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AT&T Park / San Francisco Giants

The concourses are surprisingly narrow, the traffic outside the ballpark stifling and you’re likely spend part of a game peering at the action through a light mist. Having said that, one thing is clear: watching a San Francisco Giants game at AT&T Park is one of the greatest experiences in Major League Baseball, one that should be experienced by everyone who cares a lot or a little about baseball.

AT&T Park

Fast Facts

Address: 24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94107.
Cost
: $357 million.
Architect
: HOK Sport+Venue+Event (now Populous).
Owner
: San Francisco Giants. The site is owned by the Port of San Francisco and leased to the Giants.
Phone Number
: 415/972-2000.
Capacity
: 41,915
Dimensions
: 339L, 382LC, 399C, 421RC, 309R.
Plate to Grandstand
: 48 feet.
Height of Walls
: Left and center field, 8 feet; left-center field, 11 feet; right field, 25 feet.
Ticket Line
: 888/326-7297.
Playing Surface
: Overseeded Bermuda grass with crushed volcanic rock infield and dust-control crushed-brick warning track.
Dugout Location
: Third-base side.
Other Tenants
: The University of California will play its home 2011 games at AT&T Park while its stadium is being renovated.
Team Ballpark History: Polo Grounds I (1883-1888), Oakland Park in Jersey City (1889, for two games), St. George Grounds in Staten Island (1889, for 25 games), Polo Grounds III (1889-1890, Polo Grounds IV (1891-1911), Hilltop Park (1911), Polo Grounds V (1911-1957), Seals Stadium (1958-1959), Candlestick Park (1960-1999).
Previous Names
: Pacific Bell Park (2000-2004), SBC Park (2004-2006).
First Game: The Giants hosted archrival Los Angeles on April 11, 2000 and suffered a 6-5 loss before a crowd of 40,930. The Dodgers took a 4-2 lead off Giants starter Kirk Reuter partly thanks to two Kevin Elster home runs and then hung on for the win. The Giants ended up being swept by the Dodgers in that opening series (in fact, it took the Giants seven tries to notch that first home win against the Montreal Expos on April 29) but they had the last laugh, winning the National League West crown that season.
Landmark Events: The Giants hosted the first two games of the 2010 World Series against the Texas Rangers, winning them by 11-7 and 9-0 margins; the Giants eventually captured the series, 4 games to one, with two wins at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Also, the Giants hosted three games in the 2002 World Series (winning two), eventually losing in game seven to the Anaheim Angels; the team . Barry Bonds has provided many of the landmark events, hitting his 500th, 600th and 700th home runs at AT&T Park, as well as his record-breaking 71st home run in 2001. AT&T Park has also hosted several concerts, including Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, the Rolling Stones, and the Dave Matthews Band. Other sporting events hosted at AT&T Park include the Emerald Bowl and East-West Shrine postseason football games, international soccer matches, and motor-cross races. It is also the only MLB ballpark to host opera simulcasts; the sixth-annual Opera at the Ballpark is set for Sept. 25. The 2007 All-Star Game was played there.


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Your AT&T Park Seating Guide

The Giants offer one of the most complex ducat schemes in the majors, utilizing market-based pricing. The more interest in a game, the more expensive the tickets. The Dodgers, Cardinals and Athletics are strong draws. Since there’s really no way to directly compare ticket prices on a game-by-game basis, we’ve picked a higher-priced Cardinals game for this section as being representative for a game you’d want to see. Your mileage will inevitably vary. If you want to cut through the variable pricing and find a ticket that’s reasonably priced, consider checking out ballparkdigesttickets.com for your ticketing needs.

Best Sections to View a Game: We’re partial toward the Club Infield seats ($120): you’re high enough to have a good view of the whole field, are ensured comfort with wider seats, and have the amenities of the Club Level behind you – a must if it’s a cold and misty night. Also worth seeking out: the Left Field Bleachers ($46.50), It can be a little hectic getting in and out of these seats – the heavy traffic next to the kids’ play area ensures that – but they also provide great access to the center-field concessions.

