May 29, 2015

SAN DIEGO (AP) Play ball! Uh, basketball that is.

San Diego State and the University of San Diego are scheduled to play a basketball game on the San Diego Padres' home field on Dec. 5, the first time the major league park has hosted hoops.

The Padres and the schools don't think they're tempting fate by taking the game outdoors, and think the game will fare better than SDSU's loss to Syracuse on the USS Midway in November 2012. That game, on the decommissioned flat top's flight deck, was delayed two days by rain. Once it was played, it was windy and the bright sun affected the players.

''That Midway game was tough,'' said SDSU forward Winston Shepard, who got to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Friday night's Pirates-Padres game. ''One side of the court was shaded, the other one was sunny. I think the wind from the water ... I threw a couple of passes, tried to early-up, and the balls just sailed.

''I've been told it should be a little different here. So I'm just excited to be able to play in this arena. It's just crazy,'' Shepard said.

The Aztecs lost that game 62-49. Not only did they have trouble with Syracuse's huge front line and 2-3 zone, but they shot only 1 for 18 from behind the 3-point line.

''It was awful,'' Shepard said. ''I appreciate every opportunity we had to play in that game, but as far as the actual game, it was crazy. The elements were overbearing in that game. We don't expect that to be this game. We're not on a boat in the water, so it should be different.''

Padres President Mike Dee said he thinks the 2 p.m. tipoff time and Petco Park's seating bowl should help tame the wind and glare.

''Obviously, you can't predict the weather, even here in San Diego, but if you're going to try, this is a pretty good place to do it,'' Dee said. ''Obviously we don't have a retractable roof if it decides to shower that day. That could be an issue.''

If it rains Dec. 5, they'll try to get the game in the next day.

The Padres are expanding the use of Petco Park, including hosting concerts by Paul McCartney last fall and the Rolling Stones last Sunday night, and a first-round Davis Cup match between Britain and the United States in 2014.

''We think it's going to be a tremendous venue for this sort of event,'' Dee said. ''We hope it's something that is a tradition here at Petco Park and we can continue to explore basketball in the future. But the first thing first is getting this one right. We're hoping the weather gods cooperate.''

The court will be set up lengthwise between third base and home plate. Capacity is expected to be nearly 20,000, including nearly 3,300 seats in bleachers set up around the open sides of the court.

Tickets will range from $20 in the upper reaches to $300-$400 courtside. Student tickets will be $10.

Both coaches said they're excited for the game. Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler is a big booster of both schools.

''We're going to shoot better that we did against Syracuse,'' SDSU coach Steve Fisher said. ''The elements will be a factor. But I don't think the wind will be the kind of factor we saw when we played on the Midway. I'm not worried about rain, I'm not worried about the sun, I'm not worried about the wind. We're excited to be here and we know it will be a wonderful event.''

New USD coach Lamont Smith said it will be ''just a distinctive game that a lot of people will always remember. Anytime you can play a top-notch opponent like San Diego State on a neutral floor is something that will be outstanding for our basketball program. I think the unique thing is it is so creative and fantastic for all the fans here in San Diego.''

Of the four college hoops games that have been played outdoors since 2011, the only two that were played to completion were in San Diego. Besides the Midway game, North Carolina beat Michigan State in front of President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson at Naval Air Station North Island on Nov. 11, 2011.

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Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson

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