Hi McCovey Chronicles folks.
I came by a few weeks ago, asking you guys for some local advice, as I was in the midst of planning a baseball trip out to San Francisco. To those of you who contributed fine suggestions and tips, and for those who simply tolerated the presence of a fan-of-another-team guy, I thank you again. My trip took place two weekends ago, and typically, I like to have my visitor's take posts done a little more promptly, but due to the Memorial Day holiday, and some travel that came along with that, I didn't really have the time to catch up on all the blogging and picture-taking I do until more recently. But if I may be so rude as to interrupt the recent FP trends of what's eating Tim Lincecum, I'd like to share some photos and some words from my trip to San Francisco, and my thoughts on AT&T Park.
Be forewarned, as this post contains a lot of images and probably some snark. I look forward to chatting with those interested in engaging.
For starters, the game I made it out for was the third game of the Giants/A's rivalry game on the 20th of May. I deliberately chose this date because I wanted to see a different local rivalry that wasn't Orioles/Nationals for a change, and it happened to be a day game which gave me opportunities to find things to do before and after the game.
Needless to say, this was my first glimpse of AT&T Park in person. I knew that AT&T Park drew extremely well and that there was some sort of streak going on with consecutive "sell-outs," but this was pretty incredible in its own right. This imagery right here was approximately 2.5 hours before the gates were even supposed to be open. What eluded me was the fact that May 20th also happened to be Brian Wilson Garden Gnome day. I'll be frank, I don't particularly care for Brian Wilson personally, but I do understand the attachment that local fans have for their players and the subsequent desire for freebies with their likeness. Needless to say, I took one look at this line, and reminded myself that I really didn't need to get a Brian Wilson garden gnome.
Another shot of the line, this time up front. You know what really irritated me? The photos probably don't show it, but I like to pretend like I'm a photographer of marginal capacity sometimes. And I really like to get pictures of the ballparks I visit and such, but between the palm trees and all the cables suspended over the streets, it's really quite difficult to get a good picture of AT&T Park, with the sign visible from the King Street entrance.
So instead of waiting in line, I decided to take a little walk. I actually left the premises and got coffee at some place called The Creamery, because they boasted "ritual" coffee, to which is completely over my head clearly, but then I made my way back to the park. Here's a picture of the line that really does look like it stretches all the way to the Bay Bridge. I couldn't help but think to how impressive it was just how many people really liked Brian Wilson to want a garden gnome so badly.
I walked around the ballpark, and I couldn't help but notice that there were countless people who were in the process of leaving the ballpark, with Brian Wilson garden gnomes in tow. I've seen people do this before in Atlanta - buy $1-6 general admission tickets, get gate giveaway, stash it, come back for more, sell extras on Ebay. Next thing I know, I was on the Bay trail, looking into McCovey's Cove. These two kayakers were kind enough to pose for a picture for me; I have to admit, seeing live kayakers was a bit of a pleasant experience, seeing as how I'd seen the kayakers on television and in Sports Illustrated pictures, during the Bonds days, or whenever anyone else gets the rare splash hits these days.
Crossing the bridge, to get a look at the Willie McCovey statue, was yet another line, that was stretched all the way to the Jr. Giants Field and folded over. Once again, I express my amazement at the massive demand for a Brian Wilson garden gnome.
And finally, we arrive at the Willie McCovey statue, where the line still extends, but I think is a good representation of Giants fans' commitment. When we look back at this picture, nobody else has to know there was a gate giveaway attached.
When the crowd dissipated to the point where the JESUS CHRIST LOVES YOU sign guy was prevalently visible, I figured it was time to go inside the park. You want to know what the funny thing was? I still ended up getting a Brian Wilson garden gnome when I passed through the gate. Despite getting coffee and dawdling for an hour after gates had opened, I still fell within the first 20,000 people to arrive at the gate.
One of the most interesting things about traveling to different team territories, is seeing the which players the locals love to where they all get their apparel. The Giants fanbase isn't kind of a surprise, because the team is made up of so many quirky individuals, so naturally, I'm seeing tons of Brian Wilson, Tim Lincecum, and Buster Posey apparel. So, I have to target the Oakland fanbase, because for reasons that I can't really find valid, I have no idea why Kurt Suzuki is so popular. This guy is like one of at least a hundred different people I saw wearing a Kurt Suzuki shirsey or jersey. Nevermind the girl in the autographed Coco Crisp shirt, though, I want to know what makes Kurt Suzuki so popular.
