President Jimmy Carter tossed one of the ceremonial first pitches. (Denis Poroy/AP)
SAN DIEGO -- The Padres opened their new ballpark Thursday night with expectations as full as the house.
Six years in the making, PETCO Park was officially launched with Padres owner John Moores breaking a bottle of custom champagne against the side of the building, ceremonial first pitches thrown by President Jimmy Carter, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy, and a flyover by Marine jet fighters.
Then it was time for baseball.
San Diego native David Wells delivered the first pitch at 7:07 p.m. PT, a strike to Giants second baseman Ray Durham.
The Padres built a team this season they feel can compete in the National League West, increasing the payroll and adding free agents largely due to revenue bumps that are expected to come from the new ballpark.
Hoping to follow the pattern enjoyed by cities like Cleveland and Seattle, the Padres see a future where they attract new talent and pay their homegrown talent the salaries they deserve.
"I think with the new ballpark, we're going to see an increase in revenue," general manager Kevin Towers said. "Our plan is to hang on to players and stay competitive instead of having to let players go and rebuild every year."
Brian Giles / LF
Weight: 205 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: L
Since their championship run in 1998, the Padres have struggled on the field and currently have a losing streak of five straight seasons. But starting with the acquisition of Brian Giles last summer, Towers set a course to add depth to the roster. Not only did he bring in Wells but added catcher Ramon Hernandez and outfielder Jay Payton to the starting lineup.
The fans in San Diego have been loyal but have started to grow impatient waiting for a winner. Bochy said that is the way it should be and doesn't mind any extra pressure that might come with increased expectations.
"There is always pressure when you coach or you manage a team," Bochy said. "I think anyone in that position should expect that and I welcome that. I'd much rather have that chance."
Bochy knows it's a big jump from last place in 2003 when his club lost 98 games to contender status, but he understands the fans' perspective and said his expectations are higher this season as well.
"They should expect more," Bochy said of the fans. "I'm expecting more out of [the players] and I want [my players] to expect more, too."
Firsts: Right fielder Brian Giles collected the first official base hit at PETCO Park with a single to right off Giants starter Dustin Hermanson at 7:17 p.m. PT. Pedro Feliz got the first base hit by an opposing player when he singled off Wells in the second.
Sean Burroughs drove in the first run with a ground-rule double to center off Hermanson. Khalil Greene was honored with the first trot home.
David Wells / P
Weight: 235 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: L
Best choice: Wells was the major offseason free-agent signing for the Padres and the San Diego native was honored with the first start at PETCO Park. The left-hander was brought in to be the ace but is actually No. 4 in the rotation. Brian Lawrence got the Opening Day start in Los Angeles on Monday.
Bochy said a number of factors went into the decision, emphasizing that Wells benefited from the extra time before his first start of the season. Jake Peavy and Adam Eaton followed Lawrence in Los Angeles, and Bochy said that any of the three would have handled the pressure of opening the ballpark but added Wells was the natural choice.
"It's his hometown; he grew up as a Padres fan," Bochy said. "He's also our most experienced pitcher. The other guys would have been fine, but I felt David Wells was the right man."
Hitchcock nicked: Left-handed starter Sterling Hitchcock will miss his first start with the Lake Elsinore Storm on April 10 with a strain to his left oblique and intercostal muscle. His first start with the Padres is scheduled for April 17, but any action for Hitchcock remains in doubt until he is pain free.
Probables: Right-hander Brian Lawrence is set to go Saturday at 7:05 p.m. PT against lefty Kirk Rueter. Right-hander Jake Peavy is scheduled to pitch Sunday at 5:05 p.m. PT. Right-hander Brett Tomko will go for the Giants.
Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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