SAN DIEGO — You might expect just a subtle hint of dread or alarm talking to Peter Seidler, the general partner of the Padres. He’s slugged through heavyweight prize fights with non-Hodgkin lymphoma — once in 2011-12 and another bout 2 1/2 years ago. He’s a Type 1 diabetic.
These are unsettling times for all, let alone those considered at higher risk as the coronavirus shakes the globe. That isn’t Seidler. Not even close. He’s the optimist. He’s the silver-linings guy. He eyes promising horizons when many see storm clouds.
In baseball, the joy of spring cleanses. There’s renewal, with standings wiped clean and possibility shooting skyward like sunflowers. This week, the collective health crisis of a lifetime paused the world — including Thursday’s previously scheduled opening day at Petco Park.
“I’ve got a calendar on my refrigerator at home that had opening day written in marker for Thursday, the 26th,” Seidler said. “We erased it. We’ll probably have a family barbecue that day, count our blessings and see what the day brings. We’ll still have the romance of a great opening day when it comes.”
That’s as Seidler as Seidler gets, mining positivity from even the most uncertain of circumstances.
A pandemic is twisting our lives and stomachs into knots, far beyond the lines bordering a baseball field. We’re told not to gather in groups larger than a game-day lineup card. The prospect of 40,000 or so lined elbow to elbow seems dreadfully distant.
Seidler, 59, and his wife, Sheel, have a young family with daughters ages 5 and 7, along with an 8-month-old son. There’s so much to consider in both head and heart.
Put Seidler’s personal health on that checklist.
“For a long time, I’ve just looked at, you can control what you can control,” Seidler said. “With social distancing and things that apply to everybody, because I’m at more risk, I have heightened awareness of it.
“But I’m an optimist, so I find joy in every day.”
In a phone conversation this week, Seidler shifted topics to the worries and concerns of others — including San Diego’s homeless population, which he and a group of local decision-makers continue to champion. He mentioned businesses and employees whose futures remain in fragile, frustrating flux.
“I’m worried about people who are under financial stress,” he said.
Seidler mentioned his email, too.
“One lady who was hospitalized with cancer and has been for a while emailed how much she’s been looking forward to the (opening) day,” he said.
She’s not alone.
“I miss it,” Seidler said of Baseball Interrupted. “Our fans are optimistic. This is the year we’re really going to show some stuff, right?”
Opening day is delayed, but requisite rosy eyewear need not be.
It’s hard to blame him. Who wouldn’t trade all of this scary, unrelenting mess for arguments about the Padres’ Day 1 second baseman? The question marks at catcher? The skyrocketing potential of Fernando Tatis Jr.?
Baseball talk signals a throbbing Gaslamp Quarter, beer spills and hot dogs for days. It’s the start of something special, whether your team mops basements or shines trophies.
Now, no one is even sure what shape this season will take … or gasping at the absolute worst-case scenario, whether there will be a season at all. Questions, begging elusive answers. Things seemingly change by the minute.
You wonder about the head space of new manager Jayce Tingler, a rookie dugout boss scrambling to build momentum and relationships in a job that still leaves many around the game scratching heads.
Tingler seemed to push so many solid spring buttons, smartly building with mortar instead of soggy sales pitches.
Suddenly, silence — and shelter in place.
“Everybody’s out of rhythm, baseball and everywhere,” Seidler said. “Go to a grocery store and everybody’s wearing gloves and squirting Purell on their hands. Everyone’s resetting priorities. With every passing day, the completely extraordinary becomes a little bit routine.
“I think we’re going to see an amazing appreciation of baseball when it opens back up for everybody — the players, the fans, everyone.”
Seidler, like all of us, hunts for perspective.
“Well, 9/11 was stunning to me,” he said. “I lived in L.A. then. People for a while were surprisingly courteous. You don’t see that in L.A., really. It lasted a couple months. It’s a different look now (in San Diego), a seriousness, a look of fear, but you also see the spirit of humanity coming out.
“There’s a lot of good that will come out of this.”
For one, Seidler found a new skill.
“We’re barbecuing almost every night,” he said. “I didn’t even know how the barbecue worked in this house. So you think, let’s make the most of spending time with loved ones inside those four walls and helping people who need it.”
Baseball is no antidote for the ache we now share. Its arrival in 2020 will indicate an enormous corner turned, however. Isolation will give way to shared experiences. Goodbye, Netflix. Hello, nachos.
For now, patience. We’re in the early innings. Brighter days await.
“We’ll get through this,” Seidler said.
The promise of spring, in ways we never could have imagined.
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