Best Cheap Seats: The Center Field Bleachers are only $33.75 – a lot by normal MLB prices, but a deal by AT&T Park prices. Like the Left Field Bleachers, you have good accessibility to the center-field concessions on both the field and promenade levels. If heights don’t bother you, the Left Field View Reserved ($28) provide a good view of the entire field. Or just walk up to the right-field free view of the game.

Worst Seats: The $69 Arcade seats in right field aren’t as good as you’d think: you’re right in front of the SRO area, and you’ll have plenty of folks standing right beside you, no matter how many security guards through out there. Those seats work better in theory than in reality. Speaking of the SRO tickets: the rowdies tend to gather out there and we’ve come upon more than one incident out there involving an intoxicated fan and security guards. So unless you really, really want to be at a sold-out game or are part of a large crowd, we do not recommend them.

Most Underrated Sections: The bleachers are great. We highly recommend them. They’re busy and bustling and full of life.

A Lovely Stroll in the Ballpark

Is there a more scenic ballpark in all of baseball? We can’t think of any, as AT&T Park continues to be one of the best ballparks in baseball when it comes to the fan experience. Designed to alternately expose and shelter fans depending on the daily weather (or hourly weather; Bay residents know how quickly things can change, AT&T Park is a beautifully designed gem perfectly integrated into The City skyline. It manages to evoke nostalgia without being cloying, providing modern amenities while retaining a majestic sense of permanence. It is already a much-loved symbol of The City, taking advantage of a gorgeous bayside location to provide the best views in the majors. Sure, there’s always the chance of an evening mist, and ticket and concession prices are among the highest in the majors – but that’s the price of doing business in the big city.

Some of those high prices have to do with the unique way the ballpark came to be: it was the first privately financed ballpark in the major leagues since 1962’s Dodger Stadium. Peter Magowan, then managing general partner of the Giants ownership group, may have irritated some of his fellow major-league owners when he went forward with a privately financed ballpark, but he really had no choice: attempts at public financing in San Francisco had failed in previous years, and while there could have been public money if the Giants had moved south to San Jose, Magowan and his group decided to forge ahead with private financing. Yes, they did receive a small measure of public money in the form of tax-increment financing, but in the end they raised the bar on public financing and forced other owners to take more responsibility for finances. Today, the larger the market, the less public assistance is expected; both the Yankees and Mets are paying for their own ballparks, albeit with public financing and infrastructure assistance.

So you can excuse the team if the prices seem a little high. The Giants seem to walk the line when it comes to spending money on the team: the team payroll is usually in the top ten of all in Major League Baseball. But the surroundings are definitely worth the money: Put together a great ballpark and an above-average front office and you’ve got an outstanding combination – a win-win for the baseball fans of San Francisco.

Despite occupying a relatively small footprint on the waterfront, AT&T Park has plenty of public spaces. We’d recommend arriving early at the ballpark, giving you plenty of time to wander the grounds before the game starts. There is lots to see even before you step in the ballpark.

Begin at the corner of Third and King, near the main entrance to the ballpark, where you’ll see a nine-foot-high statue of Hall of Famer Willie Mays, caught admiring one of his 646 home runs hit during his 22-year stint as a Giant. You’ll find reference to the “Say Hey” kid throughout the ballpark, though the branding of hot-dog stands with his familiar catchphrase does seem a little over the top.

Head down Third Street and stop at the much more interesting statue of former Giants pitcher Juan Marichal, caught in the midst of his distinctive windup. Marichal won 238 games for the Giants between 1960 and 1973, the Dominican Republic native won 20 games six times and threw a no-hitter against the Houston Colt .45s in 1963. He was, arguably, the greatest pitcher in San Francisco Giants history. (Perhaps not in franchise history: Christy Mathewson still holds most of the team’s career records.)

Cross the Lefty O’Doul Bridge and head to an overlooked area: McCovey Point and China Basin Cove, directly across McCovey Cove from the ballpark. Walk up the shoreline from Third Street and take a look at the seat wall: every so often there’s a commemorative marker honoring the San Francisco Giants teams playing at Seals Stadium and Candlestick Park, complete with team roster and statistical highlights. At the end of the point is a statue of Willie “Stretch” McCovey, the most prolific left-handed home-run hitter in National League history, with 521. The public open space features a T-ball diamond and picnic area.

