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Ken Finnigan honors former baseball stadiums with his series of coasters. The one above is for Lane Stadium, where the Padres of the Pacific Coast League played. Courtesy photo
Ken Finnigan honors former baseball stadiums with his series of coasters. The one above is for Lane Stadium, where the Padres of the Pacific Coast League played. Courtesy photo
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Sports Talk: Carlsbad’s Finnigan digs baseball’s former homes

Ken Finnigan’s revved interest in old ballparks led to coasters and we’ll toast to that.

Finnigan, of Carlsbad, enters baseball venues like others do churches. He arrives gratefully and with reverence, noting each niche of cool that makes them compelling.

But Finnigan especially embraces those stadiums that have landed in the demolition dumpster. Those iconic and endearing pieces of concrete and steel that were bulldozed everywhere except in fans’ memories.

So Finnigan created Classic Park Brew Collectible Coasters that salute those bygone beauties. On Finnigan’s 35 coasters, he also names a beer for the vanquished stadium and who wouldn’t enjoy a San Diego Stadium Sun Hazy IPA or a Lane Field Lager?

“That was always in my mind to commemorate those torn-down stadiums,” Finnigan said.

Finnigan, a retired engineer with the city of San Diego, is clear that he likes beer and dated ballparks. He also produces home batches of brew and his original idea was to match his beers with the erased stadium’s names.

But business, like baseball, can throw curves. Finnigan decided that was too heavy of a current lift, so he pivoted to coasters. His product is a mix between a baseball card and a beer and better yet, it prevents glass rings on your table.

“I set out for this to be a hobby and it’s kind of mushroomed,” Finnigan said. “It’s something that I enjoy and people really like the nostalgia of it.”

Sometimes the present can upend a carefree spin with that past.

Yes, that was Major League Baseball ringing up, and lawyered up, when they called Finnigan.

“Initially they were not willing to allow me to use the old stadiums and team names,” said Finnigan, and yes, he consulted with a trademark attorney. “Then they said, ‘You know what, some of these stadiums have been gone for multiple decades so you’re OK. Just don’t use the team logos.’ ”

Finnigan doesn’t and they’re not missed. Instead each coaster unearths different things to different people.

San Diego sports fans are feeling it close-up with the recent tear-down of the Padres’ former digs in Mission Valley.

“I can remember going with my brother for the first time in the 1980s,” Finnigan said. “It was before the stadium was enclosed and you could see out to the hillside. It was a better baseball atmosphere before they enclosed it. I appreciated its brutalist architecture and the circle ramps. I would have liked to have seen them continue to use it somehow.”

The wrecking ball thought otherwise, which swung open memory lane. Finnigan’s roots are in New York where he once sat at his relatives’ knees, hearing tales of the Polo Grounds in Manhattan and Ebbets Field in Brooklyn.

“I was in Little League and they were still being talked about as hallowed grounds,” he said. “Then you would see the old news reports on famous anniversaries of Roy Campanella and guys like that. There was an atmosphere at the ballparks that my generation missed out on when they started building the cookie-cutter stadiums.”

As an adult, when Finnigan heard that a stadium was being replaced, he would visit before it was gone.

“They were more unique in appearance and style,” he said. “They really connected to the neighborhood.”

Finnigan, a onetime Mets fan, is providing a link to baseball’s onetime cathedrals. Maybe it’s appropriate that Finnigan now roots for the Padres.

Contact Jay Paris at [email protected]. Follow him @jparis_sports