SAN DIEGO — Thousands of Friar Faithful fans who descended on Petco Park Saturday morning for Padres FanFest 2023 expecting to meet their favorite Padres players were left wondering if their journey was in vain when they were met with long lines and confusion on where to go to see the team members - this while many people expressed their excitement for the new season and their love for the Padres.
More than 48,000 people packed Petco Park concourses in designated lines to meet Padres players, have their favorite memorabilia autographed, and even take photos with their favorite athlete: But, the catch? Fans were directed to hours-long lines to wait for random Padres players to meet.
"Do you know who this line is for? Is it for an autograph or picture," Jalyn Barnett, who drove several hours from Camarillo to meet Fernando Tatis Jr. specifically, told CBS 8.
Barnett appeared disoriented as she walked from Petco Park's Field Level to an upper-level concourse, searching for clues that would point her toward Tatis Jr.
Barnett did not have the opportunity to meet Tatis Jr. but saw him from afar.
"We didn't meet Tatis. I'm still so depressed about it. We got so lucky for Juan Soto, but they were [expletive] scavengers for Tatis, and he only signed a few. We were in line and missed Soto, Tatis, and Kim. That's how gnarly the lines were," Barnett said.
FanFest attendees shared on Twitter plenty of similar stories that matched Barnett's.
A record-breaking 140,000 San Diego Padres fans were expected to take over Downtown San Diego for Padres FanFest at Petco Park.
The event was offered free of charge.
Event staff was forced to delay entry into FanFest just a few hours into Padres FanFest due to the ballpark reaching capacity.
Fans observed gatekeepers tallying who left the ballpark, which would provide a count for officials to allow people into FanFest once capacity reached allowable numbers.
A video shared on Twitter showed several people who reportedly waited in lines since 8 a.m. to meet players arguing with two men who allegedly cut in line.
Most lines around the ballpark, from face painting to meeting players, were filled and wiggled in multiple directions with hundreds of people.
Padres officials recognized the unprecedented attendance and announced they'd extend FanFest for fans who did not have a chance to experience the entire event.
"The Padres will extend Padres FanFest hours to 5:00 pm PT today to give our amazing fans more time to enjoy today’s festivities inside Petco Park," the Padres tweeted.
Erik Greupner, CEO of the San Diego Padres, responded to a fan on social media apologizing for line management and missed fan interaction with Padres players.
"Sorry for the experience Jonathan; unfortunately, we couldn’t guarantee autographs for everyone, but we hope you enjoyed the other Fanfest activities," Greupner said in a tweet.
Despite aching reality for some attendees, other fans were excited to spend time with San Diego's finest ballplayers.
"It's like amazing! I never ever met Fernando, and I never got an autograph," said a child excited to be at Petco Park FanFest.
With concessions open and drinks flowing, Friar Faithful were expectant of a great season and felt radiating energy as they moved around the attractions.
Padres had the opportunity to raise funds for the Padres Organization at a Garage Sale where Padres memorabilia was for sale.
"I can't believe how crowded it is here. It's going to be an awesome season," a Padres fan told CBS 8's John Howard.
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