Valley celebrated by Padres

August 15, 2001|By ROBERT FULTON, Special to this newspaper

SAN DIEGO — The Imperial Valley and the city of San Diego are separated by 100 miles of unforgiving desert and mountains.

Many in San Diego have never heard of El Centro or Brawley, let alone Calipatria, Calexico or Holtville, and many couldn't care less.

Despite that, the two areas are connected by more than just Interstate 8, having some common interests, one being the San Diego Padres.

This fact was reiterated Tuesday night when the Padres dubbed their contest against the New York Mets at Qualcomm Stadium "The third annual Imperial Valley Night."


The Padres organization reached out a hand of friendship to the Valley, with highlights including Anthony Longoria of El Centro singing the national anthem and Bill Condit, former Imperial Irrigation District director and former El Centro city councilman, throwing out the first pitch. The Valley responded with more than 600 people purchasing tickets to the game.

"It's very important for us," said Enrique Morones, vice president of Hispanic and international marketing for the Padres. "We feel that the Imperial Valley is part of the Padres' area. The Imperial Valley is part of our home. We've been very active in our outreach, going in all directions, going east to the Imperial Valley and the communities out there. We've been out there several times. It's the right thing to do, to look in all directions.

"It benefits the Padres by being out in all communities and being appreciative of all the support that we do get from everywhere. We have a lot of fans that come from the Imperial Valley."

El Centro City Councilman David Dhillon coordinated the event.

"Three years ago I decided I wanted to convince the Padres that the Imperial Valley is a viable part of their success and we're big supporters of them," Dhillon said. "My goal also is to get some support from the Padres."

The Valley showed what it had to offer when Longoria stepped onto the field and belted out a heartfelt "The Star-Spangled Banner" in front of 24,000 people.

"I was so nervous," Longoria said. "When I stepped out there I didn't realize there were so many people. I was singing the national anthem, so everyone has heard this song before so many times, so I was trying to do it justice. What was going through my mind was, ‘Get it right, get it right, get it right.' After it was done it was the best feeling in the world to hear all that applause."

Condit then tested his pitching arm, throwing the first pitch.

"I've been a Padres fan since I was a little boy," Condit said. "I was born in San Diego. I was really thrilled to have that opportunity. After all these years of being a Padres fan, I finally get down on the field and throw out the first pitch. I really enjoyed it."

The outreach to the Valley will not end with Imperial Valley Night. A "Padres Park" for youth teams is planned for somewhere in the area.

"It's one of the ways we kind of reach out to the community and try to do something that benefits the community, by creating little Padre Parks," said Larry Lucchino, Padres president and CEO. "We're committed to doing 60 of them throughout the region in what we call ‘Padres Territory' or ‘Padre World,' so certainly we want to put one in Imperial County."

Lucchino thinks community outreach to the Imperial Valley and beyond is important for the Padres.

"It benefits the Imperial Valley by demonstrating a hospitality that we feel in San Diego, and the Padres particularly, for our friends in the Imperial Valley," he said. "I think it adds to the quality of life by connecting us to them and them to us. It obviously benefits the Padres because for us to be successful we've got to be a regional franchise. Those are the ones that are going to be really successful in the future. That means we reach out to the north, the east, and to the south."

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