Commentary

Padres unveil 80-foot TaylorMade driver

Updated: April 21, 2011, 12:09 PM ET
By Doug Williams | Special to Page 2

Finally, the Padres have added a big stick to their lineup.

And this one is bigger than any Louisville Slugger wielded by Adrian Gonzalez, Dave Winfield or Ken Caminiti.

Thursday at Petco Park, TaylorMade and the Padres will unveil an 80-foot-tall aluminum replica of a driver, just inside the right-field foul pole.

It's part of a three-year deal between the golf company (headquartered just up the road in Carlsbad) and the Padres. Terms of the deal weren't announced.

[+] EnlargePetco Park sign
TaylorMade GolfThe TaylorMade sign, a replica of an R11 driver, is 80 feet tall and attached to the right-field foul pole.

The club, TaylorMade's R11 driver, was erected over a three-day period, with the final touches added Wednesday before the start of Thursday night's homestand against the Phillies. The club head is illustrated as a decal on the wall, with the 950-pound hollow shaft and grip rising high above the right-field fence, attached to the foul pole. If a ball hits the shaft above the fence, it'll be a home run.

Bob Maggiore, TaylorMade's vice president of global marketing, calls it a "cool idea" he can't wait for people to see.

"Nobody has seen it and said 'Oh, come on,'" he says. "Everybody has gotten so excited about it, whether they worked here or not."

As part of the launch, TaylorMade LPGA Tour golfer Natalie Gulbis will throw out the first pitch before the game, and hit a "first drive" from the home plate area in the afternoon.

The Padres say Major League Baseball has signed off on the club, whose height matches the length of the Coca-Cola bottle at San Francisco's AT&T Park.

The idea sprang from discussions between Padres vice chairman and CEO Jeffrey Moorad and TaylorMade president and CEO Mark King more than a year ago. They put their creative teams together, and when the Padres one day showed off their idea of the giant club, "Everybody in the room knew instantly that that was a cool idea," says Maggiore.

Over the three-year deal, the display will likely evolve to feature whatever driver is TaylorMade's latest and greatest, Maggiore says. Also as part of the deal, TaylorMade will donate $600 to a San Diego-area charity for every home run a Padre hits at Petco.

Tom Garfinkel, the Padres' chief operating officer, says the deal with TaylorMade is an example of thinking "non-traditionally" to grow revenue while incorporating something that resonates with San Diegans (a local company in a big golf town).

"The traditional model of slap a sign up and call me in three years and we'll tell you how many eyeballs it got ... there has to be more to it," he says.

It's not the first time that a sponsor has been on, or near, a big league foul pole. Since 2006, Chick-fil-A has had its message on the "fowl poles" at Minute Maid Park.

Later this year or next, look for an announcement about what will happen if a batter hits the stick for a home run during a game at Petco.

Remember the "Hit bull win steak" sign in the movie "Bull Durham"?

"We thought about that, and we're going to unveil that part of it later," says Maggiore. "That's coming. We decided not to shoot all the bullets on Day 1."

Also coming, sooner or later, is a nickname.

The Big Stick? The Power Pole?

"We kind of think it's going to happen naturally," says Maggiore. "Let's see what the announcers do with it, and the fans do with it."

Doug Williams is a freelance writer based in San Diego.

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