The first time Garrett Stubbs returned to Petco Park as a major league player, he called his parents as they crossed a pedestrian bridge linking the stadium to the Omni San Diego Hotel.
“Stay there,” he said.
A few minutes later, Stubbs appeared in the hallway, waved his arms and shouted hello from about 300 feet away. He couldn’t get close. It was the summer of 2020, the epidemic was rampant, and the ball fields were empty of fans, even those with children on the team.
“That was kind of bittersweet,” Stubbs recalls.
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This week will be different. Stubbs is back in his hometown, this time as a backup Phillies catcher, and will have a rooting division. keyword: Section. Over “a few hundred people,” according to his father, T. Pat Stubbs, every game. There may be a bigger crowd on Sunday, given the possibility that Stubbs will get a rare start in the series finale.
Stubbs, 29, visited last year with the Houston Astros and started one game against the Padres. But that appearance, seven months after he traded Phillies for secondary defensive player Logan Cerny, comes after he made his first major league game (May 22 against the Los Angeles Dodgers) and Homer’s exit (June 15 against Miami). Marlins). He hits .317 and hits .659 with a 404 on base in 48 appearances for the board behind Ironman catcher JT Realmuto.
Like a backup quarterback who makes the most of little playing time, Stubbs has become a fan favorite for more than his slight stature and backstory. This weekend, his family and friends are hoping for another chapter.
“We’re going to be wearing our blue powder and our red stripes,” T. Pat Stubbs said by phone this week. “The whole Phillies experience was really amazing and the dream came true the way it went.”
Stubbs roots in San Diego. He grew up in Del Mar, a beach town 20 miles north of downtown. Padres’ season tickets have been in the family since roughly the team’s first season in 1969. His grandmother, Maxine, is very tough, and he rarely misses a game.
They went to matches at the old Qualcomm Stadium. When the Stubbs and his brother CJ, now a catcher in the Astros ranch system, were 5 and 2, respectively, their mother took them to the Padres Parade for the 1998 NL Championship. T. Pat remembers the Stubbs trying to get Rickey Henderson’s attention from their seats in 2001. Favorite Stubbs Player: Trevor Hoffman.
“He always came on when we were winning,” Stubbs said. “He came to the Bells of Hell. It was like, ‘Yeah, that’s the guy.'”
That wasn’t enough to keep score. Stubbs mapped where players are positioned on the field and pay attention to which stadiums are called.
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Once Garrett and CJ started playing competitively, the Stubbses would still pack the car after the games and drive to see the Padres, a ritual that T. Pat described as “a family thing.” Before Petco Park opened in 2004, T. Pat brought his sons to the construction site and took a photo of where the house plaque would be.
“It was just a fun picture,” he said. “I just wanted my kids to play Little League, and I never really expected that they would keep playing like they did.”
The first and most formative influences of baseball were Stubbs in San Diego. He learned catch from Ed “Hoggy” Herrmann, a San Diegan player and Major League catcher for 11 years with the Chicago White Sox. The late Padres met General Manager Kevin Towers and then Director Bruce Bushey.
Oh, and then there were the hit lessons from Tony Gwen. truly. The Hall of Famer saw Stubbs playing at the age of 12 or 13 and offered to help him.
“He was very generous with his time, and it was a useful time,” Pat remembers. “He was sitting there talking hitting and saying you don’t have to take the ball out of the park to have an impact on the team. You can hit a ball in the hole 5-6 [on the left side of the infield] And get two RBIs for that.”
Gwynn’s biggest takeaway for Stubbs?
“I was young, so it’s a little foggy now,” Stubbs said. “I didn’t talk much all the time. Really nervous. But he was a happy, calm guy. He was always smiling and loved being on the baseball field.”
Stubbs made college at Torrey Pines High School as a freshman despite being 5 feet 3 and 105 pounds. (So far, he’s rated 5-10 and 173, and he’s usually mistaken for a bat boy.)
“He’s been underrated his whole life,” said Matt Chase, Stubbs High School coach. “He looked and looked past. But he understood, ‘Look, I know I’m undersized, so I know this game better.’ He’s got a crazy baseball IQ. He’s a kid who wanted to learn how to play properly. He wanted to learn how to get into all areas. He used to steal 25 bases for us as a hunter. He kicked out nearly 40 out of 46 kids in his first year.”
The whole thing still fascinates T. Pat, who suffocates discussing his sons’ professional careers and jokes that he annoys his friends how many times he marvels at how far Garrett and CJ have come in baseball. Before every match, he sends his sons the same message: “Enjoy today.” As he said, “That’s it. They are playing a game.”
Life as a Realmuto alternative means less playing time than nearly every spare catch in baseball. So, when Stubbs got home last week, T. Pat’s phone exploded with at least 300 text messages and 50 voicemails.
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Unlike a couple of years ago, there will be plenty of opportunities for Stubbs to see family and friends this weekend. He will also bring a gift. He recently said he plans to give his parents his first indoor running ball, another symbol of how far he’s come from those days in the stands.
“Looking at where my family and I have sat since I was a kid, and now we live in the field,” Stubbs said, “It’s kind of impressive, I don’t know if nostalgia is the right word, but one of those moments you had a dream when you were a little kid studying And you watch the top league players and you want to be like them and now you finally get to that place where you look at the seats that you used to look at. It’s really cool.”