Tuesday, January 24, 2006 | Open letter to John Moores, owner of the San Diego Padres:
Forgive me, Mr. Moores, for appearing presumptuous. The Padres’ first-class promotions department doesn’t need suggestions from me for the upcoming 2006 season.
But there is a San Diego daughter of the Padres who is so outstanding – both as an All-American women’s basketball player at Stanford and person of impeccable character – I wonder if the thought of recognizing her before a game might be overlooked simply because her sport is basketball.
Her name is Candice Wiggins, the daughter of Alan Wiggins, sparkplug of the Padres’ 1984 team that won the National League pennant.
Last year Candice, in addition to All-American honors, became the first freshman in Pac-10 women’s basketball to earn the Player of the Year award. She’s on her way to another All-American season as a sophomore, averaging 21.2 points a game.
At La Jolla Country Day, Candice was a McDonald’s High School All-American guard and her career ranks her among San Diego’s most accomplished female prep athletes. I believe, and I’m not going out on a limb, she will add to her high school and college success by soon playing in the Olympics and professionally in the WNBA.
Some people, no doubt, will shudder at the thought of reminding San Diego of Alan Wiggins’ past with the Padres. They only remember his name as a disgraced figure that tragically died from AIDS complications after a battle with drugs.
But I remember last year when you didn’t let the court of public opinion prevent you from setting aside a night for the Padres to honor Ken Caminiti, another fallen Padres hero.
You felt it was important for Caminiti’s daughters to know Padres fans adored their father as a third baseman who won the 1996 MVP award and led the Padres to National League West titles in 1996 and 1998.
You wanted Caminiti’s wife and daughters to enjoy a public perception of their father separate from the media headlines about his death from a drug overdose and his admitted steroids use.
You were right. It was an emotional night Caminiti’s daughters will never forget, and they have you to thank for it.
Alan Wiggins’ time with the Padres predates your ownership of the team, so his story won’t tug at your heartstrings like Caminiti’s.
But he left behind a wife, Angela, two daughters, Cassandra and Candice, and son, Alan Jr. Angela remained in San Diego raising her children until Cassandra went off to New York University, Alan Jr. to the University of San Francisco on a basketball scholarship and Candice on her college path.
Last Saturday, Candice scored 33 points in No. 14-ranked Stanford’s win over Arizona State and on the same night Alan Jr. scored 15 points with 9 rebounds in San Francisco’s win over Portland. Not a bad sibling double. To borrow from Hemingway, the daughter – and son – also rises.
It’s too bad Candice plays so far from home, and a weekend as such as Stanford’s games Friday at UCLA and Sunday at USC is the closest she returns to San Diego with her graceful talent. But it was her dream since middle school to attend Stanford. That’s the kind of goal-driven person she is.
Most people shy away from mentioning Candice’s father around her – including teammates of the late Padres second baseman and leadoff hitter who set a franchise record for stolen bases – because of the circumstances of his death. But she revels in hearing stories about her father. Once Candice told me about a Padres fan that recognized her at the airport.
“He talked about my Dad’s (1984) season and then went through all the players on the team,” said Candice, too young to have many memories of her father before he died. “I was just smiling the whole time, enjoying listening to him.”
Someday, Candice says if she’s fortunate enough to gain stature as an Olympic or professional athlete she will use her platform for an anti-drug message.
“I see it as a natural thing to do,” she told me. “I would approach it as something to do in my father’s memory. A lot of kids find themselves in a bad household or a bad situation. But you can get out of a bad situation by making the right decisions. You don’t have to take the hard way.”
Here’s another touching story indicative of her character:
As a freshman at La Jolla Country Day, when Candice led her team to the first of back-to-back CIF state Division V titles, she was awarded the Sportsmanship medal by the CIF office. But when a classmate and one of the team’s biggest fans, Kenner Michael, died in an auto accident on the trip home from the state finals in Sacramento, Candice felt compelled to give her medal to Michael’s mother.
That’s the kind of daughter Alan Wiggins left behind and her mother raised.
It’s been more than 20 years since Alan Wiggins’ struggle with drugs came to light and 15 years since his death from AIDS.
There was a time when Padres fans at then-San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium cheered for Alan Wiggins as he got on first base, stole second base and came home to score on a hit by Tony Gwynn or Steve Garvey for a first-inning 1-0 lead.
His daughters and son deserve to hear the baseball memories of their father cheered one more time.
Tom Shanahan is Voice‘s sports columnist. He is the media coordinator for the San Diego Hall of Champions (www.sdhoc.com). You can e-mail him at