Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2007 | David Wells is back with the Padres, basking in the eternal warmth of baseball’s spring training. His March surfing trip to Fiji will have to wait until 2008 … 2009 … or whenever he truly retires.

A surfing safari to Fiji was Wells’ plan for his first year of retirement, but then the Padres called Wells with an offer he couldn’t refuse: playing baseball for his hometown team.

Other teams could offer Wells money, but only the Padres hold the card that provides him chance to play for the team he grew up watching as a kid in Ocean Beach and as a dominant Point Loma High pitcher who was named CIF San Diego Section Player of the Year in 1982.

That was a powerful attraction for Wells.

“I’m honored and pleased to have a chance to finish my career in San Diego,” said Wells before leaving for spring training.

The back of Wells’ baseball card says he first signed with the Padres in 2004. He returned in 2006 to help the team win the National League West title following a trade on Aug. 31 with the Boston Red Sox.

But you could say Wells first joined the Padres more than two decades earlier, just two years after he graduated Point Loma and was a second-round draft pick by the Toronto Blue Jays.

In 1984, the Padres were en route to their first NL West title and league pennant. As fate would have it, Wells suffered a career-threatening arm injury that summer and returned home from the minor leagues.

The Padres allowed the scraggily haired kid to rehab his arm at their Mission Valley field that was then known as San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. Volunteering to patiently catch him was the Padres backup catcher — a guy named Bruce Bochy.

“This guy’s made the show,” Wells wrote in his 2003 autobiography, Perfect I’m not. “This guy’s just two months removed from playing the Padres’ first ever World Series, and yet he’s been kind of enough to catch me as I rehab. Over the next two months, Bruce is endlessly optimistic, helpful and a bit of cheerleader for me. Together, we’re both astonished to find my stuff quickly returning to pre-injury form. Pain free and excited, I can’t wait to get back to camp.”

As a kid, Wells split his loyalty between the Padres, who weren’t very good, and the New York Yankees, who were reviving their dynasty under George Steinbrenner with Reggie Jackson and Goose Gossage.

The Padres may not have been very good in the 1970s, but you never know the impact a big-league franchise can have on a kid playing youth baseball. 

Wells, after his rehab stint with Bochy, went on to throw a perfect game with the New York Yankees in 1998, win a World Series title with the Yankees the same season when they beat the Padres in a four-game sweep and compile a career record that stands at 230 wins.

The Padres never pursued Wells when he was at the peak of his career and commanded top dollars — much to his dismay — but he’s been a durable enough to still have a chance to experience playing for his hometown team.

Wells, who turns 44 in May, helps the Padres on the field with his baseball savvy and in the clubhouse with his personality that is larger than life as “Boomer.”

A low pitch count and high strike-to-ball ratio are the reasons he continues to get batters out. Younger hitters might think they can overpower Wells, but they can‘t outthink him.

Wells, who formerly made his offseason home in Florida, decided to build a home in Rancho Santa Fe for his retirement years with his wife, Nina, and two sons, Brandon and Lars.

With Wells right down the street, the Padres decided they needed more pitching to bolster a lineup that lacks a big bat. They added Wells to a rotation that includes newly signed Greg Maddux and his 333-career wins.

Maddux and Wells combine for 563 career wins and additional pitching coaches to complement new manager Bud Black, a pitching coach with the Angels, and Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley.

“I believe that over 162 games, starting pitching wins, and we have the staff that led the league in ERA last year,” Black said. “Obviously, you need a good bullpen. We have that, anchored by our guy at the end, Trevor Hoffman, who hasn’t slowed down a bit. And with (Scott) Linebrink and Cla Meredith, we have those last three innings covered well.”

In addition to the Padres, among the teams that called to lure Wells out of his retirement plans were the San Francisco Giants. Bochy made a personal call to Wells.

Wells remains grateful to Bochy for that summer 23 years ago, but Bochy isn’t with Wells’ hometown team anymore. Only the Padres hold that valuable card.

Tom Shanahan is voiceofsandiego.org’s sports columnist. He is the media coordinator for the San Diego Hall of Champions. You can e-mail him at toms@sdhoc.com. Or send a letter to the editor.

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