This is a massive logjam of human traffic that literally wasted about ten minutes of my life, and one of my genuine gripes about AT&T Park. In front of the kids field, the walkway gets so narrow, and the massive numbers of people don't make it at all easy to traverse. But the fact that one direction of traffic acts like the immovable object while the other direction is the irresistible force, resulting in a literal complete stoppage of movement was absurd. I waited all of five seconds before turning around, only to find that I had backed myself into a position of being unable to move. Ironically with great attendance comes these kinds of faux pas. Fortunately, no other place in the park that I encountered had such problems.
This is the view from my seat. My $46 seat. Now I don't really have problems with sitting in the nosebleeds of any ballpark, but typically I'm also not paying $46 for the privilege. Cheap jokes aside, to put it bluntly, AT&T Park has the distinction of being the most expensive tickets for lousy view that I've purchased. I went to Citizens Bank Park in 2009 the year after the Phillies had won the World Series and not get a view that cost this much. The face value of the lower grandstand ticket I have from Fenway Park was $44. Seriously, this caliber seat back in Atlanta is literally $1, if you show up early enough.
This guy clearly had a better understanding of where the tickets were than I did. Tickets.com doesn't necessarily make it clear to a first-time visitor the magnitude of how far up these seats are, and had I known I would literally be the in the last row of the park's upper deck, I would have gotten tickets elsewhere.
The good thing is though, I didn't really stay in my seats that long. I like to wander around a lot when I visit new ballparks, and truly soak in the atmosphere and look at the field from as many angles as I can. I'm standing next to the group of children that were there on Tim Lincecum's charity, and in the shot, I can truly see just how well attended a Giants game can really get. Believe me, it is something to take pride in, and if anything at all, Phillies bloggers can't use the overplayed "ur fans don't fill the seats" meme on San Francisco.
Naturally, one of the coolest parts about wandering about AT&T Park was walking across Levi's Landing in person. I couldn't imagine sitting there, seeing the batter at home plate at what seems so far away, and for them to still blast something that sails over your head, and into McCovey's Cove? It's incredible to imagine.
I hope this guy isn't a member of this blog. I always cringe when I see people bring brooms to ballparks. I understand the excitement of potentially capping off a sweep, but I'm superstitious at times, and I always feel that brooms are like the worst jinx to have. No matter the numbers or probabilities, I don't ever think brooms are a good idea, even if the Athletics hadn't won in San Francisco in like three years prior, or the fact that the home team had an .800 record in my travels, it's just asking for it. I went to Pittsburgh in 2010, and the Braves had won the first two games. As I was walking to the park, I saw some Braves fans with brooms. The Braves lost that game, the one game I was in town to see, in my visit to PNC Park. Those Pirates would lose 105 total games that year, but they still won the one game I wanted to see them lose the most. It's the brooms, I tell you.
Another general crowd shot, taken from the corner of Levi's Landing. It's funny, every now and then, the Braves will occasionally have a night where 45,000+ show up to the ballpark, and someone will attempt to rain on the parade and say some remark like "yeah, but they're not really fans." My rebuttal to this is always, what does it matter? The key is that the park is filled, and no team really cares if their fans are there to fist pump to the Fist Pump Song, or if they're all there to debate the differences between Fangraphs WAR versus Baseball-Reference WAR. That being said, I do emphasize how impressed I was to see such a wildly packed house for this game. Even if most of the people were there to fist pump to the Fist Pump Song, regardless of the unfortunate score.
Another cool thing was seeing the giant glove out in left field in person. I swore that if anyone could hit it in a derby, it would have been Vladimir Guerrero in the 2007 HR Derby, but instead, he claimed that the derby destroyed his swing, creating the meme-like stigma that the HR Derby was bad for home run hitters. And one thing I loved about AT&T Park is that it's a Coca-Cola ballpark. Obviously, coming from where I do, any place that supports Coke has my support.
Now I've seen some strange jerseys actually owned by regular people in my lifetime, but a sleeveless Pittsburgh Pirates Bat Boy jersey in San Francisco in a game that does not involve the Pittsburgh Pirates, or even a team from the East coast is kind of out of place.
I'm telling you, it was the fault of whomever brought brooms to the park. I kind of had the sinking feeling after I saw the dude with the broom that the Giants probably weren't going to win this game. I'd seen some peculiar things, like chancing my way into seeing Clayton Kershaw's debut, walk-off walks and Carlos Marmol blowing three different saves in three different parks consecutively, whenever I travel, and seeing an eleven-game winning streak in San Francisco snapped seemed like something appropriate. Typically, I like to see the home team win whenever I travel, unless it's against the Braves, or involves the Phillies, but that was not meant to be on this particular day.
