From WEEI to baseball's most interesting postseason team: The incredible journey of Wayne Partello

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The idea arrived from some members of his team. His hands rubbed together with a fire-starting friction. Then came the smile and then the laugh.

It was familiar reaction to those who knew Wayne Partello.

The kid from Norwood has always loved ideas and energy. He did when interning at his first radio station. He did did when setting up those promotions in seemingly each and every bar around Boston, handing out stacks and stacks of promotional keychains and koozies. He did when trying to separate himself from the other disc jockeys up and down Landsdowne St. He did when serving as a self-taught online video maestro for WEEI.com. He did when showing the Miami Dolphins fans how to enjoy things Big Wayne style.

And he did in the days leading up to his hometown team coming to the place where one of the most unpredictable paths had landed, Petco Park.

The big, bad Red Sox with their legion of fans were coming to town and the Padres Chief Marketing Officer and his cohorts had a message to the visiting team.

“We can cry about it or have fun at their expense,” Partello noted.

And so it was.

In the eighth inning of what was supposed to be Red Sox’ fans home away from home during their team’s Aug. 25, 2019 game against the Padres, the local who had been setting up cameras for WEEI shows 10 years earlier had something up his sleeve.

“Sweet Caroline” got rickrolled.

Commence the celebratory belly laugh. Partello hadn’t changed a bit, and now the most entertaining team on the postseason is reaping the dividends.

“I pinch myself all the time,” Partello, the Padres CMO for the past seven years, said by phone. “I’m a kid from Norwood. I was a bartender at TJI Fridays. This is a far shot from where I came from. I love Facebook memories because I love seeing what I was doing before this wave crashed all over me, picked me up and moved me all over the place.”

As the upstart Padres get to show off their wares to a postseason baseball audience it’s worth telling the story of the 42-year-old whose job it is to market a team that has evolved not one of baseball’s most marketable organizations.

Within the inspiration that San Diego’s team might be bringing those who though Southern California baseball begun and ended with those Los Angeles Dodgers, you aren’t going to find more inspirational entity than Partello.

He was a 5-foot-2 sophomore at Norwood High who lacked confidence and direction, but was flush with personality. By the time graduation came around his body had accelerated, but the career path was stuck in neutral. After participating in a ride-along with a fellow Norwood native, Partello committed to attending police academy in Winter Haven, Fla. for seventh months. The occupation didn’t take, but some of the experiences did.

“I got some incredible life lessons, things I still use today,” he said. “But the most important thing I learned confidence

“I once asked a friend of mine, this little short guy, how come all the girls talk to him. He said ‘You walk in with your head down like ashamed to be here. I walk in like I own this place. If you get in the street you're going to get us killed with that type of attitude.’ That stuck with me.”

Anybody who has been around Partello since understands that.

The newly-confident — and always driven — gentle giant started his next career path, DJing. The 19-year-old’s first stop was the bar Paddy Burkes near the TD Garden, with his showmanship and musical acumen leading him to become a man in demand. But he still wasn’t getting the break needed to move on to what he really wanted to do - be on he radio.

So upon hearing KISS 108 was doing a remote Marathon Monday at Who’s On First — an establishment Partello only worked Saturday nights — he volunteered his services. The more established DJ had already staked claim to the gig, but they told Partello he could serve as a bouncer to be near the radio folks. Fate intervened for one of the first times. The regular disc jockey overslept, allowing the now 21-year-old to get in with the promotional folks from the radio station, one of which who ran the internship program.

Partello was on his way to radio fame and fortune … kind of.

After enrolling in Connecticut School of Broadcasting solely to get the piece of paper that would allow for the internship, he started making his mark at the station. It took seven months of interning before he was offered a full-time job as a promotions director for the Entercom stations in the building (one of which was WEEI).

He didn’t have a college degree, but he did have a job, and, as it turned out, a springboard to another wave of opportunities.

“(His now-wife) Kristen asked, me, ‘What do you want to do? You're really good at drinking beer and handing out t-shirts,” remembered Partello. The answer was easy. So the next wave of ideas were on-deck.

The first break came with the coveted 2-6 a.m. time slot Saturday mornings on STAR 93.7. Then was some overnight work Fridays on WAAF. And all the while Partello continued to make his presence felt in the promotions department. Finally, something new and full-time outside spreading the radio stations gospel at local waiting holes — the self-taught videographer was being hired by newly-formed WEEI.com to lead its online video charge.

Yes, 10 years ago the Chief Marketing Officer of the San Diego Padres was the video guy for the digital arm of WEEI.

Now, this is where this story takes its biggest jump.

“Because I didn't go to school I didn't have direct path of where needed to go I needed someone to believe in me,” Partello said. “I knew that needed to happen at some point.”

That guy was WEEI head of sales who had been hired by new Miami Dolphins president Mike Dee to start living life in the NFL. As it turned out, the Dolphins needed a Senior Director of Content, and as it turned out there was one very interested and driven candidate — Wayne Partello.

After calls upon calls to Rushton, Partello was hired.

“That was a crazy ascent,” he admitted.

When it came to making the Dolphins entertaining  —  on TV, in the stadium, outside the stadium, basically everywhere within the reaches of Miami fandom — Partello was involved. For four seasons he that guy, until Dee called again.

The new president of the Padres wanted that Big Wayne energy at Petco.

His resume was his reputation. That was good enough for Dee.

“I knew I always needed people to actually get to know me and understand me and truly give me that chance to shine because I didn't have that piece of paper to validate me to be the room,” Partello said. “My first interview at WEEI I just never mentioned (not having college degree) and months later it came out. I just knew I could get things done.”

The wins on the field haven’t always been there during Partello’s stay in San Diego, but the marketing of the Padres has consistently been a contender, with their widely-praised uniform launch this past offseason serving as one example. The entire department is considered one of the best in the business.

And now, even though Partello and his team have to market this very marketable team from a distance due to the pandemic, the baseball world is watching. And some of what they will see is the handiwork of that guy who showed the professional mountaintop can be reached without using conventional footholds to get there.

"I love what I get to do, because of the people I get to do it with," he said. “It’s been a pretty cool ride.” Next stop: The MLB playoffs.