Monday, April 23, 2012

Ushering a turnaround

Were Padres players as spirited and upbeat as the Padres ballpark workers who awaited Josh Byrnes on Saturday afternoon, the team might not have been off to such a gloomy start. Ballpark ushers, several dozens of them, whooped it up when the general manager was introduced. They sat smiling, one level up from the visiting dugout as the Padres took batting practice. Not one of them asked Byrnes when he'd get some bang for the millions of dollars at shortstop or second base, or whether Padres hitters were being taught to take third strikes.

At the time, the Padres were 3-12 with seven defeats in their nine games at Petco. Byrnes acknowledged that the product on the field rankled some of the paying customers, and was no treat, either, for the ballpark ushers who meet and greet the paying customers.

"The fans are frustrated," Byrnes said. "We are frustrated. We're all here to have a great time." Hearing the latter, Phillies players nodded inside their dugout.

Byrnes said better times awaited the franchise.

"I know it can be done," he said. "Sometimes it doesn't happen as quickly as we'd like. But it will happen. We'll get this thing going. Thank you for what you do."

The ushers cheered, making more noise than recent Padres crowds. The Padres went on to beat Roy Halladay and the Phillies, 5-1, and beat the Phillies again on Sunday, 6-1. The ballpark felt alive. Even the O-Dog joined the party, lacing two triples, as if to spite the jackals of the keyboards who've hinted of his demise.

Byrnes may want to do this again.

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