Walk back across the Lefty O’Doul Bridge and along McCovey Cove and the right-field wall. This is where fans can watch games through a field-level fence for free: the covered area features a concession stand and tables for snackers. On a nice night you’ll find a crowd down here, mostly fans coming down on bikes.

Keep walking to the center-field ballpark entrance, where the ferries arrive and depart. Here you’ll find a great view of the Bay, as well as a status of a seal balancing a ball on its nose: an homage to the old San Francisco Seals, Joe DiMaggio’s first team and one of the flagship franchises of the old Pacific Coast League. The Giants played their first few seasons in Seals Stadium, a classic old ballpark still fondly remembered by baseball old-timers in the Bay.

Heading To Your Seat

Go ahead and enter the ballpark. Interestingly, this is a nook and cranny most fans miss out on: a small concession area featuring concession stands. Head up to the concourse level and take in the concession stands in the spacious center-field area: here you’ll find a BBQ area named after former Giants slugger Orlando Cepeda and other concession stands. (We discuss them later.)

Walk down the right-field concourse and tour the ballpark on a clockwise path. This is a great place to look at McCovey Cove, the small stretch of water outside the ballpark. When you’re watching a game on television, this cove looks large, but in real life it’s smaller than you’d think. The small watercraft stalking Barry Bonds homeruns are gone, but you’ll still see the occasional kayaker or fisherman. Only 13 Giants have hit the ball directly into the cove as of the 2011 season; as you might expect Barry Bonds hit the vast majority of the 78 McCovey Cove homers.

The concourse is also where most of the standing-room-only ticketbuyers congregate, and it is usually quite jammed by the second inning. It is, alas, also the place in the park where there’s likely to be trouble of some sort. We’ve never been to a game at AT&T Park where policemen didn’t need to deal with a drunken rowdy out there.

As you enter the grandstand, you’ll encounter most of the concession stands. We’ll cover the food offerings later in this chapter, but keep in mind this is the area where you can find almost everything good served at the ballpark. You can walk through the entire grandstand on this concourse. If you’ve been to any of the newer MLB megaparks – like Minute Maid Park or the new Yankee Stadium – you may be surprised at how small the AT&T Park concourses are. No surprise: the ballpark occupies a relatively small footprint when compared to these new megaparks.

As you leave the grandstand in the left-field corner you’ll find bleachers to the left and the Coca-Cola Fan Lot to the right. We cover the Fan Lot later, but spend some time there: it will be pretty obvious kids of all ages are enjoying themselves on the slide and playing on the miniature field.

Now you’ll be ready to take your seats, and you’ll have the advantage of already scouting all the concession stands in search of a pregame nosh. There are not many bad seats in the ballpark, so you’ll have good or great views of the field no matter where you sit. If you’re like us, you may not be impressed with the ballpark’s dimensions at first glance, with the right-field fence only 309 feet down the line. Then you’ll come to your senses and realize the right-field wall is 25 feet high, meaning there are no cheap home runs hit in AT&T Park. Say what you will about potential steroid abuse and bad attitude, but Barry Bonds was not aided too much by the design of AT&T Park in his pursuit of Henry Aaron’s career home-run mark.

If you do end up in the Club Level, take some time to check out the art and history collections: the WPA-style murals by Jeffrey Sykes are interesting, and history buffs will love the collection of photographs dating back to 1883, the team’s first season.

During the game, the Giants are all business: baseball is the main entertainment here. There’s a minimum of between-inning shenanigans, and the likes of Crazy Crab – surely one of the most hated mascots ever in Major League Baseball – have been replaced by the more cuddly and kid-friendly Lou Seal.

AT&T Park is one of the great ballparks of the majors: some say it’s the best modern ballpark in baseball, and we can’t argue too much with that assessment; only PNC Park and Target Field are in the same ballpark. It’s clear people who love baseball designed and run AT&T Park, and you can share that love with a visit to the ballpark at China Basin.

Food and Drink
Interestingly, the Giants really don’t club you with an overabundance of concession stands, especially on the main concourse. Indeed, there are only 25 permanent concession stands (though they are almost all fairly large), and there are temporary concession stands on the main concourse and throughout the Club Level.

