By Karen Billing
San Diego Padres baseball will swing away starting April 6, with a match-up against the rival Los Angeles Dodgers. This baseball season is particularly special, as it will celebrate the Padres 40th year in the city.
Forty-year fans have cheered on players like Randy Jones, Trevor Hoffman and Tony Gwynn. They've seen uniforms evolve from the ultra-1970s brown and yellow to pinstripes to camouflage and to "sand." They've been entertained by the San Diego Chicken, the Friar and Rickey Henderson.
Most fans have stuck with this team long enough to see Gwynn smack any number of his 3,141 career hits at Jack Murphy/Qualcomm to seeing him immortalized in a statue erected in the Padres' new downtown home of Petco Park in 2007.
To celebrate turning 40, the Padres will present 40 major promotional giveaways and 13 fireworks shows throughout the season, according George Stieren, a Padres representative.
The most fireworks shows the Padres have ever had in a season was eight, he said.
The freebie fun starts on opening day, with opening day caps.
Other giveaways in the month of April are Adrian Gonzalez long sleeve T-shirts on April 11 and Padres 1969 replica jerseys on April 25.
On May 16, fans will receive Padres six-pack coolers and on June 6, they will hand out Padres action figurines.
An even bigger gift for fans is that the Padres have lowered ticket prices 25 percent, as well as lowered the cost of concessions and draft and bottled beer. Some field box tickets have gone from $40 to $30 and they now offer a $5 Value Meal that includes a hot dog, soda, peanuts, popcorn and a cookie. The soda can be substituted for a beer for $5 more.
"We don't want the price to be the reason why people don't show up to a game," Stieren said.
The Padres will start the 2009 season after a very dramatic off-season which included the selling of the team to new owner Jeff Moorad, the will he stay or will he go trade talks around pitcher Jake Peavy and the end of the "Hells Bells" era with closer Trevor Hoffman leaving for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Matt Chess, the Torrey Pines High School varsity baseball coach and 30-year Padres fan, has hopes that the Padres will be able to build on last year.
"I'm excited about the moves they made and concerned about the ones they didn't make," Chess said. "If everybody stays healthy, they should be able to stay competitive."
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