Did you hear it!!!!

There were some that attributed the noise to the Earth being closer to Mars then it has ever been in recorded history, but I know different. I know the true origin of the faint but collective gasp heard around the N.L. West this past week. It may not have been as distinctive as Ross Perot's, NAFTA related, "giant sucking sound", but for San Diego Padre fans it was music to the ear.

You see that sound was the collective whine from all the other general managers in the division after the new and improved Padres, you know the version with Brian Giles and the hope of more real talent on the way, beat up on Curt Schilling and the Arizona Diamondbacks at Bank One Ballpark. You can be excused if you missed it; the thunder clap of baseballs being firing into all fields (and 2 which left the field entirely) might have drowned it out.

Also you will have to excuse me if am I gushing a bit over the boys today, but darn it has been along time coming and with the exception of a few isolated moments here and there, this could be the first time we have allowed ourselves to get genuinely excited about the future of this team. Since a period in mid June when we were neck and neck with the Detroit Tigers in a chase for the worst all-time record for a season, there has been a slow momentum of progress ebbing through the life blood of this team. I am not sure of the exact date when it started, maybe it was when the Padres signed Rod Beck and stopped losing games they had played well enough to win, or maybe it was the return of Phil Nevin to the line-up after another long stint on the DL, or possibly it was the first rumor of a big trade with Pittsburgh on the horizon. Regardless of when it began, you could feel the tide turning, the team was playing better (near .500 ball over that period) but doubt still remained. We had heard the rumors before, been told that patience is a virtue, and had even had a couple of "wait till next year's" thrown our way, so the skepticism was not without justification.

Then it happened. The rumor and hearsay became fact and reality, the dreamed about and planned for had awoken to its fruition and Brain Giles was in a Padre uniform starting in left field. Now I can hear you yelling as you read this, "Come on Greg, no one player makes the difference between a 100 loss team and a play-off team" and you're right of course. However, this one man represents more the sum of his base hits or runs scored; the trade that made Brian Giles a Padre instantly made the Padres a better team, because it changed the focus and the motivation of the other 24 guys wearing the uniform. Brian Giles did not hit home runs for Ryan Klesko and Phil Nevin last night, but he did have as much to do with them being hit as did Ryan and Phil. In addition to the protection he gives to either hitter with his presence in the line-up, his mere presence on the team has given so much more. He is the light at the end of a very long tunnel of losing for the Padres, and for once that light was not an on coming train ready to take a proven Padre to a contender at the All-Star break. This light was one of hope for the future of the Padres, and for once, quoting the late George Allen "THE FUTURE IS NOW"!

There was also one other sound heard round these parts last night. It was more faint then the first, but just as comforting here in America's finest city. This sound was much softer and had the sound of relief to it. This sound was five and a half years in the making, and it has been building up ever since the Padres fell to the New York Yankees in the 1998 World Series. It is a sound whose heart lived in the memory of the cascading applause of 65,000 fans, who even in defeat wouldn't let their hero's leave without one more curtain call, but whose reality existed in echoes of 5 seasons of failure. So you can forgive Kevin Towers as well, if he allows himself one moment for a semi-silent sigh of relief and expectation, it has been a long time coming and he deserves it. Moreover, he might be entitled to one more sound; a giggle, as he ponders just what he is going to do with all of John Moore's money burning holes in his pocket.

It is not finished yet, and the all the pieces are far from all being in place, but for once we can see Kevin Tower "working". It is like taking a Polaroid instant picture, there is excitement about seeing the result, but initially the picture is fuzzy, then over time it starts to take on recognizable forms, and the fuzziness wears off, and before long your realize that your looking right at it, with the clarity being both literal and figurative. I think we are almost there. As the Padres continue to cross of things on their "to do" list, we will get even closer. So keep watching the picture, be somewhat patient as the focus refines itself into reality, but keep watching. Because some day soon here in San Diego, October is going to mean more then just jack-o-lanterns and candy corn.

Greg Olmen can be reached at dgolmen@cox.net

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