The Coast News Group
Franklin Lewis, center, was about to embark on his 28th season as a Padres usher. Courtesy photo
ColumnsSports Talk

Sports Talk: Lewis eager to usher in another Padres season

Like most baseball fans, Franklin Lewis is hitting rewind.

“I like watching the old games but you know how they are going to end,” Lewis said.

Lewis, of Cardiff, was set to start his 28th year as a Padres usher.

Just maybe during a time when baseball needs direction, the personable Lewis can point the way.

He’s done just that as a Qualcomm Stadium and Petco Park usher, where he sets up shop near the right-field foul pole.

“It’s a pretty good spot,” said Lewis, a retired teacher. “There’s a standing area there where I can talk to people and they can just hang out. In most ballparks, the standing-room area is 30 rows up. At Petco, it’s right after the fifth row.”

Front-and-center are the MLB owners and players as they negotiate a path toward playing games. But countless others are involved, like Lewis and his service-oriented colleagues, and they miss the game, too.

For Lewis, 68, that includes seeing familiar faces. He taught physical education at Carlsbad’s La Costa Meadows Elementary School for a dozen years and in four of them, Padres great Trevor Hoffman attended his annual track meet.

“The nicest part of the Padres games is when former students stop by,” Lewis said. “Some haven’t changed and others have.”

What never flipped for Lewis was that tug from baseball. The Brooklyn native remembers the 1960 World Series when New York Yankees’ second baseman Bobby Richardson slugged a grand slam.

While Lewis was drawn to the perennially successful Yanks, his address said otherwise, especially in 1962.

“Brooklyn is a National League borough,” he said. “So I started to root for the Mets. Every time the Mets come in everyone razzes me, ‘We know who you’re rooting for Franklin.’ ” But you can like two teams, too.

Lewis came west but his Brooklynese remained and that includes his name tag designating his hometown. His dish of baseball comes with an entree of confidence.

“If you’re from Brooklyn you have two things built-in: baseball and attitude,” Lewis said. “Which is great because at Petco I get to talk to fans from all over their country. Sometimes I know more about their team than they do.”

Lewis’ can-do spirit didn’t take long to shine, and yes he did look spiffy at his first opening day in 1993 when ushers wore tuxedos.

He started in a Qualcomm Stadium escalator and four days in he was elevated to the right-field seats. A year later he started the tradition of hanging a “K” banner after a Padres pitcher notched a strikeout.

And just below Lewis was Tony Gwynn in his prime. “I got to see some of the best years,” said Lewis, a keen observer of all things baseball.

“I didn’t bother him much, but one time I yelled out that his son, Tony Gwynn Jr., had hit a grand slam in a playoff game for Poway High the day before. He turned around and acknowledged that one.”

Lewis, who played all sports growing up in the Big Apple, hopes the worm will turn between the owners and the players.

When Lewis punches the clock it requires standing through batting practice and games that flirt with fours hours. Still, nothing erases his love for baseball.

“All the games they’ve shown on TV in the off-season the Padres won,“ Lewis said with a laugh. “So it’s kind of nice that the Padres are undefeated.”

In Lewis’ section, that notion always has a reserved seat.

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