AT&T Park – San Francisco Giants
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I Left My Bat in San Francisco
After the baseball Giants of New York migrated west in 1957, they eventually settled in the wind swept saucer known as Candlestick Park located halfway between downtown San Francisco and SFO Airport on the Bay. The Giant fans called it “The Stick” as it was known by the locals for four decades. Some say that Hall of Famer and former Giant great Willie “The Say Hey Kid” Mays would have broken Babe Ruth’s homerun record first if not for the wind blowing lunar shots back in the old park. In 2000, the Giants entered the season in a brand new gem of a venue in downtown San Francisco on the water. The stadium was originally called Pac Bell Park, then SBC and finally AT&T, after the latter acquired the former entities. The Giants reside in the National League West Division today. They were formed as a team in 1883 and played in the famed Polo Fields before their wagon train rambled out west. Since the Giants have taken up residency in the “T,” they have participated in four World Series, winning three in the last six seasons. This was after having won their last one when they were on the East Coast over 50 years ago.
AT&T Park was also home to a college football bowl game for 11 years as well as the Cal Bears the year their football stadium was being renovated. The flash in the pan league “UFL” had a team play in the park back in 2001. The park is also used for concerts.
Food & Beverage 5
AT&T has the most robust assortment of food and drinks I have ever seen at any sporting venue. As far as food goes, there is of course the traditional fare found throughout the stadium at multiple counters, but more impressive is the variety of unique kinds of food stands, serving BBQ, seafood, donuts, ethnic and local fare. One of the items you will smell the aroma of throughout the stadium is garlic fries. To my recollection, AT&T Park either originated or perfected the garlic fry thing at a sporting event. After the game outside the park, you will find the grilled hot dog carts every 10 steps. An excellent way to end a great outing.
The stadium offers wine bars, Irish coffee houses and more beers than one can shake a stick at. In the club level there are several cocktail areas with bar selections equal to any hipster establishment in the Mission District of the city. Of course this is a Coca-Cola affiliated park, so all Coke products are offered.
It is so hard to recommend any one thing so I would suggest you find your favorite beer (it’s probably there). As for protein, either ethnic fare or something from the crab shack are infallible options.
Giant fans are passionate and have found a reinvigorated love for their team since they moved to this cathedral sixteen seasons ago. For the most part they are knowledgeable, passionate and loyal. The setting is as spectacular as any venue for any sport. Most would agree that AT&T is in a rare category along with Camden Yard in Baltimore as the two most incredible modern stadiums. Its advantage over Camden is its physical location. The cozy 42,000 seat cathedral is nestled up against the basin and next to a newly gentrified area of the city that was once taboo to enter. From above, the stadium appears to sink below the ground and resemble a bowl below water level. The lawn is always immaculately manicured and maintains a brilliant green glow to it.
There really is not a bad seat in the house. My favorite area for day games is in the left or center field bleachers. For evening games, the lower level along the first base line provides great views and protection from the wind. For an amazing experience, get tickets for when the Dodgers pay a visit to the City by the Bay.
The stadium announcer, Rene Brooks-Moon, a former local radio personality fires up the fans throughout the contest. You’d better stand during the seventh inning stretch and sing loud and proud. Additional action to keep the fans engaged include Jumbotron dance offs, kiss cams, shirt tossing and mascot pics.
Formally known as the China Basin warehouse district, the area went through a rebirth with the arrival of the ballpark including million dollar plus high rise flats, restaurants from the high end down as well as the famous dive bars. Momo’s, Lucky Strike, Polo Grounds, Hi Dive, Red’s Coffee House are a few of the nearby options. Momo’s is the chic “seen or be seen” hangout before, after and for some of us, during the game. With a cozy outdoor area serving libations, the atmosphere of the ballpark ‘hood comes to life. For a great dive bar experience, look no further than Hi Dive, a mere few steps from the monstrous Bay Bridge. If you are looking to carb and protein it up before the national anthem, head over to Lucky Strike for their famous club sandwich with a fried egg on top. This is also a great place to have a group outing on game day and knock down some pins in their full size bowling alley in the back. Across the side street, you can imbibe on a few Bloody Mary’s or a pint of properly poured stout at the old school environs of The Polo Grounds. They also make a mean burger.
The stadium is right off the Embarcadero which is a great place to stroll and take in the awesome views the bay provides of Treasure Island, Angel Island and of course, Alcatraz. The Ferry Building is about one mile from the park and offers an array of restaurants and shopping for tourists. Further down the Embarcadero is the famous Pier 39 and Ghiradelli Square. Of course no trip to the city is complete without taking selfies in front of the Haight and Ashbury intersection (Ground zero for the hippy movement), Lombard Street and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Lodging depends on your preference and budget and proximity to the park. San Francisco has everything from the five star Fairmont Hotel and Mark Hopkins, as well as all the major chains down to gunshot motels. If your budget is limitless, stay at the Fairmont. For mid range, the Marriott at Moscone or the Hyatt at Market are great options. This is not a cheap city by any means.
