Is an MLS soccer friendly being staged in the middle of an MLB pennant race just to test San Diego's soccer-market waters? That's a question posed by Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Zeigler reported that the San Diego Padres, who currently own a six-game lead in the National League West, will allow Petco Park to be converted for a Sept. 14 match between Chivas USA and its parent club Chivas of Guadalajara. The conversion will require removal of home plate and the sodding of the entire infield in barely 48 hours, once the Padres embark on a road trip.
More important, Petco's mound, where San Diego pitchers have compiled baseball's best home earned-run average, will need to be leveled and rebuilt. "Pitchers can be finicky about their mounts - the precise height, depth, angle, even dirt composition," Ziegler wrote. Countered Padres president Tom Garfinkel, "We have a great grounds crew. We have  days before our next home game, and they're confident they can put the mound back exactly as it was, so our pitching staff won't even notice the difference. They've researched it. They've talked to five different teams about some of the things they've gone through and the things they've learned."
Zeigler went on to speculate that the conversion and game might be seen as necessary to build a case for Chivas USA moving from the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles, which it shares with the higher-profile L.A. Galaxy, to San Diego, which Chivas USA nearly chose as its original home. The only time Chivas USA played in San Diego was 2005, drawing roughly 5,000 for a match against Mexican club Atlante. "Escondido has been proposed as a potential site for the Padres' triple-A affiliate in Portland, which, it turns out, is being displaced by an MLS expansion team," Zeigler wrote. "Could the Padres be forming some sort of partnership with the MLS club to build a mid-sized, multi-use stadium?"
A Chivas USA official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Zeigler, "There's nothing to that. I can't be emphatic enough about that."