By MYLO ERICKSON
Tucson Padres players say they are looking forward to the year and hope to improve on last season’s 65-79 record.
The San Diego Padres’ triple-A affiliate kicked off its 2012 season on April 5 in Tucson’s Kino Sports Complex.
“I’m glad to make the jump to triple-A,” outfielder Sawyer Carroll said. “It seems like it’s going to be a lot of fun and I think we’ll be really good.”
There are lots of new faces on the Padres squad, but many are familiar with each other because they played together last year on the San Diego Padres’ double-A affiliate, the San Antonio Missions.
The Tucson team ended its first 2012 home series with a 1-5 record.
“I’m hoping that I can learn and build off of spring training,” starting pitcher Joe Wieland said. “That was my first big league camp.”
Tucson was not the original destination for the triple-A affiliate.
Originally known as the Portland Beavers, the team was forced out of Oregon in 2010 when its facility was converted into a soccer stadium.
San Diego Padres owner Jeff Moorad purchased the team with the intent of moving it to Escondido, Calif., which is located about 30 miles from San Diego.
Moorad chose Tucson as an interim location while the organization waited on funding to build an Escondido stadium.
Tucson’s Kino facility was available, after two Major League Baseball spring training squads and the triple-A Sidewinders left town.
However, the big league Padres may not receive funds to build the Escondido stadium. Last July, the California legislature passed a budget that eliminated redevelopment agencies.
The move denied Escondido the necessary public funds to build a stadium. The city had already spent $350,000 on preparatory environmental studies.
With the team’s location in limbo, cities outside of California have expressed interest. El Paso, especially, is making a strong push.
Tucson will host through the 2012 season, but it seems clear that fans must show more support if they want to keep the team.
Last season the Tucson Padres had the worst Pacific Coast League attendance, averaging about 3,410 people. The league leader was Round Rock, Texas, with 8,500.
Approximately 6,400 people attended the Tucson Padres home opener in 2011. This year’s opener drew 5,681.
For additional information on the Tucson Padres, including game schedules, upcoming promotions and ticket purchases, visit the team home page at milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t549.