SAN DIEGO -- It didn't take Bret Boone long to fire a zinger at the Atlanta Braves.
Coming back to Southern California means many things to the new San Diego Padres second baseman. "Most importantly, I can go back to hating the Braves' guts," Boone said Tuesday in his first meeting with San Diego reporters since he was acquired in a six-player deal with the Braves on Dec. 22.
Just kidding, Boone said later. He said he doesn't have any hard feelings toward the team he played with for just one season and wasn't trying to stir up anything. That's quite unlike last year, when San Diego's Jim Leyritz, still mad that he was hit by a pitch from Greg Maddux in the 1998 NLCS, had Sterling Hitchcock hit Maddux in a game last year.
"I played for them for a year; we had to love each other last year, now I can hate them again," Boone said. "I had a great time in Atlanta. I went over there and got to the World Series. Business is business, and it's time for me to move on. It's something that's out of my control, but I wish them the best. Now I'm a Padre, and I'm excited to be a Padre."
Boone, first baseman Ryan Klesko and a minor leaguer came to the Padres for Wally Joyner, Quilvio Veras and Reggie Sanders. The trade turned the Padres from a speed team into more of a power team, and it gave them an all-Southern California infield. Boone, Klesko and third baseman Phil Nevin grew up in Orange County, and shortstop Chris Gomez grew up in the Los Angeles area.
Boone was born into a prominent San Diego baseball family -- his father, Bob, and grandfather, Ray, both played in the major leagues -- and played at USC.
San Diego also is Boone's third team in as many years. He was traded from Cincinnati to the Braves after the 1998 season.
Boone had the right to demand a trade following the World Series but decided not to, even after the Braves didn't offer an extension.
At the time, there was talk that he had problems with manager Bobby Cox. Boone said he heard those rumors, but denied anything happened.
"Game 2 of the World Series, I wasn't in the lineup and I wasn't very happy with that, but it didn't become a problem," Boone said. "Yeah, I was as mad as I could be, but I wasn't going to let that affect my team. Bobby and I talked about it. It was brief, it was private, and it was over. There were never any hard feelings. Bobby Cox is a good man. He's professional."
Also Tuesday, the Padres announced that the Sycuan tribe will be the title sponsor of the 2000 season, believed to be a first in U.S. professional sports history. Sources, speaking on the condition they not be identified, said the tribe, which runs a casino, will pay the Padres more than $1.5 million. The team will get just under $1 million, with the rest going to radio and TV advertising.
Deals for three presenting sponsorships are in the works, which will push the Padres' total take to about $3.5 million, a club source said.
The Padres said the deal with Sycuan is OK under baseball rules because its casino doesn't have sports gambling.
Padres president Larry Lucchino said Wendy Selig-Prieb, president of the Milwaukee Brewers and daughter of commissioner Bud Selig, already has asked the Padres for more information on the unique sponsorship.
Padres officials know that some fans might not like the commercialization that comes with the sponsorship, but say that it keeps them from passing costs on to fans.
"I've been worried about baseball careening toward the $29 hot dog because of the completely out-of-whack player compensation system that we have," Lucchino said. "One way to begin to deal with that problem is to find new sources of revenue that don't come out of the fans' pocket."