The main concession offering that will make you drool: the Gilroy Garlic Fries (Promenade Section 119). It’s impossible to be anywhere at AT&T Park without getting a whiff of them. Yes, other ballparks offer garlic fries, but AT&T Park was the first in the majors, and in these parts it’s a local delicacy. If the garlic on the garlic fries isn’t enough, the Stinking Rose Restaurant stand on the main floor sells a 40-close garlic chicken sandwich. If you eat one, better buy one for your date if you want some lovin’ after the game. (The Stinking Rose is a famous restaurant in San Francisco’s North Beach area – 325 Columbus Avenue, to be exact.)

Center field – both on the field and promenade levels – is where you can find almost any food items. Yes, there’s a celebrity BBQ at AT&T Park: here it is Orlando’s, named for former Giant great Orlando Cepeda. It’s been around since the ballpark opened, but it’s being spiffed up for the 2011 season. Cepeda was known as the “Baby Bull” during his playing days, and one of the specialties at Orlando’s is the Baby Bull Tri-Tip Sandwich, hard-carved, simmered in the Cepeda family-recipe marinade, served on a soft torta bread. The stand also serves sweet-potato fries, the “El Ginantes” Dog (a grilled half-pound all-beef hot dog served with queso) and a very good Cha Cha Bowl. Here you’ll also find the Chwoder House stand, where the menu is centered on seafood combos, calamari and, of course, chowder. In the lower center-field area, the highlight is a Pipkins Pit BBQ stand.

For being located in such a heath-conscious city and state, the Giants sell a lot of meat at the ballpark; one of the more popular concession stands is the Say Hey! Willie Mays Sausages area. (Yes, the marketing is most definitely over the top.) There are regular Giants dogs, quarter-pound Superdogs, a third-pound dog, and various sausages: Italian, bratwurst, Polish, and Louisiana hot links. A Budweiser Brew Pub in Promenade Section 112 serves mainstream and microbrewed beers as well as fresh-roasted peanuts, a gluten-free hot dog and gluten-free Redbridge Beer, while a deli serves sandwiches and sushi. If you like Mexican food, there are a number of stands specializing in soft tacos, burritos, taco salads, and quesadillas. Other standard ballpark food items, like pizza, burgers, and popcorn, are also available. An Edsel Ford Fongs stand serves stir-fry to order, and the Derby Grills stand serves the Blarney Burger, a half-pound burger topped with corned beef and swiss. On a cool night, you might want to buy coffee or hot chocolate at the Doggie Diner. For vegetarians there are veggie dogs and portabello burgers.

The Club Level features some unique concessions: we loved the brisket sandwich and were tempted by the fresh lemonade at the Fresh Produce stand.

The Giants are updating their signage this year: the Doggie Diners, Budweiser Brew Pub and Green Gilroy Garlic Field stand will feature digital display menuboards.

Ballpark Quirks
Take a close look at the baseball mitt in the Coca-Cola Fan Lot: it has only four fingers. No, it’s not meant for a cartoon character: it was patterned after a 1927 glove owned by the father of Giants senior vice president and general counsel Jack Bair. The glove weighs 20,000 pounds and is made of fiberglass-coated foam.

Handicapped Access
Wheelchair-accessible seating is available on every level and at every price range. Elevators run to all levels at the Willie Mays Plaza entrance at Third and King.

Ballpark Tours
The Giants offer daily tours at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., except when day games are scheduled. The tours begin in the Dugout Store and last approximately one hour and 15 minutes. The cost: $12.50 for adults (anyone 13 or older), $10.50 for seniors (55 and over), $7.50 for children between 2 and 12 years old, and free for children under the age of 2. Tour stops include the warning track, dugouts, indoor batting cages, the visitors’ clubhouse, the press box, and a luxury box. Group tours are also offered.

For the Kids
The Coca-Cola Fan Lot is one of the best activity centers in the majors. Normally activity centers for children (when they exist) are consigned to fringe areas, but the Fan Lot is firmly ensconced in a prime location in left field. Part of that is the marketing – the iconic Coke bottle is visible from all parts of the ballpark – but we’d like to think Giants ownership wanted to make a great ballpark even better by stressing the family experience.