As a whole, my impression of AT&T Park is above-average. It's a thoroughly beautiful ballpark, through and through. Aside from the spot on the left field arcade, it's a fairly easy ballpark to maneuver around, and everyone that works there that I had the chance to speak with or interact with were friendly and polite. I do feel that the park could integrate more history inside the ballpark, although all the statues that surround the park's exterior is nice, if there was a Giants museum anywhere in the park, I clearly missed it. But what really kills it for me shouldn't be much of a surprise, and that's the cost of the park experience. $46 for a view I could get for a dollar back home is asking for too much, and charging $9.75 for a Miller Lite is beyond asinine.
I ask myself whenever I visit a different park, if I could imagine myself coming here 20+ times a season if I were local, and in the case of AT&T Park, I'd have to say no. I'd go broke trying to be thrifty. Additionally I ask if I'd come back here, to which I would definitely say yes. It's a fun park, and a nice place to watch baseball. And if you really want to feel like you're in a lively ballpark full of people, I can't say there are many cities I've been to better than San Francisco for it.
Other random quips:
Because I didn't want to take out a loan to get buzzed at AT&T Park, I actually went an entire game without any alcohol. 21st Amendment rectified that pretty quickly, as my friend and I beelined it for there after Brian Fuentes recorded that last out. The food was alright, but I really enjoyed their beer. And then we hung out on the patio for a little while, where I witnessed people actually bringing their baby to a bar patio for some reason. And I asked some A's fans, why Kurt Suzuki, to which they responded along the lines of "best-looking ugly chick at the dance."
I did the Alcatraz tour, and I have to say I was less than thrilled with it. There were simply way too many people on a weekday morning, and the lack of any supervision led to way too many teenage jerkbags with Justin Bieber hair running around like morons, and pretty much anything that had any appeal to it on the island was "closed for your safety." But at least I got some cool pictures of the island.
I did a ton of walking, and after the Giants game and getting drunk at 21st Amendment, I actually walked all the way from there to practically the Golden Gate Bridge. The Fisherman's Wharf was surprisingly kind of over-touristy for my opinion, so I didn't stay there very long.
One of the most fascinating things about this trip was that I kept seeing people in costumes all over the city. From the BART in San Bruno all the way to Embarcadero, were people in costumes of some random variety. I finally broke down and asked someone at some point, and they simply just drunkenly slurred out "Bay to Breakers." Naturally the lack of clarify was of no help, so it wasn't until after my trip did I google it to find out that it was the seven-miler run, that actually sounds like it would be pretty cool. Not lost in the explanation was the observation that Kenyans pretty much run the table with it now, and that more people show up to wear goofy costumes, get hammered and not really actually run. And here I thought San Francisco was just a weirder place than I thought it was, and that Brian Wilson and Sergio Romo kind of make perfect sense now.
Burritos: La Tapatia's burrito > everything. Pancho Villa was good, but a tad overrated. After devouring a La Tapatia burrito, sitting outside of South San Francisco's city hall, I felt this overwhelming sadness come over me, because I realized that I had just eaten something truly magical, and that nothing else really stood a chance afterward. I was unfortunately correct. :(
I found the Full House house, which made me very happy.
And I drove across the Golden Gate Bridge, because it felt like my tourist trip couldn't have been completed without doing such.
San Francisco as a whole is a cool city. Out of all the MLB cities I've ventured to so far, SF is the only one that genuinely truly feels unique. From the dynamic architecture of the housing in the city, all the cable-connected buses, to the radical hills, there were times where I'd say to myself that if I were told that I were in another country, I might actually believe it. To some degree, SF feels like Atlanta on a way larger scale, aside from the drastic demographic difference and topography, but in terms of the clustering of sub cities, how the Haight-Ashbury area feels like a much larger version of Atlanta's own hipster village, and that the BART system reminds me of a larger scale of Atlanta's MARTA.
As for my Brian Wilson garden gnome? I got home and while chatting about it with a friend, I perused Ebay to see what these were going for, since it's inevitable that 50% of gate giveaway enthusiasts end up hocking them for money. I watched three of them sell for $52-55 within a three minute span, and it dawned on me that I simply don't need a garden gnome, let alone a Brian Wilson garden gnome at all. If it were a bobblehead, I'd have kept it without hesitation. Instead, I ended up making $51 on something I got for free. That almost covers the cost of my nosebleed seat, including all the fees.
Thanks again, to everyone who helped me with advice and suggestions; I probably took up more suggestions than indicated in this post, and they were definitely great suggestions. And thanks if you've indulged me and read this far, through this traveler's opinions and words.