Following the 2010 season, the Padres bid farewell to one of their most beloved shipmates. Captain John C. (Jack) Ensch, USN Ret. decided to hang up his spikes and move on to retirement after over 15 years developing the Padres into the "Team of the Military."
A Navy veteran with over 3,000 flight hours and over 800 carrier landings in F-4 Phantom and F-14 Tomcat Fighters, Ensch has been awarded the Navy Cross, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Prisoner of War Medal, Combat Action Ribbon and numerous other honors for his bravery and service to his country.
But that was just the beginning, following his retirement from the Navy, Ensch enlisted with the San Diego Padres as director of military marketing, establishing the club's Military Affairs Department in November of 1995, the first of its kind in professional sports.
"Everyone thinks the POW experience was the end," Ensch said in 2005. "It's not. It was just the beginning."
Under his direction and with the tremendous help of Michelle Vasquez and Brigid Cranmer over the years, the department grew to become what it is today, a year-round commitment by the Padres to give aid, support and thanks to those who serve our country and their families.
PETCO Park's "Flight Deck," located behind the right field bleachers, provides a visible reminder of Ensch's hard work and dedication. Researched tirelessly by Ensch, the "Flight Deck" features a Military Honor Wall, which pays tribute to all Major League Baseball and Negro League baseball players who ever served in the military.
Fans are given an additional reminder of his efforts at all Sunday home games as the Padres don their military-inspired camouflage jerseys, a tradition that began on Military Opening Day of the 2000 season.
Currently, the Padres have programs in place that provide many benefits to military personnel and their families, both at PETCO Park at in the community. The club provides ticket and merchandise discounts, regularly hosts service men and women at games, holds pregame reenlistment and retirement ceremonies, schedules and coordinates player visits to local bases and throughout the community, and has supported and partnered with numerous of military-related organizations in an effort to ensure that the relationship continues and grows.
An undertaking that is unparalleled in professional sports, it could not have happened without the commitment of the Padres' Captain. While Ensch is deeply missed, his hard work and unwavering dedication to the Padres and the military community have left an impression that will last forever.