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Shocking the world at Pac Bell Park (The only place left where Bonds is loved)

Note: This is the first of what I hope will be a series of ballpark reviews during the course of this year’s MLB regular season. I currently live in Central California (Bakersfield) and almost exactly between San Francisco and San Diego (with Oakland, Los Angeles and Anaheim somewhere between). I’m going to try and check out all five California ballparks with other ETSF contributors checking out others across the country. Enjoy.

City: San Francisco
Team: Giants
Miles From Home: 285

You’ve never seen a city happier than what the people of San Francisco are right now. It’s always been a city that loved their Giants, a team deep-rooted with as much positive history as a franchise could have without a championship to show for it. The Giants moved to San Francisco in 1957 (the same year the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles), and spent the next 52 years title-less, and quietly became one of the most tortured franchises in all of sports.

Ironically, torture would become the theme for much of the Giants 2010 regular season, where they were able to finally bring the World Series title to San Francisco on the backs of the Giants starting pitching rotation and timely post season hitting from guys like Cody Ross, Pat Burrell, Aubrey Huff and rookie of the year Buster Posey.

Stadium’s History (B+)
With the 2010 World Series being brought to ‘Frisco, it was only right that I traveled up to the bay for my first Ballpark Review -- that and the fact that I was born to be a Giants fan, with both my father and grandfather loving the team. Even though my immediate family is based in Los Angeles, I grew up loving the Giants, and learning about the team’s history. As a young black kid whose first favorite sport was baseball, the history of the team was littered with great managers and players of color.

Dusty Baker managed the Giants during my formative years, and the Giants were the first NL franchise to hire a black manager, Frank Robinson in 1981. Then there is the forever great Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Maicial Orlando Cepeda and Gaylord Perry -- with the first four of those guys having statues around the stadium. Willie Mays’ statue is right in the front of AT&T Park, surrounded by 24 palm trees to honor the number he wore for the Giants. Willie McCovey’s statue is located in right field across McCovey Cove, a portion of the San Francisco bay right outside of the stadium. McCovey Cove is the location of the “Splash Hits”, or all homeruns that sailed over the right field fence and landed in the bay waters. All four statues were created by William Behrends.

Normally, for a stadium that is only a decade old (opened in 2000), the grade would have been much lower, but the statues as mentioned above and a few historic events that happened at the ballpark bumped the grade up. Despite AT&T Park being only a little over 10 years old, the Giants have managed to rack up some MVP awards (Kent 2000; Bonds 2002, 2003, 2004), Cy Young awards (Lincecum 2008, 2009), a no hitter (Sanchez 2009) a rookie of the year award (Posey 2011), won a World Series (2010, Texas Rangers) and were one win away from winning another (2002, Anaheim Angeles).

Also, the ballpark has seen some of the most historic homeruns in MLB history. On Oct. 7, 2001, Barry Bonds hit his 73rd homerun of the season, an MLB record. Bonds passed Willie Mays for 2nd of the all time career home runs list in 2006, and passed Hank Aaron for 1st all time with his 756th home run on August 7, 2007. One last note: The historical aspect of this stadium is also bolstered by the fact that it doesn’t share the venue with any other teams. It’s the Giants’ own ballpark, so space doesn’t need to be reserved for the 49ers, taking away from some of the Giants’ historical luster.

Aesthetics (A)
AT&T Park is an absolutely beautiful stadium overlooking the San Francisco bay. In left centerfield, there is a huge HD video board made by Mitsubishi and in right center field, the traditional “numbers changed manually” scoreboards are there showing the scores of all other MLB games of the day. As I mentioned earlier, there are four statues of Giants HOF greats and there is also a Giants Wall of Fame, showing Giants who played a prominent role in the franchise’s history, but aren’t necessarily hall of fame players.

For the kids, there is the an 80-foot long Coke Bottle that blows bubbles and lights up every time the Giants hit a homerun. It’s also a small fun-zone where kids can play on a miniature version of the ballpark and go down some slides. Right-center field also features a San Francisco staple -- one of their classic cable cars with a little label that reads “No Dodgers Fans Allowed.” There is a cement walkway that takes you around the whole stadium to see all of these features, and also gives you a great view of McCovey Cove where you can get an up close look at the kayakers hoping to catch one of the splash hits or further out into the bay at the San Francisco ferries and sail boats.

Atmosphere (B+)
AT&T Park is almost a perfect place to watch a baseball game. It’s accessible (easy and cheap public transportation), it’s beautiful, it’s rich in history, and the San Francisco fans, who are knowledgeable, love the hell out of their team. However, with the ballpark sitting right on the bay, it’s rare that you can show up to the game without some kind of jacket on. Whenever she feels like it, Mother Nature blasts everyone in attendance with vicious, freezing winds or drops summer time rain drops on the stadium. On the sunny days, it’s hard to imagine a better place to watch a baseball game.

However, there have been times when I’ve showed up to a game in mid-July wearing a coat, and for this reason I cannot give this ballpark an A. What you can appreciate, though, is the fact that the stadium is packed despite the conditions. When the Giants are rolling, you can hear these fans across the bay, and when they’re not, they’ll let Bruce Bochy’s boys know it. The people here generally get along, even with members of opposing teams. As far as food goes, every stadium has their signature, and the garlic fries at AT&T Park are fantastic. The park also has wine vendors, because, well, that’s what the people out here like.

Overall (B+/A-)
AT&T Park is a stadium built to cater to baseball loving families. It has a fun atmosphere and is littered with myriad knowledgeable, Giants loving, baseball fans. Before the game I went to, the Giants had their World Series ring ceremony. It was really a chilling moment, giving me goose bumps when the crowd roared when Tim Lincecum’s name was called to receive his ring. The people up in San Francisco appreciate the hell out of this team, and they deserve such a beautiful ballpark. It’s definitely one a ballpark every baseball fan should experience at least once in their life.

-I'm So Hideous
P.S. As a reminder, checkout the livest sports talk show around, "The Unsportsmanlike Conduct Show" as we are live Wednesday's at 9pm Eastern at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/edthesportsfan! Download our podcasts if you missed the live show as well!


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