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Sports Talk: Padres show change in season’s first quarter

The Padres pull alongside the season’s quarter pole and, really, the ride has been a hoot.

No longer laughing stocks, no longer the MLB’s version of a welcome mat visitors wipe their feet on, the Padres have shown spunk and sparkled enough to make any team — yes even the big, bad Dodgers — take notice.

It should be another fun weekend at Petco Park, where the local nine greets the Pirates and Diamondbacks in a seven-game homestand.

The roster is a blend of players trying to prove they are worth the dough — Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers — and others earning their stripes, Fernando Tatis, Jr. and a flurry of young arms, most bringing heat instead of hesitation.

Mix in a clutch Hunter Renfroe and slugger Franmil Reyes among the impressive outfield depth, with a serviceable closer in Kirby Yates, and the Padres are relevant.

While Machado is an attention-getter, in various ways, these eyes usually drift toward Tatis. He’s the 20-year-old shortstop with range and time on his side and he’s already made his share of dazzling plays.

So much, and with reverence, many longtime Padres watchers compare Tatis to the incomparable Ozzie Smith.

We’re not quite there because Smith covered most of Mission Valley long before Tatis was born. But a star is being hatched in Tatis, with a bum hamstring about the only the thing to slow down his thrilling rookie season.

While the excitement meter climbed a gear in San Diego, some living in North County are in the shadows of another show.

Lefty MacKenzie Gore, the team’s top prospect, is buzzing through Class A Advanced lineups at Lake Elsinore.

Gore likely makes his debut next year, then again the manner in which the Padres’ conveyor belt delivers fresh arms, maybe Big Mac is here sooner.

Those Storm fans saw a similar entree when Chris Paddack passed through in 2018. He’s gone on to provide the varsity with swagger and strikeouts with his showdown against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw on Monday drawing interest around the Majors.

Dull, the Padres aren’t, and we praise Encinitas’ A.J. Preller, the general manager, and club ownership, for making it so.

So far, so good with the Padres delivering entertaining baseball. After eight straight losing seasons and Mays usually bringing a share of Padres gray (brown?) and their customers deserve some sunshine.

Please enjoy it because things can change fast, especially with the overabundance of inexperienced starting pitching. We remind many that on May 14 last year the fourth-place Dodgers were eight games under .500.

They went on to the World Series, a destination few are predicting for the Padres, regardless of their considerable strides.

Still it’s fun to make it to the 7th-inning stretch during Padres games without being tempted to leave Petco Park or flip the channel. The Padres might not be must-see TV yet, but most of those looking in like what they see.