I went to my first SF Giants baseball game live at ATT Park last week and dug it. Knowing I'm into the game of baseball, some friends teamed up to buy me a ticket for the 3rd game of the Giants-Braves match-up.
Giants management has a winning formula — a user friendly baseball stadium with something going on visually at all times...in addition to the game on the field. The crowd is engaged with sectional arm waves—anyone can set one off—with fans happy to oblige the group action; dozens of special t-shirts thrown into the seats by personnel for catch-and-keep; couples kissing, one after another, on big screen videos when their photo op arrives; ticker tape messages of "Make some noise!" flashed at appropriate moments; every player at bat getting a screen shot with how they batted at their previous at bats; and a general feel good vibe of everyday people engaged in a pleasurable experience.
In the courtyard before entering the stadium, you encounter a magnificent towering bronze statue of former Giants pitcher Juan Marichal kicking his leg high about to throw a pitch; etched into the stone base are heartfelt messages of praise of his character and skill, showing how much he meant to the team.
The great Willie Mays has his own giant sculpture a block away, honoring the man and all around player, who is often present at Giants affairs, beloved by virtually everyone, seen around the clubhouse sharing stories with the players and meeting with fans. KNBR broadcasts Giants games from Willie Mays Plaza.
After inspecting the artwork, my friend and I entered the teeming arena by the bay at McCovey Cove (in honor of Willie McCovey) where home run balls go to be scooped up by canoes and other sea faring boats floating along the bay, quite a picturesque recreational scene. We walked along the promenade by McCovey Cove where dozens of birds fly overhead and the water below moves in waves of wind. The Ferry Boat from Oakland arrives carrying dozens of eager fans dropped at the stadium's front door for $7.50 each (compared to $7.50/hour to park your car).
My first most pressing need was to get a radio and headphones to tune in to Kruk and Kuip broadcasting the game live. We found the 2nd floor section where they provide this radio loan service. I asked for the broadcast program equipment they had. A very friendly woman offered something with the announcer Vernell. I responded that my desire was to hear Kruk & Kuip broadcast the game, as I'd learned from them and John Miller and Dave for years. She provided a tiny Radio Shack radio with headphones and covered the batteries with scotch tape to keep them from falling out. I provided my name, seat#, phone#.
I told them it was my first trip to ATT Park though I've been a Giants aficionado for a decade. They went and typed my name on a plaque-like paper certificate welcoming me into the fold and followed up with a black and orange team cap and flag. I thanked them profusely for their kindness with a promise to return the radio for the next person. I intend to follow up with a note of appreciation for their loan policy based on the word of honor of fans.
Buoyed, we found our seats as high as you can go to the top, a covered bleachers sort of thing, the $20 special. It was a perfect view of all the action on the field minus the coca-cola sign wall. I also had another friend whose seat by Levi's Landing was offered to me as well, so I tried it out for a few innings — so close to the action, where the grass is bright green and the soil a rich dark brown, so different than the aerial view.
The Giants won easily but it wouldn't have mattered. The fans love the atmosphere, the sense of personal freedom and the team they've come to believe in, win or lose. They are playing poorly right now, in next to last place in the National League West slightly ahead of San Diego.
The main deficiency seems to be timely hitting. Only Posey is batting over .300. There are no replacements for Barry Bonds, making 'small ball' of greater value. Not that Bonds is missed with his conspicuous giant leather locker chair in the clubhouse to show off exceptional status. There is now a greater sense of egalitarianism; players stand out based on merit, not material affects — Johnny Cueto's shimmy; Hunter Pence's vegan diet and scooter transportation; Brandon Crawford's superior play at shortstop with his long hair in the tradition of Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgardner, their two stand-out pitchers, aka hippies who learned how to play baseball really well.
There are 6 or 7 floors to the stadium with vendors from top to bottom, including an organic restaurant as well as individual vendors pushing organic food only. This advance is rooted in the 60s when the health food movement began to take hold; finally it has reached the mainstream and the Giants are embracing it. No surprise really, considering the quality of life in San Francisco as a health and freedom conscious city and the former third base coach as a musician with roots in the Dead Heads, back when healthy food and drugs were an important part of the life style.
San Francisco birthed the marijuana freedom movement in the '70s with Peron, Moscone and Milk at the helm. San Francisco passed Prop W(eed) at the ballot and the California Legislature passed the Moscone Right to Privacy Bill (1976), a major reform reducing under an ounce from a felony to a misdemeanor. Unity of marijuana and sexual freedom led to a rogue cop's assassination of Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978 in retaliation.
The marijuana movement then went to sleep for a generation under the relief provided by possession of an ounce as a misdemeanor, no longer a felony. The movement surfaced from its slumber in 1996 with Prop 215, a major win for medical marijuana at the CA ballot, spearheaded by Dennis Peron and the gay community in response to the AIDS epidemic. This voter approved mandate of marijuana for medical purposes was the greatest breakthrough out of prohibition since it began in 1936.
The Giants abandoned Candlestick Park for ATT Park where MLBaseball in San Francisco has flourished ever since. Having rebuilt the team, post steroids era, with "talented misfits" and excellent coaching, all the hard work came to fruition in 2010. The Giants won it all behind Tim Lincecum, dubbed "the freak" by his odd delivery and long hair (the pun), and a team of lovables, such as Sergio Romo, relief pitcher, who wore a bold t-shirt saying "I only look illegal!", referring to his Mexican lineage.
So there's a little story about my trip to see the SF Giants live and in person. I'll probably never have the occasion to go again but I enjoy being an official member of the Giants Family...come what may.