I had the pleasure of going to an alumni group event on Saturday that included meeting boy millionaire Jedd Gyorko, provided all the Bud Heavy I could, and had a rotating cycle of totally awesome ushers. For a long time, I’ve viewed ushers as being a thing that the less I dealt with them, the better. This is probably rooted in being a boy at Jack Murphy and making every effort to sneak past the ushers to better seats. Since the view from our group seating wasn’t the greatest, I chatted up the ushers for well over an hour and learned a lot of interesting things.
1. More than anything, the thing that makes the ushers the sickest is having to look out at center field and see the number 6 retired. They do not like Steve Garvey the player, and they do not like Steve Garvey the person. Apparently, on several occasions, Steve Garvey has been a total dick to the ushers, and acts like a total primadonna when he comes to games. Most of the ushers are long time Padres fans, and they see Steve Garvey for what he is – a Dodger. I’m sure if you asked Steve, he’d say he was a Dodger too. One usher said it was just a thing that Joan Kroc was hung up on, retiring his number. Whatever, two of the ushers agreed that Garvey’s number should be taken down and Nate Colbert’s number should be retired instead. I liked this, because it meant I got to chat about the great, forgotten Nate Colbert, the still current Padres all time HR leader. The level of dislike for Garvey from the ushers was astounding, and awesome.
2. I never thought about it before, but one usher told me that all the serious baseball fans sit between the mission towers. Everyone outside of that, excluding the outfield seats, he considered amateur watchers. A lot of this stems from being posted there for Padres/Dodgers games where tons of fights originate in those outfield upper deck seats. They also unequivocally agreed that the Dodgers fans were the worst when it comes to unruliness. One said that he’d been assaulted twice by Dodgers fans while he responded to complaints. I had no idea that ushers would put themselves into danger like that, I just assumed they got on the radio and called in the Elite Security rent-a-cops.
3. One usher was very upset that the team got rid of Breakfast at the Park this season. He said, personally, that his family really enjoyed going, and for many people, it was their only chance to ever set foot on the field. From the usher standpoint, they liked that it was easy to watch over, didn’t require tons of manpower, and the fans all went away happy. They said they have received many complaints from patrons about this being pulled this year.
4. The ushers agreed that the team needed to bring back the brown uniforms to build an identity. They said that at least when you watched the team pre-90’s you knew they were the Padres. One said what we’ve all noticed, that you can’t tell the difference between the Brewers and the Padres when they are on the field.
5. The ushers have across the board received complaints about the elimination of the free mini program. Instead, they now give out a roster card. Personally, I liked reading the articles every month, liked seeing how Chris Denorfia plays with his dog in the Petco player/dogs section, and it was nice when you got to the game early, to be able to flip through some physical media instead of playing on Twitter like usual. The ushers heard it was a cost saving move. Boo.
6. I asked a lot about all of the season ticket holder complaints from last season about cutting usher shifts, moving ushers around, and pretty much changing up the long standing routines. I remember the first conference calls with fans that were offered were dominated by people complaining about how their section’s usher wasn’t there anymore. As someone who doesn’t care about ushers in my section, I never understood the complaints. After all, as a season ticket holder, I know where my seats are. I sit there 40 times a year, I don’t need any usher assistance. But a lot of people think differently about their ushers. I confirmed with these ushers that the primary complainants are The Olds demographically. The ushers felt honored that their sections stood up for them. Due to the cost cutting move to reduce usher hours and spread them out over several sections, the ushers had their incomes cut greatly. Many saw reduced shifts. There is apparently a structure in place that allows the ushers with the most seniority to take on way more shifts, so they did OK with the changes, but all of the other guys suffered. They were happy to see their shifts come back after the complaints and are thankful people stuck up for them.
7. On the whole, the ushers liked Tom Garfinkel and his work with the team. They all saw the game experience get better, and felt that Garfinkel really pushed customer service. The also acknowledged what many of us talk about, that the improvement in fan service was likely far cheaper than it would be to improve the on-field performance. But at least they improved something, it was better than previous regimes double whammy of crappy team and crappy gameday experience. They also said they liked the new ownership, and the current Padres management staff has good direction and is pushing the fan experience and customer service as well. Good for us fans.
8. They don’t like Enberg, and they LOVE Ted Leitner. They think Enberg is a publicity stunt and prefer when there’s a real San Diegan like Bob Chandler or Ted Leitner on the air. They also love Matt Vasgersian, and thought he was the only non-San Diegan that could really do it well.
I thought talking with these guys was incredibly interesting. They all love Nate Colbert and recounted his bombs over the 17 foot wall at Jack Murphy. It was nice to hear a little inside baseball stuff from them. It was even nicer that the Padres won and a had an encouraging homestand.