I find Giants fans loyal and knowledgeable for the most part. Many of the long-time fans will spout off full rosters from years past as I can still do with my Baltimore Orioles. When the Dodgers are in town, the stadium takes on a whole other level of excitement, pageantry and noise. This is not a friendly rivalry as recent events have reminded us, however it is entertaining. Nonetheless, there are plenty of people who show up knowing nothing about the Giants or baseball but they look good wearing the colors and getting “Insta-worthy” pics to make their friends envious. In my experience most games are pretty packed. When the Dodgers or A’s play here, the tickets are impossible to get. This adds to the game day atmosphere in a positive way. it is rare when you see many empty seats at AT&T.
When the Giants do something well, the stadium erupts like Mount Vesuvius. Fans are very engaged and for the most part respectful of the opponent and umpires. My only gripe about Giants fans is they, along with most west coast sports fans, do not understand that they should be seated during live action. They should not be blocking my view to go get refreshments, take selfies or wave to their friends in section 118 while talking to them on their Iphone. This must be an east coast/midwest unwritten rule.
This is a downtown park. So with that can come the frustrations of city traffic and congestion depending on the start time of the game. If you are coming from the East Bay or mid-peninsula, BART is the easiest form of transportation with two stations within walking distance, or a quick transfer on the Muni that will drop you off park side. Driving from the East Bay you can become victim of whatever the bridge situation may hold. From the city, best to Uber or walk depending on your starting point.
There are plenty of parking lots ranging from $25 -$50. Or you can chance it and park on the street and feed the meter for a period of time. Smash and grabs are all the rage these days in Otis Redding’s inspirational village, so I would recommend a lot with humanoids providing surveillance during the game.
There are three main entrances into the stadium with very little wait time unless you procrastinate and wait to enter until right before the ceremonial first pitch. Security is fast and efficient. This is not their first rodeo.
The main concourse is usually fine to move around in. However, when you go to the promenade area behind the outfield it can be very congested with kids lining up for the slides or the general bottleneck behind the left field bleachers.
Return on Investment 5
Simply put, the fans win. Regardless of whether you paid $22 for nose bleeds or $240 for club levels cushions, you will experience an amazing facility with a consistent product on the field. The breathtaking views whether day or night are unparalleled in MLB. Tickets range from $22 up to $240, parking $20 -$50, food and drink depends on your appetite and tastes. Plan on at least $100 per person all things considered for the game.
Coke slide, kid’s park, McCovey Cove – I have spent numerous games when my kids were younger standing in line with them and missing three innings while we waited to go down the mega slide behind the left field bleachers disguised as a gargantuan coke bottle next to the supersized glove. If missing three innings is not enough you can then take the little ones to the whiffle ball park right next to the slide and stand in another line and miss another inning or two to watch your little tyke put some plastic on plastic and run the bases. Let’s also pay homage to Bonds Cove, err McCovey Cove as it is known. This is the body of water beyond right field where kayakers eagerly awaited Bonds’ “roid induced” splash bombs in his chase to dishonorably dethrone the real king, Hank Aaron. Old Navy has naming rights to the area inside the park in front of the cove and it is called the Splash Zone. There are also the peep holes in left-center that allows you to peer into the stadium from the sidewalk in front of McCovey Cove and catch some game action gratis. Make sure you walk around the concourse behind the outfield to take in all the incredible views. For some Giants history, there are statues out front of the greats from the past to pay homage to.
Game day programs are always done expertly with interesting feature stories, statistics and glossy pictures. If you collect game day programs bring a baggie to keep it free from beverage or food spills throughout the game. If you are a visitor from out of town, this is a ticket you will want to save and share with your kids and grandkids so you can brag that you were once here.
Nothing beats sitting in the park for an afternoon game with sunny skies and warm weather, tossing back a cold one and cracking open peanut shells. However, if you go at night, I will remind you that this is San Francisco where Mark Twain quipped, “The coldest winter I have experienced was a summer in San Francisco.” Thus, bring a jacket and perhaps a hat for the follicly challenged. It’s always fun to stay after the game with the seagulls and listen to Tony Bennett’s, “I left my heart in San Francisco” being piped in. For all true baseball fans, this is bucket list worthy along with Fenway, Wrigley and Camden. AT&T Park will not dissipate from your memory as time marches on, as it will leave a lasting impression.
InterContinental San Francisco
888 Howard St
San Francisco, CA 94103
Courtyard by Marriott San Francisco Downtown
299 2nd St
San Francisco, CA 94105
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