hitter, but got the next hitter out. We were then lead down the tunnel where we would watch the last of the game behind home plate. By the time we arrived back behind home plate, Kevin Quackenbush replaced Layne on the mound. He retired the next hitter to make it 2 outs. He then walked the next hitter to load the bases and gave up a hit a 2 run single to Alfredo Marte. Quackenbush retired the next hitter to keep it a 2-1 deficit. Scott Moore led off the bottom of the 9th with a single but didn’t get any farther than first as David Hernandez shut them down, striking out pinch hitter Mike Wilson to give Reno a 2-1 victory.
With the game over, we were walked out onto the field and Mike Feder told us to “go find your player.” Rebecca walked over to Pat Murphy who was still in the dugout – lamenting the loss. She smiled at him and said, “I won your jersey – it was the only one I wanted.” He said, “Nice – I’m glad it’s going to you.” They chatted a bit, took pictures, and he signed it for her. I walked off to find Burch Smith and couldn’t find him. I was told by staff he was on the other side of the dugout. I walked over and saw a player leaning on the rail. He asked me who I was looking for. I said, Burch Smith and he said, “that’s me.” I laughed and said, “I have wanted to talk to you for 3 days and haven’t seen you.” He said, “I am very sorry about that” and I told him I bought his jersey to get an interview. He laughed and graciously allowed us to interview him. Burch is a class act and a very nice young man. We thanked him for his time, walked over to pay for our jersey and took picture with Mike Feder. We saw Steve Adler talking with Daniel Robertson and the guy who won his jersey. We hung around and watched fans asking for autographs and crying in the stands. Kids were running the bases, staff was on the field hugging and it was time to go.
For 40 years, I have been a fan of baseball and have met a lot of nice people, but I can say that the staff at Tucson was about the best people I have met in any organization I have been involved with. They appreciated our help when we were there on both trips and we were honored to be a part of Tucson baseball history. As long as I live, I will treasure this time always knowing that it is not just a job to people, it’s their lives and their extended family. If I ever come to a point where it becomes “just a job” – I will walk away and return to the stand as a fan until I remember the reasons I truly love this game and the opportunity to write about it.
The Tucson Padres played their final four games on the road in Las Vegas and took 3 out of 4 … but not quite enough to win the PCL. They did finish 77-67 record … first time in team history the win-loss record reached ten games over .500. Here is the message Mike Feder posted on Facebook after Monday’s win:
“What a fitting ending to the three year run of the Tucson Padres! The T-Pads came back with a two run rally in the top of the 9th to win 5 – 4 in LV. The team finished 10 games over .500 (the first time ever in their history); the player who played the most games in T-Pads history, Daniel Robertson, knocked in the winning run; Miles Mikolas, the reliever with the most saves in Tucson history, closed it out; Dean Anna looks like he won the PCL batting title; and Tim Hagerty broadcast every game in Padres history! It was a fun three year run. Thanks Padres for a great effort every day.”
And for the record, Dean Anna DID win the PCL Batting Title and was named as Second Baseman on the 2013 All-PCL Team.
A must listen to … The Tucson Padres Radio Goodbye
Tucson Padres Roster on 8/29/31
Managers & Coaches:
- Matt Andriese
- Brad Brach
- Brad Boxberger
- Dan Cortes
- Robbie Erlin
- Greg Conzalez
- Brandon Kloess
- Jason Lane
- Tommy Layne
- Arturo Lopez
- Miles Mikolas
- Sean O’Sullivan
- Kevin Quackenbush
- Jason Ray
- Jorge Reyes
- Keyvius Sampson
- Burch Smith
- Brandon Allen
- Dean Anna
- Kyle Blanks (rehab)
- Cody Decker
- Jonathan Galvez
- Jesus Merchan
- Scott Moore
- Gregorio Petit
Thank you to all the staff of the Tucson Padres!
- Mike Feder – GM
- Eric May – Consultant
- Jack Donvan – Sr. Advisor
- Pattie Feder – Business Mgr & Dir of Merchandising
- Debbie Clark – Dir of Game Day Operations
- Andy Beggs – Head Groundskeeper
- Chris Tonner – Stadium Operations Manager
- James Jensen – Dir of Sales
- Sandy Davis – Dir of Inside Sales
- Tyler Bouchard – Dir of Ticket Operations
- Karlee Cordova – Sales & Marketing Executive
- Tim Hagerty – Dir of Broadcasting & Media Relations
- Rudy Bustillos – Dir of Community Relations
- Francisco Gamez – Dir of Hispanic Marketing
You have each been a shining light for Tucson!
Story by Wayne McBrayer, TheCasualFan
Editing & Photography by Rebecca Herman, TheBaseballPHD