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FIELD TRIP OF DREAMS

AROUND THE MAJOR LEAGUES IN 49 DAYS


Pacific Bell Park (AT&T Park)
San Fransico, CA
Oakland A's at San Francisco Giants
June 29, 2003

By Ken Schlapp

I can't help but hear Journey's "City by the Bay" as I start to write about the Ballpark in my second favorite city  (Need you ask?  New York is of course on top!).  I don't think Pac-Bell Park could be in a nicer spot. It's right on the water, so you can even get to the game by ferry.  I've never taken the ferry route to the ballpark (I have taken the train though), but my wife once met me at the game by taking the ferry and said that the view of the city, the bridges, and the ballpark were amazing.  I can tell you that just walking around the outside of the park you can get a great view of the Bay Bridge, which takes you to Oakland (where today's opponent hales from).  In fact, when you walk around the park during the game you can even watch the game from the Portwalk outside of right field without buying a ticket!  There is a sign there that asks the fans to only stand there for 3 innings to make sure that others can watch if they want to.  I think this is a great set-up!

The water takes on even a bigger focus because of Barry Bonds and Willie McCovey.  Willie McCovey has always been one of my favorite all-time players even though I only got to see him play at the very end of his career.  I know this may be unusual for a kid from New York City, but I figure that I became such a big fan because I am such an avid Strat-O-Matic baseball player.  One of the first teams I played Strat with was the 1962 Giants, of which McCovey was one of the stars (along with some guy named Willie Mays). McCovey was a big powerful left-handed batter that hit many blasts over the right field wall (at Seals Stadium and Candlestick Park), so in honor of his popularity and power the water behind the right field section is named McCovey's Cove.  Barry Bonds is also intertwined with this section, because since the Giants moved into Pac-Bell in 2000 he has deposited many balls into McCovey's Cove.  Which is then an adventure in itself as several fans typically show up via boat in an attempt to catch a Home Run ball or at least pick it up after it starts to float.  The Giants even keep track of the number of balls hitting the water with the "splash landing" count on the right field wall.  They also keep track of the all-time HR leaders in order to focus on Bonds ascendance up the list (he's currently 4th behind Aaron, Ruth, and Mays).

For this game, the Giants did something for me that no other team had done on my trip.  They gave me a media pass.  The only problem was that I had no idea what to do with it.  My whole perspective on writing about this trip was about sitting with the fans and enjoying the game from the same point of view as the home fans.  Therefore, I didn't want to go up to the press box to watch the game where I would have felt out of place.  I wanted to be with the crowd, so I watched the game from the standing room only section behind the right field seats.  The weird thing here is that the Giants wanted to make sure that I had everything I needed to write my story, but I felt all out of sorts.  I was also too dumb to realize that I had access to the field prior to the game and didn't take advantage of it!  I had a great time at the game and want to thank the Giants again for their hospitality even though I was a bit befuddled.

I didn't let my confusion stop me from taking in all that the ballpark has to offer to the fans, which at this park is plenty.  As you may have figured by now, I love when teams embrace their history, and the Giants do a great job of remembering their past.  The entrance of the park is on 24 Willie Mays Plaza to recognize the best player in team history.  There is even bronze statue of Mays here as well as 24 palm trees to recognize his uniform number.  On the other side of the ballpark and beyond the Lefty O'Doul Plaza entrance, you can walk over the Lefty O'Doul Bridge that will take you to China Basin Park at McCovey Point.  First of all, O'Doul is a Hall of Famer from San Francisco (even though he never played for the Giants) that started out as a successful pitcher until he hurt his arm and was forced to become an outfielder that was one of the most feared hitters of his time.  At McCovey Point you will find a bronze statue of Willie McCovey as well as a 1,500 foot long wall that has markers in the shape of home plate to commemorate each season the Giants spent in San Francisco prior to Pac-Bell Park (1958-1999).  Each marker lists the opening day lineup, each player, statistical leaders, and significant achievements during the year.

