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Long before the Padres drafted Grossmont High alumnus Justin Baum — who signed with the Padres Tuesday and reports to Eugene, Ore., Wednesday — on June 8 in the seventh round out of the University of the Pacific, he considered himself a staunch Padres fan.
If that sounds obvious for a homegrown kid, you don’t know how the mustard-and-brown clad Padres were perceived following their 1969 expansion season, throughout the 1970s and beyond.
Back then, the Los Angeles Dodgers still cast a long shadow over San Diego. At the franchise’s core, it lacked fans born and raised as Padres fans.
But that was before John Moores purchased the franchise in 1994 and provided credibility and stability that now identifies the Navy blue, white and sand-clad team with Tony Gwynn as a Hall-of-Famer and Trevor Hoffman a future Hall-of-Famer.
“It’s exciting to be able to play for an organization that I’ve been a fan of my entire life,” Baum said. “I went to those playoff games against the Astros in 1998. It was an electric atmosphere at Qualcomm Stadium. I was only 12 at the time, but hopefully I’ll be a part of something like that in the future.”
Baum, a 6-foot-1, 190-pounder that played third base and first at Pacific, was drafted as a third base man following a season in which he earned first-team All-Big West Conference honors.
He finished the season leading the Tigers with a .367 batting average, eight home runs, 16 doubles, 43 RBI, .553 slugging percentage, 44 walks and a .471 on-base percentage. Baum also was second on the Tigers in hits (83) and runs scored (44).
“I’m looking forward to doing the best I can and trying to move up quickly,” Baum said. “I took a professional approach before my junior year. I wanted to be consistent and a complete player.”
Baum feels undaunted by the challenges of hitting at spacious Petco Park.
“You’ve got to keep the ball in the gap and hit it on a line,” he said. “That’s something I’ve worked on a lot.I wanted to have more of a line-drive approach, which should play well at Petco Park.”
Unlike the mustard-and-brown era, Baum has seen enough of the Navy blue, white and sand era as a hometown fan to understand the dimensions of Petco Park.
— TOM SHANAHAN