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 business owner. ‘a major league franchise. He stood out from the start for the way he entered this exclusive club.
In an interview two years ago, Seidler recalled being “locked up in my house” in late 2011. That year, he began receiving chemotherapy and other treatments at home for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He remembers feeling physically “good” and “terribly bored.” A baseball team down the highway from the Los Angeles area resident was for sale. So Seidler, a successful private equity investor and scion of the family that moved the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Chavez Ravine, requested more information about the San Diego Padres.
Curiosity quickly turned into determination.
“It struck me when I looked at the documents,” Seidler said during the 2021 interview. “Through my private equity background, I’ve seen a lot of great companies and I’ve seen some is part. But one thing about professional sports, to reiterate what I first heard from Commissioner (Bud) Selig, baseball is a social institution, and it always has been. I believe that to this day it is America’s pastime, and the impact it has San Diego Padres can have on the city and county of San Diego is something like 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 effectively treated the Padres as a social institution, who elevated the franchise to unprecedented prominence and who stood out until the end.
“Peter was probably the most positive person I knew,” Ron Fowler, who teamed with Seidler to buy the Padres in 2012, said Tuesday afternoon. “To say he considered the cup half full is probably a error. 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 ‘it would happen.’ He was just extremely positive in the way he looked at people, at issues, at everything. He always saw the good. I think that’s the way he had his relationships, that’s the way he was in business, and obviously that served him well.
My heart aches at the sad news of the passing of Peter Seidler. I’m sure everyone who knew him would agree with me when I say that Peter was a truly wonderful human being and being in his presence was always a blessing.
He was a teacher of life and taught me countless…
– ダルビッシュ有 (Yu Darvish) (@faridyu) November 14, 2023
In an industry known for its pursuit of cold, hard profits, Seidler was a beloved figure, even as he helped make Petco Park 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 then 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 later retained Machado with a $350 million contract. They demonstrated Seidler’s desire to win, again and again, with equally lucrative commitments to Fernando Tatis Jr., Joe Musgrove, Yu Darvish And Alexandre Bogaerts. They achieved the franchise’s first nine-figure payroll, including a $249 million haul on Opening Day. (As recently as 2012, a few months before Seidler and Fowler purchased 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 resolve remained intact throughout. His increasing financial expenditures proved this. His health issues informed his approach. And his efforts off the field provided more evidence.
Fighting homelessness in San Diego became Seidler’s personal mission. Some of these attempts were known to the public, such as his creation of the “Tuesday Group” and his involvement in the movement Lucky Duck Foundation. Some of his efforts were more private. Seidler, for example, made a habit of taking long evening walks not far from the San Diego coast. Along the way, he stopped frequently to converse with the homeless, to listen and seek to better understand one of the community’s major crises.
“He was passionate about it,” Fowler said. “I once said, ‘Peter, I think it’s the government’s responsibility to honestly do this.’ …Some days it seems like one step forward and two steps back. But you have 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 evident even before he purchased the team. In early 2012, when Fowler and Seidler first met in person, the latter had just finished treatment for cancer. He looked so fragile that Fowler wondered if Seidler would need immediate medical attention. Still, Seidler was undeterred, taking methodical notes on a legal pad while speaking with Fowler, a pre-existing minority owner of the Padres.
“I was wondering why is he trying to buy a baseball team right now? Why isn’t he trying to recover? » said Fowler. “But he 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 lost through chemotherapy. He remembers being cold.
He also remembers being captivated by the beauty of the ballpark and the surrounding city, a city that had never celebrated a major sports championship. He remembers being inspired.
“Maybe that’s when I got serious,” Seidler later recalled.
In the years that followed, Seidler repeatedly demonstrated his commitment. Along the way, he befriended the man who built Petco Park. They became friends over a shared experience.
“He wanted to win because he was a great sportsman, and great sportsmen want to win,” said former Padres president and CEO Larry Lucchino, himself a survivor of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “But he definitely wanted to do something for the city.
“He was a remarkable baseball player and an even more remarkable human being, and I’m upset that he was taken from us so soon.”
Peter Seidler never got the chance to experience what he so desperately wanted: San Diego’s first major sports championship. But on Tuesday, as Fowler, Lucchino and others around 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.
– Jake Garegnani (@JakeGaregnani) November 14, 2023
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(Seidler Photo: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)