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Monday, June 13, 2005 | By NEIL SENTURIA

I have been a San Diego Padres season ticket subscriber for the past 14 years, and this year I did not renew. There was no particular reason. Maybe I didn’t want the aggravation of giving away 79 games to my friends or maybe I didn’t even have 79 friends.

Then Sandy Alderson, the new CEO of the Padres, called and said come on down to the park and talk to me. The Padres management put 14 former season ticket holders in a room 90 minutes before Wednesday night’s game with the Cleveland Indians, and they said, “So, tell us why you did not renew your season tickets?”

And they really listened. You gotta love these two guys – Alderson and Tim Katzman, the director of corporate communications, sat there and listened to the group complain. And then something happened. The group began to see that they were really being listened to and then interspersed among the laments came some positive comments. There was clearly a sense of empathy from management, and after 60 minutes, this group was feeling really pretty good about the fact they, plain old Joe Lunchbuckets, were talking to the CEO of the Padres, and he was really listening. Wow!

What was fascinating was to listen to the intense passion that people feel about their baseball. I mean after you get past the food, the bathroom lines, the parking, the sight lines, the corporate fat cats, etc., what emerged was the absolutely visceral connection that fans have with the team, the people who sit around them and the players.

This group was really wound up about issues. Some were unsolvable, like the right field wall or the seats in section 107, but lots of them could be implemented, like having an inexpensive scorecard so that people could once again fill in the squares and go 4-6-3 for a double play. The tension between baseball, the pure sport, and baseball, the techno-entertainment, is a recurring theme that requires careful thought, and it was clear that this Padres management team is really thinking about it.

But what was unbelievable is that someone high up cared enough to ask the opinion of 14 bobbleheads, and at least one bobblehead (this author) stepped right up and renewed his season tickets.

I mean, how can you turn down customer service like that? It was sort of like the Padres meet Nordstroms, and it felt like the Padres were ahead 3-1 going into the ninth. Bring on Trevor.

Neil Senturia is married to Barbara Bry, Voice Editor in Chief.

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