A Day In The Park, The Park By The Bay, Let’s Play Two
“It’s a great day for a ball game, Let’s Play Two !” –Ernie Banks
The words that were once echoed by the legendary Cub great. Doubleheaders were once the norm. For many decades, Major League Baseball frequently scheduled doubleheaders several times throughout the season. During a “classic” doubleheader the first game would start in the early afternoon while a “Twi-night” doubleheader would start the first game in the late afternoon. A break of 20 to 30 minutes would take place after the first game and fans attending doubleheaders would only need a single game ticket.
These days, the “day-night doubleheader” is the norm throughout MLB, often due to games being postponed due to inclement weather. During a “day-night doubleheader,” the first game is played in the early afternoon and the second at night. Unlike the “classic” or “twi-night” doubleheaders of years long past, fans must purchase separate tickets to gain admission to both games.
An MLB record 28 games were postponed through April due to inclement weather, including a matchup between the Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays due to falling ice from the nearby CN Tower, creating a hole in the retractable roof at Rogers Centre.
Even out west in California, AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, has not been immune to the early season weather issues as April showers forced the postponement of their April 6th matchup against the Los Angeles Dodgers, thus creating a recent “day-night” doubleheader.
Rainouts, though very common especially in April, are very rare in MLB parks throughout California. Since 1958, when the Giants and Dodgers moved out west, there have been a total of 102 rainouts in MLB yards based in California. Not surprisingly, of the 5 California based teams, the Giants have had the most rainouts in their 60 years out west with 32. The breakdown…
- Giants 32
- A’s 21
- Dodgers 17
- Padres/Angels 16
Because Northern California attracts colder weather than their neighbors to the south, it’s no surprise the Giants would lead their California counterparts with the most rained out home games among the five, with the A’s right behind them. However, 32 total rainouts throughout 60 years, including 6 postponements during AT&T Park’s 18th year of operation, still only averages to less than one rainout a season.
With that average, a doubleheader anywhere among the five MLB stadiums in California is rare. Hosting a day-night doubleheader is an all-day operation for everyone involved. To almost everyone involved, it will be a first. We made a visit to AT&T Park during the Giants recent doubleheader against the Dodgers to capture the full-day in-game operation. The start times for the games would be 1:05 and 7:15 PM. If all goes according to plan, this will be a smooth day for everyone…
Upon arriving shortly after 8:30 AM, members of the grounds crew are already hard at work. With neither team taking batting practice, most of the work consists of dragging the dirt both in the infield and the warning track. Among the grounds crew are 3-4 full-time head crew members, with much of the crew comprised of part-time workers divided among four different shifts throughout the day. Only the full-time crew members will be working the full day. As for the players, some light tosses among both teams takes place in the outfield prior to the first game.
Though there would be no batting practice, the “Batting Practice Tour” still takes place prior to the first game. In spite of no batting practice, fans who did take the rescheduled tour are pleased nonetheless. The opportunity to step on to a Major League field prior to a game brings much delight to the touring fans.
For many of the staff, this is the first doubleheader worked. For Joe, a retired fireman who will be located by the visiting teams dugout, working the doubleheader will be what he calls, “baptism by fire.” The turnaround for Joe from the previous evening’s game is short. Joe arrives at the yard around 8:30 AM, only nine hours removed from the previous evening’s game. Joe knows that today will not be a normal day of operation. If all goes according to form, the first game will be finished in about three hours to allow ample time for staff to clear the stadium for the second game.
“On a normal day we use about 45 minutes to an hour to flush the park so I anticipate we’ll do the same today, it’s all going to depend on the time of the first game.”
David, a native of South San Francisco, is a first year guest services representative. Not only will this be his first doubleheader worked, but also his first doubleheader attended. David has also been at the yard since early morning. As a guest services representative, he arrives two hours prior to the opening of the gates. For a 1pm first pitch, the gates are scheduled to open at 11am. Like most all the staff members, today will be anything but normal. “It’s a little abnormal actually.” David is also aware that baseball, unlike other sports, has no clock.
Interviews for both managers takes place as scheduled at 11:30am inside both teams’ respective dugouts. It is standard procedure for managers to conduct their pregame media briefing 90 minutes prior to first pitch.
Aside from a light workout for both teams, pregame activities are pretty much slow to non-existent. Time to head toward the media dining room.
Along the way, I briefly cross paths with former Giant and current broadcaster Mike Krukow as he makes his way toward the home team’s broadcast booth. It’s been known among the locals that Mike has been suffering from inclusion-body myositis, a non-life threatening degenerative muscle disease. I had no idea he was walking with a cane. In spite of his current condition, Mike continues to go strong. Here’s to many more years in the broadcast booth Mike.
