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01/14/11 10:00 AM EST

Padres' carrier visit delivers night to remember

SAN DIEGO -- There was no amount of arm-twisting needed to coax Jason McLeod, the Padres vice president and assistant general manager, into taking an overnight trip on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson last month.

But for McLeod, who stand 6-foot-4, there was a great deal of leg bending, as he tried to carefully maneuver a way through different parts of the massive carrier that is based out of the North Island Naval Air Station in nearby Coronado.

"The toughest part was walking through the halls and going through the portals, stepping through the 'knee-knockers' that come up to your shins," McLeod said of the numerous door thresholds that separate compartments on the carrier.

"It's impressive how massive this thing is. It's gargantuan."

The son of a Marine, McLeod jumped at the opportunity to visit the Carl Vinson and did not mind the "knee-knockers," nor did the other members of the Padres' traveling party that included reliever Luke Gregerson, broadcaster Dick Enberg, first-base coach Dave Roberts, director of baseball operations Josh Stein and team president Tom Garfinkel.

"Because of what my dad did, I have a great appreciation for the military," McLeod said. "When Tom [Garfinkel] mentioned going on a distinguished visitors program, I was very excited."

Adding to the visit was the fact that the Padres' group had to travel by air on a C-2 Greyhound cargo aircraft to reach the Carl Vinson, located about 50 miles off the coast of California.

An ordinary tour, this wasn't.

"The experience was amazing," Garfinkel said. "Probably the most impactful part of the visit was watching the men and women of the ship perform duties and understanding the sacrifice they make and that they do it with pride. The teamwork they exhibited was very inspiring.

"They love their jobs."

The Padres' traveling party arrived on the Carl Vinson around 11 a.m. PT and spent a day -- and a night, but not a very restful one -- getting a look at just about every nook and cranny of the aircraft carrier while meeting with enlisted men and women and their superiors.

"We got to see everything, from being in the control tower to being on the flight deck, 50 feet from where the jets were taking off," McLeod said. "We had lunch with the officers and met with the admiral and commanding officer."

One highlight, Gregerson said, was spending time on the flight deck, during the day and at night.

"We were right up in the action. The coolest part, and I think everyone else will tell you the same, was being on the deck ... 10 feet away from the jets when they're taking off. You could almost reach out and touch the wing," Gregerson said.

In addition to eating meals with the enlisted personnel, the Padres' party slept on board, which was an experience within itself.

"We saw where the newly enlisted men slept and the space was pretty small," Gregerson said. "We did have nicer beds."

What the group quickly discovered was a restful night of sleep would be awfully difficult to come by.

"Our quarters were nice. I stayed with Josh Stein and we had bunk beds. Compared to the rest of the boat, our place was spacious," McLeod said. "But they make announcements over the loud speakers all night."

Said Gregerson: "The speaker is right next to your ear."

McLeod said he would jump at the opportunity to take a similar tour again, even if he left with a few bumps and bruises as souvenirs.

"For me, just seeing all the different parts of the ship was a highlight. It's almost like a fine-tuned orchestra, the way the ship operates," he said. "It doesn't feel like there are 4,000 people working there."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.