With the Padres, Peter Seidler distinguishes himself in many ways as the ideal owner

Peter Seidler, a man who often walked around with a baseball in his hands, who dressed more modestly than his employees and who spent unprecedented amounts of money in a small media market, was unlike any other franchise owner. big leagues. He stood out from the beginning, because of the way he entered that exclusive club.

In an interview two years ago, Seidler recalled being “locked in my house” in late 2011. That year, he had begun receiving chemotherapy and other at-home treatments for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He recalled feeling physically “fine” and “terribly bored.” A baseball team down the road from the then Los Angeles-area resident was for sale. Then Seidler, a successful private equity investor and scion of the family that moved the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Chavez Ravine, asked for more information about the San Diego Padres.

Curiosity soon turned into determination.

“That struck me when I looked at the materials,” Seidler said in the 2021 interview. “With my private equity background, I had seen a lot of fantastic companies and been a part of them. But one thing about professional sports, to reiterate what I first heard from Commissioner (Bud) Selig, is that baseball is a social institution, and always has been. I think to this day it is America’s pastime, and the impact that the San Diego Padres can have on the city and county of San Diego is something that no other business can have. And that was important to me.”

Seidler died Tuesday morning. He was 63 years old. He will be remembered as an owner who truly treated the Padres as a social institution, who elevated the franchise to unprecedented prominence and who excelled until the end.

“Peter was probably the most positive person I knew,” Ron Fowler, who partnered with Seidler to buy the Padres in 2012, said Tuesday afternoon. “To say he saw the glass half full is probably a mistake. I think he saw it almost three-quarters full. He saw the possibilities, the advantages of everything.

“He always said things could be fixed or ‘this will happen.’ He was extremely positive in the way he saw people, problems, everything. He always saw the good. I think that’s how he was in relationships, that’s how he was in business, and obviously it served him well.”

In an industry known for its pursuit of cold, hard profits, Seidler was a beloved figure, even as he helped turn Petco Park into one of baseball’s most popular destinations. Several years ago, he emerged even more emboldened after a second bout with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The Padres subsequently signed Eric Hosmer to the franchise’s first nine-figure contract. They signed Manny Machado to San Diego’s first $300 million deal (briefly the largest deal in North American sports history) and then retained Machado to a $350 million contract. They demonstrated Seidler’s desire to win, time and time again, with equally lucrative commitments to Fernando Tatis Jr., Joe Musgrove, Yu Darvish and Xander Bogaerts. They posted the franchise’s first nine-figure payrolls, including $249 million last Opening Day. (As recently as 2012, months before Seidler and Fowler bought the team, the Padres had a $55 million payroll.)

Seidler’s big swings led to high-profile misses in 2019, 2021 and 2023, but his determination remained intact throughout. His increasing financial expenses demonstrated this. His health problems influenced his approach. And his off-field efforts provided further evidence.

Addressing homelessness in San Diego became Seidler’s personal mission. Some of these attempts were known to the public, such as his founding of the “Tuesday Group” and his involvement with the Lucky Duck Foundation. Some of his efforts were more private. Seidler, for example, got into the habit of taking long night walks not far from the coast of San Diego. Along the way, he stopped frequently to talk with the homeless, to listen and seek greater understanding of one of the community’s biggest crises.

“He was passionate about it,” Fowler said. “I once said, ‘Peter, I think it’s the government’s responsibility to do this frankly. …It seems like some days there is one step forward and two steps back. But you need to have a positive attitude.” Otherwise, I think he would find it very frustrating, but he continued to pursue it.”

The Padres, of course, were Seidler’s full-time project. His passion was obvious even before he bought the team. In early 2012, when Fowler and Seidler met in person for the first time, the latter had recently completed cancer treatment. He looked so frail that Fowler wondered if Seidler needed immediate medical attention. Seidler was undeterred, however, and took methodical notes in a notebook while speaking with Fowler, a pre-existing minority owner of the Padres.

“My thought was, why is he trying to buy a baseball team right now? Why don’t you try to recover? Fowler said. “But I wanted to buy a baseball team.”

Around the same time, Seidler attended his first game at Petco Park. In the 2021 interview he recalled the weight he had lost thanks to chemotherapy. He remembered feeling cold.

He also recalled being captivated by the beauty of the stadium and the surrounding city, one that had never held a major sports championship. He recalled feeling inspired.

“That might have been the moment I got serious,” Seidler later recalled.

In the following years, Seidler repeatedly demonstrated his commitment. Along the way, he became friends with the man who built Petco Park. They bonded over a shared experience.

“He wanted to win because he was a great athlete, and great athletes want to win,” said former Padres president and CEO Larry Lucchino, himself a non-Hodgkin lymphoma survivor. “But he wanted to do something for the city, without a doubt.

“He was an extraordinary baseball player and an even more extraordinary human being, and I am angry that he was taken from us at such a young age.”

Peter Seidler never got to experience what he wanted so much: San Diego’s first major sports championship. But on Tuesday, as Fowler, Lucchino and others in baseball paid tribute to a man who treated the Padres like a social institution, Seidler’s legacy was clear: In some ways, he was the ideal owner.

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(Seidler Photo: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)