July 11, 2013 by Rebecca Herman
It has been a mere 48 hours since the announcement that Tom Garfinkel had resigned as the CEO and President of the San Diego Padres. My first thoughts were sadness and loss … through his tenure I have had numerous opportunities to interact with Tom and always found him to be accessible, approachable, honest, transparent, engaging, intelligent, and caring – qualities people and organizations seek in a leader.
It didn’t matter what the record of the club was at the time – he was always present! Meeting with fans at the ballpark, holding meetings with season ticket holders, attending events, and being engaged in our community. I love that he initiated and expanded the Little League Uniform initiative – and I see kids at the ballpark each game wearing their uniforms. Thus, not only did this help the community but it is also building the Padres brand and the market for future season ticket holders. The importance of the Military in our community has been steadfast and San Diego remains the leader in showing our Service men and women that we appreciate what they do. I get chills at each Sunday game – watching them file in and later take the field with our Starters – the Padres are a class act and maintaining that takes class leadership. He also embraced technology and used it to reach out to those on Facebook and Twitter. Leaders don’t hide in their office – they spend time with their team, their customers, their community – Tom did that!
For the past two years, we have truly enjoyed attending the San Diego Padres Annual Awards Dinner (you can read more about it HERE). The 2013 program included Dick Enberg as the Master of Ceremonies and addresses by Tom Garfinkel, Ron Fowler, Josh Byrnes, and Buddy Black. During Tom’s address he thanked many people that make the Padres a great ballclub and then said “… then there are our fans … and we have two super fans in attendance … Wayne and Rebecca … where are you? Wave your hands so everyone can see you!” We were very humbled that he (a) remembered us and (b) took the time to give us a shout-out. But that’s just the kind of guy that Tom is!
Tom is also credited for bringing Sunday Breakfast on the Field to Petco Park. Participating in this has truly become one of my favorite Sunday game traditions. It has improved each year and it seems to be running very smoothly right now. However, it really isn’t about the food and beverages … it is that you get to sit on a Major League Ball Field! There is something magical about that especially early in the morning when the hard-working Grounds Crew is ensuring every blade of grass is ready for a perfect game. Players and coaches from each team do light workouts, play catch, and (yes) take time to visit the fans that are having breakfast on the field. It is one of those “Major League” experiences that the MLB talks about wanting its fans to have … and something that seems fairly unique to San Diego. I was dismayed to hear folks on The Mighty 1090 quickly dismissing this and saying it would be gone as fast as Garfinkel. Why? Obviously, those who would say this have not had the experience or they are already afforded much more access (via media) than the typical fan will ever have. Please don’t assume the ticket-buying FANS don’t want this benefit. If you haven’t taken advantage of Breakfast on the Field, please consider it – unfortunately, it may be gone after this year – but I hope not.
It’s already been noted that Tom was an active force on Twitter – connecting to the fans. One of the things he did regularly was to UPGRADE fans to better seats. He would walk around the ballpark with tickets and literally give them away to fans who were proudly wearing Padres gear. This year he also started an upgrade where he would Tweet his location and challenge fans to “find him” – the first ones to do so would get a great upgrade. On June 22 – while the Padres were battling the Dodgers – such a tweet went out … “I’m at Hodad’s – first one here gets an upgrade.” Wayne had just checked Twitter and took off, saying – “Garfinkel is at Hodad’s!” I was confused as he ran off. But he returned with UPGRADE tickets. The four of us got to sit in Home Plate Box #6! [Not to be confused with the Lexus Home Plate Club … these seats are located along the walk directly behind sections 101 and 103.] They include large, comfy seats, flat screen TV, and in-seat complimentary food and beverage service. We loved it and took full advantage of all the amenities for 3.5 innings. It was awesome!
Little did we know that this would be our last encounter with Tom at Petco Park. It is bittersweet but made for a fantastic lasting impression of someone that we believe is a great leader and terrific man – we will miss him and wish him amazing success in all his future endeavors. For now, enjoy some much deserved time with your family, Tom! God Bless!