The Tucson Padres may or may not escape last place this season, but there was evidence Wednesday that they are indeed playing in the house of champions.
The smell of rug shampoo gave it away.
After Sacramento clinched the Pacific Coast League's Pacific South Division title with a 15-2 win over the Padres on Tuesday at Kino Stadium, the River Cats held a lively champagne-and-beer party that required a thorough cleaning Wednesday before the Reno Aces moved in for a five-game series.
The Aces are in position to mess up the place again, entering the series with a magic number of just five to win the Pacific Northern Division.
Two possible champions, one week, all in the same park that hosted Tucson Sidewinders victory baths in 2006 and another River Cats party in 2007.
Not that it mattered much to the Padres.
"I'm just worried about getting some wins," Padres manager Terry Kennedy said Wednesday before his team won 9-5. "Obviously Reno is going to win that division, and Sacramento was going to win ours. They just happened to be here at the end of the year."
The guy it does matter to: Cory McClelland, a recent Arizona graduate who serves as the visitor's clubhouse manager.
Anticipating that the River Cats might celebrate Tuesday, he went out and purchased champagne, beer and protective plastic coating for the locker stalls. Then he spent half of the game setting it all up for Sacramento to enjoy.
Here's a look at how McClelland executed it:
McClelland made a $400 trip to Total Wine, coming back with 50 bottles of sparkling wine and four 30-packs of beer.
The label of the champagne did not matter nearly as much as the price, since little of it is actually consumed.
"It's just whatever is cheap," McClelland said.
McClelland said he purchased $5.99 bottles, with a 10 percent case discount, and barely rose an eyebrow by doing so.
"I thought they would be surprised telling them I needed 50 bottles of champagne, but they didn't seem surprised at all," McClelland said.
Players actually drank the beer, McClelland said, which was equally divided between Bud Light and Coors Light.
McClelland visited Home Depot to buy a 4,800 square foot roll of plastic painters tarp for about $50. Then he covered each locker stall with a sheet that could be folded up and hidden (if Sacramento did not win) or quickly let down for protection (if Sacramento did.)
"You've gotta prepare," McClelland said. "You never know if it's going to happen. You've got to leave it so you can hide it or pull it down."
McClelland moved the main couch of the visitors clubhouse out, then set up the wine and beer in the middle of the room. Then he sat back and watched.
"We had it all in a trough, and it worked out well," McClelland said. "They came in and everyone got a bottle ready. They did kind of a celebratory announcement and then popped the corks off."
McClelland arranged for a cleaning crew to come by early Wednesday before the Aces arrived. The clubhouse appeared in top shape Wednesday except for the smell of rug shampoo.
"They shampooed and extracted what they could," McClelland said.
River Cats management agreed to reimburse McClelland directly, and the clubhouse aide also received a slight boost in his tips from players.
"A few of them may have thrown in extra money but nothing outrageous," McClelland said. "I got a few 'Hey, you did a great job.' That's all I'm really looking for."
• Wednesday's game was delayed 30 minutes by the threat of rain, though the storm missed Kino Stadium.
• The Padres activated outfielder Eric Patterson (sprained wrist) and put pitcher John Van Benschoten (biceps tendinitis) and outfielder Drew Macias (oblique strain) on the disabled list. Kennedy said he does not expect Macias to return this season.
• Former UA basketball coach Lute Olson is scheduled to throw out the first pitch tonight.
• What: Reno at Padres, two seven-inning games
• When: 6 p.m.