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Thu Jul 18 2002
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What's it like being an equipment manager in the big leagues? We asked a 30-year-veteran, of course.

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Brian Prilaman is the Padres director of team travel and equipment manager. He's been with the organization since 1971.

It’s been quite a ride for the father of two who has made his journey with the Friars a family affair. His wife, Karen, has been sewing names and numerals on the back of Padre uniforms since the late 70’s.

“It’s been more fun than I could have imagined being around the club this long and enjoying all the people I’ve met over the years,” said Prilaman. “I was a big baseball fan (growing up). I’d always make a few (games) every season down at Westgate (Park) and here (Qualcomm Stadium).”

Prilaman graduated from Morse High School in San Diego and later attended San Diego City College. One day at Morse, a coach encouraged Prilaman to apply to be a bat boy with the Padres.

“It was a fluke really,” Prilaman explained. “I didn’t even have a car. A friend of mine brought me down and I interviewed with Ray Peralta (the Padres equipment manager at the time) and they ended up having an opening.”

But all was not rosy during the early 1970s as the club struggled to win games and fans. In 1974, the Padres original owner C. Arnholt Smith nearly moved the team to Washington D.C.

“I was worried about it,” Prilaman recalled. “I was hoping that if they went they would ask me to go along. You never know in those situations what might happen. So when Mr. (Ray) Kroc bought the club there probably weren’t too many people as happy as I was.”

Kroc saved the day and one year later Prilaman wed Karen. A few years later Karen joined the Padres.

“Ray (the equipment manager) was needing some stuff sown and it was hard to find somebody who could get in done overnight, which we needed sometimes, and she sewed,” Prilaman explained. “So it was a matter of taking it home late at night and she’d sew it that night or first thing in the morning and I’d have it back for the next day.”

Every season Padre uniforms come straight from the factory sewn, but when a trade occurs during the season or a player is called up from the minors, Karen gets the call.

“There’s been a few times when she’s had to come down (to the Stadium) in the early afternoon,” Prilaman said. “We go into one of the back store rooms and sew so nobody sees it. A few years ago she taught me how to sew just in case I ever got in a bind, which has happened when I’ve been on the road and you can’t find a seamstress.”

Prilaman is now in his 18th season as the Padres equipment manager and for the past five years has been the team’s travel director. From 1977-1985 he was the visiting clubhouse manager – and occasional painter.

“We used to have to paint all the shoes brown because the shoe companies didn’t make brown,” Prilaman explained. “I was painting a size 14 ˝ shoe one day when one of our players came in and asked me what I was doing. We had made a trade with the visiting team and I couldn’t say because the trade hadn’t become official.”

“So I told him my next door neighbor wants me to paint them up for him so the player went, ‘Oh, that’s nice, that’s nice of you.’ Then when the player from the visiting clubhouse showed up (the Padre player) was all over me for giving him a line of bull!”

With a staff of just five, Prilaman’s days are long.

“The hardest part is just the hours you put it,” Prilaman said. “People don’t realize, they think it’s from 7 p.m. until the game ends but it’s basically from 9 a.m. until midnight during the season.”

But Prilaman wouldn’t change a thing. He’s survived four ownership groups, witnessed two pennants and made a lifetime of friendships.

“It is like a family,” he said.

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Jul 18 2002, 05:53:43
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