Shaikin: Padres’ Joe Musgrove can solidify home hero status in NLDS

They blew up a piece of Joe Musgrove’s childhood a few years ago. Qualcomm Stadium was the old home of the hometown club in a city that lives to despise the Dodgers.

In San Diego, Musgrove is as authentic as it gets. When Musgrove first saw the Dodgers play his Padres there, he got into an argument and was kicked out of the stadium. He wasn’t old enough to drive.

He is the choice of the people. He’s not blessed with the incredible skills of Manny Machado or the amazing talent of Juan Soto, but he’s one of them.

Musgrove can lead the Padres and their fans to a promised land on Saturday night. If the Padres win, they will defeat the mighty Dodgers and advance back to the National League Championship Series for the first time since 1998.

Musgrove was 5 years old at the time. On Saturday he should be the starting pitcher.

“I know the fans are all very excited about this,” he said before the Padres beat the Dodgers 2-1 in Game 3 of the NL Division Series on Friday night. “As a team we are definitely at the highest level.

“The energy will be high and I’m excited to be given the opportunity to decide our fate one way or the other.”

Of course, if the Padres had lost on Friday, he would have struggled to keep a magical season and the hopes of a championship-starved city alive.

Here his home is your home. Last year, on the night he threw the first no-hitter in the history of a franchise born in 1969, neighbors rushed to the family home to celebrate.

“And then,” Musgrove’s sister Terra told Annie Heilbrunn of the San Diego Union-Tribune, “we had three guys who had just moved into the neighborhood — I’d never met them — who came over in their Padres jerseys and something Brought beer and just partied and shouted with us.”

The Padres' Joe Musgrove, right, shakes hands with teammate Jurickson Profar after Musgrove's no-hitter April 9, 2021.

The Padres’ Joe Musgrove, right, shakes hands with teammate Jurickson Profar after Musgrove fielded a no-hitter against the Texas Rangers on April 9, 2021.

(Richard W. Rodriguez/Associated Press)

The party continued the next morning at Caffe Adesso, the family’s drive-through coffeehouse in Alpine, off Interstate 8, about 30 miles east of Petco Park. The number 44 on the menu is what Musgrove drinks: a cold brew with vanilla cream. Check Instagram to see when Musgrove biscuits and other Padres baked goods are available.

That day after the no-hitter, fans drove through from dawn, partied and honked and ordered a No. 44. Musgrove’s first year even showed up.

“His dream at age 6 was to be a professional ball player,” Lisa Castillo, who tutored him at Flying Hills Elementary School, told the Union-Tribune. “I still have goosebumps.”

Which brings us back to the fight Musgrove got into at Qualcomm Stadium. He didn’t get into a fight with a Dodgers fan, and he didn’t even get into a fight during the game. The incident happened before the game when Musgrove and another young fan fought over a ball batted by Phil Nevin during batting practice.

Nevin, now the Angels’ manager, laughed heartily at this.

“It would have been a lot better if it was during the game,” Nevin said, “no BP home run.”

As Musgrove recounted on Friday, his parents had led everyone into the stadium, then gone back to the car, leaving him and his friend in the outfield. The Nevin sphere flew toward her, then landed in a drink holder.

“Me and this other kid are staring at it from side to side,” Musgrove said, “and we’re both waiting for someone to make the first move.”

Both made their move. Musgrove was there first. The other boy tried to snatch the ball out of Musgrove’s hand.

“I hit the boy,” Musgrove said, “and I kind of looked at him like I was going, oh my god, what did I just do?”

A security guard threw Musgrove out, who came back in embarrassed with his parents.

Nevin played for the Padres from 1999 to 2005, for the last two seasons at Qualcomm Stadium and the first two at Petco Park. His phone blew up on Friday, with friends exchanging texts and screenshots as soon as Musgrove shared his story in a pre-game press conference.

“I don’t know Joe,” Nevin said, “but I’m a huge fan. I love the story. He’s a guy from San Diego and I’m really committed to him in the playoffs.”

Musgrove is a guy all of San Diego can draw for, and his story might even win a heart or two among Dodgers fans. But consider this: Remember Game 5 of the 2017 World Series when the Houston Astros thrashed Clayton Kershaw in part because they knew what pitches were coming? Kershaw threw 39 sliders; the Astros swung and missed by one.

Do you know who the winning pitcher was that night? Musgrove.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-10-14/game-4-of-nlds-padres-joe-musgrove-can-be-home-hero Shaikin: Padres’ Joe Musgrove can solidify home hero status in NLDS

Emma Bowman

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