The location works. You’ll usually find the activity area crammed with kids before the game, going down the Superslide located within the 80-foot-long Coke bottle or running the bases in a mini-ballpark. A raised mezzanine allows parents to watch their kids and the game at the same time; the mezzanine also provides great views of the Bay and the San Francisco skyline. Three telescopes let fans zoom in on their favorite players during the game.

(The bottle adds to the festive experience at the ballpark: when a Giant hits a home run, the bottle is the focal point of a light display.)

The Little Giants ballpark is a 50-by-50-foot replica of AT&T Park where aspiring major leaguers can hone their craft during the game. Also helpful to potential Giants: a speed gun.

Autographs
The Giants are one of the few MLB teams to run an official autograph event during the regular season; following the conclusion of every Sunday batting practice players sign autographs from the Bullpen Boxes in Sections 104/105 and 126/127. There are a few rules: autograph seekers must be kids aged 16 and younger, and a special ticket issued that day by an usher on a first-come, first-serve basis as soon as the gates open at the top of each designated section

Getting There
Despite being in the midst of one of the most congested cities in America, the ballpark is fairly accessible. Driving is probably the most frustrating way to get to the ballpark, especially on a weeknight: the normal congestion associated with San Francisco is multiplied by baseball fans.

Now, having said that, the three major highway/freeway entries into the City provide fairly good access to the ballpark. Coming from the south is easiest: take I-280 north to the Mariposa Street exit and follow the signs on Mariposa (hanging a left on Third Street) to the parking lots, or stay on I-280 until it ends at King Street and take your chances in one of the privately operated lots or parking ramps near the ballpark. From the East Bay, take I-80 to the Fifth Street exit and follow the signs to the ballpark. (It’s not a very direct route, but it’s not complicated, either.) From the North Bay, take 101 across the Golden Gate Bridge to the Marina Boulevard exit. Stay on Marina Boulevard until you hit Bay Street; hang a left and then turn right on the Embarcadero. The Embarcadero turns into King Street; stay on it and then hang a right on Third Street.

Once you’re there, 3,000 parking spots await you in four lots south of the ballpark, including three controlled by the Giants. The cost is not cheap, but nothing about going to a Giants game is cheap.

Because of the costs and hassle, we’d recommend you look at alternative ways of getting to the ballpark. If you’re coming in from out of town, consider staying downtown and taking a cab to the game: a cab can drop you off in a special loading area next to the ballpark, and there will be plenty of cabs waiting to bring you back after the game. If you stay at one of the hotels you can stay at one of the hotels near Moscone Center and walk down Third Street to the game, though we wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.

Caltrain, BART and the San Francisco Muni system also serve the ballpark. The Muni N line goes directly to the ballpark while the 10, 15, 30, 45, and 47 lines stop within one block of the ballpark. The Muni buses load and unload at King Street and Second Street north of the ballpark. If you’re out in the Valley in Santa Clara or San Mateo, you can take a train directly to the Fourth Street and King Street station a block from the ballpark. Going via BART is a little more complicated: the train can get you into downtown San Francisco, but you’ll then need to take a Muni N bus at Civic Center, Powell, Montgomery, or Embarcadero to the ballpark.

One of the more unique ways to get to AT&T Field is via ferry. Three ferry lines pick up and drop off at the center-field Bay entrance: the Alameda/Oakland Ferry Service runs from Oakland’s Clay Street Pier, Golden Gate Transit’s ferry leaves the Larkspur Ferry Terminal in Marin County, and the Vallejo Baylink Ferry runs from the Vallejo Ferry Terminal to the San Francisco Ferry Terminal on the Embarcadero. Now, it’s not necessarily cheaper to take a ferry – the Golden Gate Ferry charges $8 per way per adult, so a family of four would pay more to take the ferry than driving to the ballpark and parking in a Giants lot. The ferries are convenient if you’re a resident of the community served via ferry service, not so much so if you’re a tourist looking to take in a baseball game.

Photographs by John Moist, Jim Robins and Kevin Reichard.

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