Moments before the first pitch, I have a brief conversation with Dodgers radio broadcaster Charley Steiner. With the media dining room being just across and so close to the visitors broadcast booths, there is no need for Charley to rush back to the booth. Even the team’s radio pre-game show has been recorded in advance. Like the pre-game briefing with the managers, the pre-game show is recorded 90 minutes prior to first pitch, during what Charley describes as “the golden time,” where reporters have a 1 hour window to conduct any pre-game interviews.
The first pitch of the first game is delivered as scheduled at 1:05pm. If the first inning is any indication, the first game will go anything but planned. The first inning alone takes 45 minutes as both starting pitchers struggle with their command. A combined total of 11 pitchers would be used for the first game. The first game would feature plenty of offense. Between the teams, 21 runs and 42 hits would be amassed.
With totals like that, one can only imagine how long that first game would go. With the game being a rout by the visiting Dodgers, some of the fans among the 40,000 plus depart early. As the game approaches the 8th inning, ticket takers and other guest service employees are already being stationed by the gates, directing exiting fans to the appropriate exits. In the meantime, fans attending the second game are already lined up outside the gates.
I use the time between games to talk with Philip, one of many Guest Service Representatives on hand for today’s doubleheader. As has been the case all day for much of the staff, this is Philip’s first doubleheader worked. With the game now past the anticipated three hour mark, Philip, with several years in hotel hospitality management, acknowledges that this particular day will be the most challenging for the staff.
“It’s a tedious task for everyone involved.” As has been echoed by everyone throughout the day, “Baseball has no clock, we can’t predict when it will end. There is a lot more precision involved today than on any given game because we really have to be on top of everything more so today than any other day.”
The ballpark is a magical place for fans and first time visitors, and it’s only natural for some fans to hang around a bit after the final out to soak up that much more of the atmosphere, and of course, snap photos. With the first game approaching the four hour mark, a window of just over two hours to prepare for the nightcap will remain. Among the many challenges will be getting the fans to depart immediately after the final out of Game 1.
“We also understand that the ballpark is a memorable experience for the fans that come and we want to do all we can to make sure we maintain that experience so the fans can have that lifelong memory. If the fans ask us to take pictures after the game we will always be glad to accommodate them. Even with today’s challenges where every detail is magnified, our goal is to ensure that the fans walk away with a memorable experience.”
After 3 hours and 58 minutes, the first game finally comes to a close, 2 minutes shy of 5 PM. The staff, from the grounds crew, guest service employees to the custodial crew wastes no time preparing the yard for the second of two. Fortunately for the staff, the fans that did remain throughout the first game are very co-operative, departing the ballpark in a timely fashion, some even sticking around for just a bit to soak in more of the experience. A yard as majestic as AT&T Park will do that.
The stadium is cleared of fans in just under 30 minutes. With the first game ending later than expected, the anticipated gate opening of 5-5:30pm is anything but possible.
The one hour window between the final out and the opening of the gates for Game 2 is less time than what staff had hoped for. That doesn’t stop Ashley from maintaining her energy. Ashley has been at the yard since 11:15am. Ashley is very happy to serve fans over 21 their favorite adult beverage. With her work station located in the lower concourse behind 3rd base, what she loves about her job “I have the best view, I love it! GO GIANTS!”
With the gate opening for the second game now pushed back to 6:05, the lines back up as far back to the portwalk by McCovey Cove all the way to the Lefty O’Doul Bridge. The second game, which includes a Brandon Crawford garden gnome giveaway, is also expected to reach capacity. Several fans have stated this is the longest line ever experienced to enter the yard, one fan saying the lines we’re longer than Opening Day and the Championship Ring giveaways.
The custodial crew has worked at a feverish pace to get the venue ready in time for the arrival of fans. There is a little more than an hour for fans to soak in the pregame sights, grab some food and settle into their seats. With the entrance lines being longer than usual, though there were some late arrivers, most fans settle in by the 7:15pm first pitch.
The second game would go much more smoothly over the first game. In just under three hours, at 10:13 PM, this time, the home nine would come out on top.
This day’s doubleheader, as David, our Guest Services Representative stated earlier, was “a little abnormal.” For much of the staff, it was, as Joe, our head security guard stated, a “baptism by fire.”
An operation of a MLB day-night doubleheader is anything but a normal day at the office. The tasks are tedious. On this particular day, with the first game going past what anyone had hoped, literally every minute counts.
Who says there’s no clock in baseball?
It takes everyone’s utmost attention to detail and co-operation, especially from the fans, to make a day like this go as smooth as possible. When all was said and done, given the circumstances that we’re thrown at everyone prior to and during the game like a nasty screwball, this day was a huge hit.
Summer days are just around the corner. Like baseball, the weather can be unpredictable. The April showers are behind us, so we hope. Here’s hoping that warm and sunny days are in store for you as you embark on your Stadium Journey. With all the postponements that took place, who knows, it just may be a beautiful day for you to “take in two”.
Click here to view more sights from the Dodgers-Giants doubleheader from AT&T Park.
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