Now it’s Padres season.
“Spring training starts today,” Eric Hosmer said. “I’m just happy to go play baseball.”
The Padres on Tuesday introduced the player they gave the largest contract in team history with the expectation he will be a cornerstone of their building process as both a star on the field and a mentor in the clubhouse.
At his first news conference, after putting on the “SD” cap and the new jersey with the new number (30), Hosmer made it clear right away he embraces the challenge.
“I’ve had a few good moments in my career in San Diego up to this point,” Hosmer said. “I look forward to having a lot more great moments there. … It was fun to get the vision and see where San Diego is trying to lead this young group of guys and for them to want me to be a part of this and help guide these guys and help bring this city a world championship, because San Diego is a great city, as everybody knows. But as far as sports is going, I think people are really excited about the Padres and where this organization is going, and I’m just happy to be a part of it.
“To see where the city is and where San Diego is and how they’re just begging for a sports team to go in there and bring some excitement and energy to it, I just saw the direction the organization was going, I saw the people at the top of the mountain that were leading the organization, and I bought in to what they’re trying to do here.”
It was important for the Padres to have Hosmer in camp when it began. It was important to Hosmer to be here.
He left the news conference to go straight to his first team meeting and then take the field with his new team for the first full-squad workout of spring training.
“There’s a lot of excitement to get in the locker room, open these guys’ eyes up and let them know how good they are,” Hosmer said. “… I’m looking forward to helping these guys become the players you guys all project them to be.”
Hosmer, a four-time Gold Glove winner and an All-Star in 2016, agreed Saturday night to an eight-year contract that pays him $105 million over the first five seasons and could pay him $144 million. He reportedly chose the Padres over the Kansas City Royals, the team with which he won a World Series ring in 2015.
“It basically came down to me really liking this organization and where it’s going,” Hosmer said of the Padres. “… It’s a championship gene that (the Royals) try to create over there throughout the minor league system. … I really look forward to bringing that over here to San Diego.”
The Padres two years ago started blowing up a roster, trimming the major league payroll and throwing more than $100 million at prospects from all over the Americas. Their focus is building from within, retaining top quality cheap labor. But they always said they were going to spend on a major league veteran when the time came.
“The next step,” General Manager A.J. Preller said Tuesday, “was being able to later bring in the right piece … to get us where we alternately want to get to, which is a world championship for San Diego.”