Here's the deal: All Little League chapters within a 10-mile radius of Petco Park were given the opportunity to choose from 20 past and present Padres jerseys and matching caps, all at no cost. Most of the leagues jumped at the chance. When the dust settled, the Padres had supplied 11,600 jerseys and caps to over 800 local T-ball, baseball and softball teams. Even better, the kids get to keep the gear when the season's over.
The uniform program is the brainchild of Padres president and COO Tom Garfinkel, who came up with the idea last year during a Little League promotion at Petco Park. "We had about 8,000 Little Leaguers doing a parade around the warning track before the game, and it occurred to me that almost none of them were wearing Padres jerseys," he recalls. "They had jerseys sponsored by local businesses, jerseys from other teams. And I thought, 'Wouldn't it be great if they were all Padres?'" So Garfinkel and his staff made it so.
You don't have to think very long to realize that this is a win-win for everyone involved: The kids get sharp-looking new uniforms; their parents get to reconnect with old Padres uniforms they remember from years past; the leagues can repurpose their uniform budgets toward other objectives (many of them have used the savings to improve their fields, upgrade their scoreboards, and so on); and last but not least, the Padres generate a huge amount of goodwill while forging an early bond with their next generation of customers.
So how will they announce the teams and keep them straight?
"You can't just say, 'The Padres are playing the Padres,'" says Bruce Bourdon, another local league administrator. "And we didn't want to name the teams after the coaches -- Bruce's Padres against Paul's Padres, or whatever. So instead we're saying, 'It's 1972 home against 1984 road.'"
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