From the outfield grass, the roars arose again and again.
On a stage in left-center field, beneath the giant video board showing their every move, Fernando Tatis Jr., Eric Hosmer and Manny Machado modeled the new Padres uniforms that are an ode to the past and a highly anticipated jump into the future.
“We’re all looking at it as we’re turning the page on the tough times,” Hosmer would say later. “… The brown can be the start of all that.”
Brown is officially back.
What the invited guests, mostly season ticket holders and sponsors, seemed to enthusiastically endorse with their repeated applause (and in some cases tears) was first a video showing a half-dozen Padres players wearing the new white home jersey with brown pinstripes and brown “PADRES” across the chest.
“I love it,” one man near the stage said aloud. “I love it.”
Then Tatis appeared on stage in the all-tan alternate road jersey with the brown pinstripes. Across the chest was “SAN DIEGO” in brown. During his prancing, Tatis stopped and did his sugar cane chop celebration the team adopted in 2019.
Hosmer took the stage next in what will be the primary road jersey, solid sand pants and a dark brown top with a gold “SAN DIEGO” across the chest.
Finally, Machado stepped onto the stage wearing the home jersey.
On all left sleeve of all three jerseys is the Swinging Friar.
“I literally started crying,” said Brady Phelps, a fan who is a popular presence on social media and has long advocated for brown jerseys.
Phelps was among several people who claimed to have not heard a single negative word.
“They’re great,” Jordan Stark said. “They’re clean.”
That’s high praise coming form one of the co-founders of the Bring Back The Brown grassroots organization that began in 2010.
“It’s surreal,” said Tony Martinez, BBTB’s other co-founder.
This is what so many of the couple thousand people who came to Petco Park had clamored for, some for what felt it. This was the victory they will settle for until more real ones come.
They seemed to be largely pleased with the result of more than two years of research and testing by the Padres.
The brown and gold is a return to what many consider the traditional Padres uniform, the combination the team wore in various forms over its first 16 seasons of existence, from 1969 through its first World Series appearance in 1984.
However, the new brown is a dark shade only created in 2018, after the Padres had been searching in vain for months for a brown they considered rich enough.
The home uniform also features a revamped Padres wordmark across the front. It is less-rounded from the first letter to the last and the “P” and “S” were shrunk to be the same size as the rest of the word. The road sand is darker than the sand the Padres wore for a time a decade ago.
The whole thing, from the time the gates opened at 6 p.m. felt something like a fashion show, the Oscars and a baseball game blended staged at the same event. Most in the crowd wore brown.
The Padres provided free wine, beer, hot dogs and popcorn. Music blared from speakers on the field, the kind of upbeat dance-inspiring tunes played between innings when the home team is winning or at a party on any given Saturday night.
At a minute past 7, the Black Eyed Peas song “Let’s Get it Started” played and the night’s first cheer rang out. Two minutes later, Padres broadcasters Don Orsillo, Mark Grant, Jesse Alger and Tony Gwynn Jr. took the stage.
“It’s time for a new era of Padres baseball,” Orsillo said. “Are you ready?”
Another cheer was his answer.
New manager Jayce Tingler was brought on stage and said he was here to win a World Series (another cheer). At one point, a “We want Strasburg” chant rang out in reference to free agent pitcher Stephen Strasburg.
It was that kind of raucous.
“The hope and faith of all this,” Padres General Partner Peter Seidler marveled afterward. “… The city believes, I believe, the community believes.”
The lights went down at 7:12. The video featuring the franchise’s icons played.
The crowd was in a frenzy by the time Tatis took the stage.
Afterward, the players seemed almost as exultant as the fans.
“They’re all great,” Machado said as he looked across at his two teammates. “They did a great job.”
The celebratory nature of the night likely owed to the desire of so many to see the Friars in brown and a franchise history lacking in the kind of on-field success over which longtime fans can bond.
“We lack, somewhat, an identity in San Diego, and this gives us an identity,” said Aileen Burns, decked out in brown and carrying a bag holding a just-purchased brown cap. “When you see a fan sitting in the crowd wearing brown and gold … you know right away that’s a Padres fan.”
Of course, there was a pop-up merchandise store selling T-shirts and hoodies a pullovers in the new rich brown and more vibrant yellow before the unveiling. The official team store in the Western Metal building, brimming with replica jerseys, opened immediately after the reveal.
On his way to the canopied shop before the show, 27-year-old Ben Kingsley wore a brown hat, circa late-70s and early ‘80s, and a white Jersey with blue and orange pinstripes from the ‘90s. While the Padres have not worn brown in his lifetime, he has long considered it the Padres’ color.
“There’s an identity to it,” he said. “It is when a lot of our history is. Unfortunately not a lot of our success.”
Afterward, Martinez of BBTB, said the tone of the night was an apt reflection of the essence of the brown movement, with the team acknowledging the desire of fans.
“Brown has always been symbolic of San Diego,” he said.
The Padres began their research on what fans truly wanted in 2017, staging focus groups over successive nights in mid-2018 and January of this year. For Chief Marketing Officer Wayne Partello, Vice President of Marketing Katie Jackson, the primary and Executive Chairman Ron Fowler, the duo that headed the team’s return to brown, Saturday was the revelation of the culmination of that work.
And it had seemed inevitable since a night in June of 2018 when Partello and Jackson, along with Padres Executive Chairman Ron Fowler and a pair of outside consultants, sat watching via closed-circuit TV the dial testing in which the focus groups were participating.
Four groups in, Fowler said, “I’d like to see solid white with brown and rich yellow or gold or whatever you call it.”
A majority was never achieved among the fans queried. But it was the by far the largest minority and the most passionate group that preferred brown and gold over the blue and white combination the team has worn in some fashion since 2001, the blue, orange and white the team wore from 1991-2000 or the brown and orange worn from 1985-90.
In all, the Padres have donned 11 versions of a primary uniform with multiple variations of each of those.
Fowler has said this will be the last while he’s in charge. Considering the investment of over $1 million and, moreover, countless hours in research and testing, as well as the furor this change has enflamed on social media, that figures to be a sound direction.
If there was a consensus discovered during the Padres’ uniform research, it was the desire the team’s fans had for distinctiveness. That seemed to be the driving sentiment behind the passion for brown, which no other team wears.
No longer will someone turn on a television and confuse the Padres for the Brewers or Royals or even the Dodgers.
Fowler and others consider the switch to brown the penultimate step in a process begun in earnest in 2016 — a revamping of the roster and a retooling of their ballpark and in-game experience.
Petco Park is considered one of the finest in the major leagues. Brown is back. What remains to be achieved is a championship.
“Brown and winning are two things we want to be synonymous,” Fowler said recently. “We plan to deliver on that.”