Part XVI: AT&T Park
(AKA: The End of a Long Journey)
(AKA: Saving the Best View For Last)
(AKA: Seeing a Clinching Celebration)
(AKA: Prelude to a Championship Run)
The night before I was to attend the Giants game against the Padres, I made it a point to watch the Giants/Dodgers game on TV to see my hometown Dodgers clinch the NL West division! Watching that game was amazing… but that also meant that the Giants could clinch a playoff spot at home on the game I was attending. San Francisco had yielded a strong team all season, and I predicted they would be a tough out. In fact, at the time of this game, I assumed that the Giants would not only win their Wild Card game, but with their NLDS series and play the Dodgers in the NLCS. Part of that was wishful thinking to see an epic Giants/Dodgers duel for the pennant. Little did I know I would see the start of an amazing run into October.
Ballpark 15: AT&T Park, elevation 10 feet
The game: Padres @ Giants on September 25, 2014
After leaving Oakland and spending the day at the Golden Gate Bridge, I made my way early on to AT&T Park with Kelsey to catch some BP and really look around the entire cove of the park. The place was buzzing with excitement as they playoffs were drawing near. Many believed there would be some games for the Giants in the NLDS, and some were hopeful for the NLCS. There were a few fans that were thinking World Series. However, nobody I talked to thought the Giants would win the whole thing. Not at that time, anyway.
The fans: As I just said, nobody envisioned a championship run this year… but there was still hope for a very deep run into the NLCS. Fans were brimming with confidence in their team, and I loved it. The Giants are known to have a dedicated fan base and sell out their games very frequently, and this was no exception. Even when I would tell people where I was visiting from, they just laugh it off and greet me, anyway. Then again, a couple fans will also come back with the fact that the Giants have won multiple titles recently. The Dodgers last won the World Series in 1988. I did like that many of the fans I talked to were also hoping for a Dodgers/Giants NLCS. For the record, I hate hearing some of the stories about fights going on between Giants and Dodgers fans. Guys, there is no reason to resort to that. We are all baseball fans there to see some great baseball. It makes fans from both sides look terrible. With that said, the fans I encountered were stellar. High marks all the way.
The food: For being such a high-priced stadium that sells out pretty much every game, the food prices were not too shabby. There are so many delicious choices for food that you may want to go back for seconds. I had heard about the epic Mexican food at AT&T Park, but I simply wasn’t in the mood for Mexican. However, Kelsey got the chicharrones at a decent price (under $10) and she loved them so much she got another later. I opted for the King Street Carvery near our seats because they actually serve food with the locally-famous Boudin sourdough bread. I love their sourdough, I think it’s underrated personally. I got the carved beef brisket sandwich (came with chips) and some of that mouth-watering potato salad. There was another food item that I’ve had both in San Francisco, and inside Disneyland: Boudin’s clam chowder or chili in a bread bowl. I highly recommend this food item if you want something that will definitely fill you up at a decent price. The chili has a great kick to it, and the bread bowl is more filling than you think. C’mon, for nine bucks, how can you miss?
Ticket prices: This is where I think I did my best searching all season long. I had previously attended games at Pac Bell/SBC/AT&T… this park that I now call “the Phone Booth!” Since this jewel of Major League Baseball has opened, I have attended eight (now nine) games there in various sections. If I was going to conclude this season’s ballparks, I may as well end with a visual flourish. I wanted to be able to see McCovey Cove throughout the game for that visual eye-candy. I looked to StubHub to find a couple tickets, and I found some GREAT tickets. I found a pair of view reserve infield seats in section 321 (just on the third-base side). These tickets were only $48 total, which was well worth the price. I’ve gotten tickets there much more expensive than that, so I thought this was a steal with one of the best views in all of baseball!
The game: This was a fine way to end the season. The Giants were playing with an urgency and a type of hustle that you would only find in the stretch run. San Francisco quickly jumped on the Padres and Andrew Cashner with a run in the 1st off a Pablo Sandoval sacrifice fly. Then, a nice magic moment happened, and because of where we were sitting, we saw the whole thing pretty clearly. On an 0-and-1 count, Brandon Belt blasted one deep into right field… and it was carrying pretty well. It then went over the Arcade and into McCovey Cove! Brandon belted a solid home run into the water, and it was a “Splash Hit!” For those of you that remember the season where Barry Bonds hit over 70 home runs, many of those were also hit into the water, which elevated the popularity of getting a canoe or some kind of water vessel and wait for home runs in the cove. On the official counter in right field, that was Splash Hit #68 at the Phone Booth. There was one canoe out there… he got that home run ball easily. I will admit, that was pretty cool to see a splash hit happen in person.
Then, the most magical moment of the evening occurred. That week had marked the 60th anniversary of one of the most iconic plays in baseball history. On September, 1954 during the World Series, the New York baseball Giants were playing the Cleveland Indians for the right to be named champions. The Indians were looking to win their first Series in years, but Willie Mays had other plans as he changed the entire complexion of that series. In the top of the 8th inning with the score tied at two and with runners on first and second, Vic Wertz blasted what looked to be a sure double in deep center field. In most parks, that would have been a home run. But at the spacious Polo Grounds, it simply meant extra bases… or so Wertz thought. Willie Mays ran down the ball at full speed towards the wall. When he got to the warning track, he made an unbelievable over-the-shoulder catch while on the run that brought the crowd to its feet, but he wasn’t done yet. He quickly threw with all his might back to the infield to prevent a run from scoring. Larry Doby tagged and advanced to third, and that was it. That play changed everything and sparked a World Series sweep of the Indians at the hands of the Giants. Before their recent run of titles, the Giants hadn’t won a championship since 1954, so they had a long drought going between titles!
Back to the game and a quick recap! The Giants scored another run in the 5th to make it 6-0 Giants, and that’s when it got really interesting. San Diego put up three runs in the top of the 6th inning concluding with a Yasmani Grandal home run that pinged very loudly off the right field pole. The only reason I knew it was that loud was because we could hear it from our seats! Then in the top of the 7th inning, he did it again! This time, Grandal hit a monstrous grand slam to give the Padres the lead. That home run wasn’t quite a splash hit, although it did go over the field arcade and bounced into the water from the walkway. For the record, that does not count as a splash hit… it has to be done on the fly. The Padres added one more run on a Rene Rivera home run to make it 8-6, Padres. All of a sudden, the champagne was looking like it had to be put on ice!
I left that game with a huge smile on my face. I got to see an awesome playoff celebration, witnessed a great (albeit weird) game, and got to see Willie Mays. That was a fantastic way to close out that part of the trip, and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to conclude this part of the tour. Not only that, but I actually completed the first half of the ballparks that quickly. Fifteen ballparks is no easy feat, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to visit all the places I did. I feel so thankful to have been able to do this. Right as I got home, my thought was, “Okay, I just finished the first half of the current ballparks. When can I start planning for next season and getting the other half?”
PS: While this post was uploaded the following year, I time-stamped it in 2014 that way it could be found in the “2014” posts. Again, thank you all for reading!