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Grace's job is to entertain fans at PETCO

Grace's job is to entertain fans at PETCO

Grace's job is to entertain fans at PETCO
There's nothing like the home opener at PETCO Park as far as Mike Grace is concerned, though you'll forgive him if he's more wrapped up in creating memories for others than he is keeping an eye on the field Tuesday.

"The home opener is kind of the culmination of months of work since the offseason can be long," Grace said. "We're always building to Opening Day. It's kind of our showcase. We really like to put on a great show."

As manager of in-park entertainment, Grace figures to be plenty busy Tuesday, when the Padres face the Giants in front of a sold-out crowd at PETCO Park.

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Grace, who has been with the Padres in several capacities since 1998, is essentially the stage manager, writing the pregame script for everything that goes on in-park before all home games.

He is also, of course, a huge Padres fan and he understands that Opening Day -- or, in this case since the Padres opened on the road in St. Louis, the home opener -- is a big deal for fans.

That's why so much preparation has been done for the home opener. You only get one chance to do this right, Grace said.

"We understand that people have traditions built around Opening Day and we want to make sure we put on something they can remember, something different, something that is exciting," Grace said.

This year, the Padres will be celebrating 75 years of Padres baseball, dating back to their Pacific Coast League days. Grace, along with Karen Madden, the Padres' coordinator of entertainment, have invited several Padres alumni from those teams to PETCO for the home opener.

Broadcaster Dick Enberg will emcee the ceremonies and San Diego resident Jason Mraz, a multi-platinum singer and songwriter, is scheduled to sing the national anthem. There will also be an F-18 flyover before the game.

"We feel like there is a lot in store for the fans on Opening Day," Grace said.

Grace, who grew up in Texas, attended plenty of Padres games on visits each summer to see his grandparents. He eventually moved to San Diego and attended San Diego State University, landing a job on the Pad Squad, the in-stadium ambassadors who mix with fans to ensure everyone has a good time.

Grace's first year on the Pad Squad was 1998, the year the Padres went to the World Series. It became evident to him early on that he wanted to work in baseball.

"I got into the whole production of the game, in-game promotions ... everything that had a connection to the fans," said Grace, who started as an intern with the team in 2001 and eventually was hired full-time in '05.

"I really enjoyed being in touch with our hardcore fans and season-ticket holders and liked the production end of it."

Now if Grace can only squeeze in a few free moments to watch the action on the field Tuesday.

"I'm always excited to put on a show for fans," said Grace, who also presides over the Pad Squad and mascot programs and helps with the coordination of special events.

"I still get nervous ... wanting to make sure everything goes right. But I have got to the point where I feel I can delegate a little bit, so at least I'm able to take it all in and also get the feel for the crowd's energy during the game."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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