The following is a review of the Giants ballpark in San Francisco, the fans and the city overall. Yesterday, I took a tour of AT & T Park before departing for home. The park, like most, has its ups and downs. The first thing that strikes you is the view. Sitting on the San Francisco Bay, the water backdrop and city lights behind it make for a stunning effect. The Coke bottle, which is actually a slide inside, and the giant glove in centerfield add to the aura. The photo below of the whole stadium was taken from the upper deck during Fantasy Batting Practice where fans can pay to hit the ball around the field; another nice option at this stadium.
The murals and tributes to players of the past all around the stadium are a very nice touch as well. Quotes from TV, movies, broadcasters and ballplayers line the walls too, which add to the interesting design.
Walking around the stadium is a bit odd, however. The area behind home plate from 1st to 3rd is completely enclosed so you cannot see what is going on outside. There are a plethora of plasma TV’s all around though so you can watch the TV feed of the game. But once you cross into the outfield sections around the concourse, hold on to your hat! The wind gusts are strong enough to carry a small child out to sea. And it is like that all the time.
You would also expect a relatively new stadium to have real bullpens. No such luck in this ballpark as the throwing area is practically on the field and each team needs 2 “lookouts” to protect the guys in the pen from foul balls. I asked about this and was told that when building the park they “ran out of room.”
Lack of space is also why the Home Dugout and clubhouse are on the 3rd base side. That is the more spacious side of the park. The Visitors’ clubhouse is cramped, narrow and looks a bit like it was built in the 1970’s. The unevenness of the park even shows in the seating area. I sat just to the 1st base side of home plate for a few games and my knees were up against the seat in front of me with the cup holder leaving a really fun mark. The exact same seat, same row and location on the 3rd base side had plenty of room; about 6 inches were open in front of my knees. Weird.
The Luxury Suite area is very, very nice. Each suite has comfy chairs, couches, a sink and full cooking area. The only complaint from some fans was that you could not purchase Garlic Fries on that level as management did not want the smell wandering about under the rich folks noses. But if you can live with that, and have about $7,000 to blow, the Suites are the place for you!
And finally, the seat Nazi’s – yes, the staff at this ballpark are serious about people staying in their area. In fact, there is a very unfriendly and unattractive metal railing that runs between the middle of the lower section of seats from 1st to 3rd base. If you do not have a ticket in those first 20 or so rows, you cannot even venture down to watch batting practice. Even Yankee Stadium lets you watch BP from wherever you like, so I was not impressed with that at all. It’s 2 hours before the game, the stadium is empty, but I cannot watch BP up close? Not cool. Of course, I did sneak my way down one day :O)
That whole front section is difficult to navigate as well. There are only TWO ways to get back up to the rest of the stands the entire way from 1st to 3rd. Either that or you have to go through an underground tunnel to change sections or climb over many very annoyed people. This is a very bad design.
So, you be the judge. At & T Park is a nice place to visit, very nice views, but a bit unfriendly overall. As for the fans, some were nice, some not nice, like you expect most places. However, I was not expecting some to be as rude as they were; I mean, this is not New York. But still, I would be standing around quietly minding my own business and some grown man would run over, get in my face and scream, “Phillies suck!!!” But I guess you find those idiots wherever you go.
City of San Francisco – The Good
I have been all over the United States and traveled though 4 Continents, but San Francisco has the weirdest and most interesting topography I have ever seen. This is actually both good and bad. Good, because it is visually a very fun place to see. Bad, because driving up and down all those hills is only fun during car chases in the movies. It is not so much fun while you trying not to wreck a rental car.
But the location on the water is gorgeous and the opportunities to see wildlife is wonderful. There is a lot of very unique architecture around the city, as well as wooded areas and huge, towering trees just outside of the city.
And you will never run out of things to do, if you have the cash. Especially if you love to shop; this place is a shopper’s paradise. From Chinatown to the Union Square upper class stores like Tiffany’s and Louis Vitton, you can literally shop until you drop.
City of San Francisco – The Bad
Everything is very expensive in San Francisco; you know the song “I Left My Heart In San Francisco”? Well, I do not know about that, but I am pretty sure I did leave my wallet there. Parking is a nightmare and you will pay around $30 in a garage for just a few hours. But on the street is worse; ever tried to parallel park on a steep hill? Yikes! And then you find out that the meter takes only quarters and costs $3.00 for 20 minutes. The parking garage does not sound too bad after that.
Then there is the weather; cold, wet and soggy. Yuck. The constant mist in the air makes it bone-chilling cold in 55 degrees. The fog, which wanders in and out, is thick and scary and blocks many of the nice views around town. Not to mention, it causes tons of car accidents. My first day in town, I saw three major accidents over a 10 minute drive.
City of San Francisco – The Ugly
Again, I have been all over the world. I grew up 40 minutes south of New York City. I have seen many, many things in my lifetime, but never have I seen so many homeless and destitute people in one place before. It was truly depressing. You walk out of the stadium and are instantly barraged by anywhere from ten to fifteen homeless people begging for food and money. And that is just on one street corner. Keep walking; there are more at the next corner. It does make you thankful for what you have, but my heart simply could not take seeing that every day. I really do not know how people who live there handle this, but better them than me.
So, San Francisco is an interesting place with activities for all tastes, but bring your wallet, hire a driver and do not wander too far from the tourist spots.
I am putting together a Photo Album from the 4-game series with the Giants and shots of the ballpark now. Hoping to have that done later today. Check back for that.
Photos by Jenn