Even the concession stands embrace the team's history.  You can buy sausages at Say Hey! Willie Mays Sausages, BBQ food at Orlando's In honor of Orlando Cepeda) and Gilroy Garlic Fries and microbrew beer at John J. McGraw's Derby Grills.  Aside from the historic concession stands you can find just about anything you want, from sweets (Candlestick Cream) to pizza (Portwalk Pizza) to seafood sandwiches (Fresh Catch), to your basic ballpark fare as well as many other foods.  The specialty food at the park though is the garlic fries.

If you come to the game with kids they will have no trouble finding something to do (if they are unfortunately uninterested in watching the game).  Behind the left field bleachers, you will find the Coca-Cola Fan Lot.  This is the play area where you see the giant old-style glove and large Coca-Cola bottle that this park is famous for, but when you get close you realize that within the bottle is 4 slides for kids to play on.  There is also a miniature wiffle-ball park that is shaped like Pac-Bell for the kids to play in.  After the game, kids can go play t-ball at Barry Bonds Junior Giants Field at McCovey Point.

As for the game, I didn't get to see Bonds hit one into the water today because he usually takes the day off on Sundays.  I did, however, get to see another one of the fun Interleague rivalries between the Giants and the Oakland A's in the battle of the bay.  The game was pretty one-sided though as the Athletics won 5-2.  The A's got on the board first on a sac fly by Mark Mulder (yes, an American League pitcher) and an RBI double by Eric Byrnes in the 2nd.  The Giants got one back in the 3rd on two of the most exciting plays in Baseball; a triple by Ray Durham and a perfectly executed suicide squeeze by Neifi Perez.  However, Byrnes struck again in the 5th with a leadoff homer to give the A's all the runs they would need, but he wasn't done.  He doubled again (and later scored on a Terrance Long sac fly) in the 7th for his 4th hit of the game.  He then came up one more time in the 9th with two out and the lead firmly in hand, so he promptly hit a short fly ball into center field, which Valderama lost in the sun.  The ball bounced over his head allowing Byrnes to reach 3rd base with his 5th hit and complete the cycle, which is about as rare as a no-hitter.  The many A's fans in attendance went crazy over this, especially because it was against the Giants.  I've been to hundreds of games in my life, but this was the first time I got to see a player hit for the cycle.  It was pretty exciting!

I have to say that the most interesting thing in the stands were the A's fans.  They were much more vocal than the Giants fans.  I got the same feel here that I did in Chicago with the Cubs and the White Sox, with Giant fans appearing very similar to the Cubs fans and the A's fans just like the White Sox fans.  Meaning that the Giants fans seemed to be just happy to be there watching a game in a beautiful park, while the A's fans were there to yell and scream and root for their team against the hated Giants.  As much as I loved the atmosphere of the park, I found the A's fans to be more fun.

Bottom line - If you're in San Francisco, make sure you go see this ballpark even if there is no game that day.  You can just enjoy the view of the bay and the Giant's history at McCovey's Point.  If there is a game, it's a great place to watch no matter where you sit......or stand!

Basic trip facts:
* Stadium # 11
* Old Stadium Sites visited - None (Total - 6)
* Miles traveled - 858 via Car (Totals: Driving - 7,170, Subway - 20, Air - 3,196, Total - 10,406)
* States, provinces and/or commonwealths passed through - Washington, Oregon, and California  (Totals: States - 24, Provinces - 0, Commonwealths - 1)
* Seats -Section N/A, Row N/A, Seat N/A (I had a media pass) - Spent game in Standing room only section behind Right Field Bleachers
* Prices: Parking - $20 (I parked for $15 close by), Beer - $5.50 - $7.00, Cheeseburger - $6.00, Hot Dog - $3.50, Program (including pencil) - $5.75, Souvenir Soda Cup - 4.75
* Credit Card giveaway -Giants Bobble Head Doll
* First Pitch -  1:09 PM
* Attendance - 42,508
* Results - A's 5, Giants 2,  W - Mark Mulder, L -Jesse Foppert, S - Keith Foulke
* Home team record to date - 7 wins, 7 losses
* Record of "team I was routing for" to date - 4 wins, 10 losses
* Lodging - Oakland, California

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