I went to several baseball games in San Francisco when the Giants played at Candlestick Park. The last game ranks up there as one of the coldest I ever attended, surpassed only by opening day at Yankee Stadium in 2003 (when the seats were covered in ice and snow.)
Now the Giants are playing in their newest home at AT&T Park. The ballpark has changed names several times and has been proclaimed as one of the best parks in baseball by many people I meet. Opened in 2000, AT&T Park is just up the bay, 6 miles north from Candlestick in the South Beach section of San Francisco.
The area around AT&T is decorated with banners featuring Giant players and slogans "It's Hot Inside" and "Its Magic Inside." Bars and restaurants are nearby on 3rd Street and Willie Mays Plaza.
As I arrived at the ballpark I was shocked to see how many fans were waiting outside 6 hours before game time. I've seen this crazy fan behavior only in Boston and Chicago. People were waiting in line to receive a Tim Lincecum bobblehead give-away that day. Another line was for season ticket holders to meet and greet the Cy Young Award winner.
The first order of business was to take a tour of the park. I had some time to kill so I walked around the exterior of the park, seeing statues of Giants greats and plaques honoring other Giants stars on the walls of Willie Mays Plaza. The area in right field is beautiful with the marina, McCovey Cove and the Portwalk, which had a knothole-like area where passersby can watch a game for free for a limited time. Around the Portwalk, great moments in Giants history are engraved in the walkway.
The tour was one of the best I've ever been on. The tour leader was knowledgeable and asked trivia about the team and baseball history. We were taken on the field, inside the dugouts, into press area, luxury suites and to the upper level behind home plate to see the great view of the San Francisco Bay. The interior of the ballpark is decorated with images of the team history and also offers a history of the San Francisco Seals.
When in San Francisco, see the Golden Gate Bridge, take a ride on cable car, visit Alcatraz Island and take in a game at AT&T Park, one of best ballparks in all of baseball.
The logo of AT&T Park on the gate in San Francisco. AT&T Park was chosen as the 2008 Sports Facility of the Year by Sports Business Journal and Sports Business Daily. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
A display case filled with the 20th anniversary memorablia from the 1989 San Francisco Giants National League Championship team. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
Fans arrived early for a game between the New York Mets and the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. Fans arrived hours before game time to receive a Tim Lincecum bobblehead. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
A statue of Giants Hall of Fame outfielder Willie Mays stands outside AT&T Park on Willie Mays Plaza, left. A sign post showing the locations of many of the former Giant homes, left, and The Portwalk, right, located beyond the outfield wall, is one of the ballpark's most unique features. (Photos: Gordon Donovan)
The mezzanine and upper levels offer great views of the game, as well as downtown San Francisco, the Bay Bridge and San Francisco Bay. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
Retired numbers of former Giants are hung on the facade of the suite level at AT&T Park in San Francisco. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
Fans enter the field through the tunnel during a tour of AT&T Park, the home of the Giants in San Francisco. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
The design of the park is a classic urban ballpark with an old-time feel with a brick facade. The park was called Pacific Bell Park from 2000-2003 and SBC Park from 2004-2006. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
The Giants Hall of Fame in the club level has many cases honoring the Giants rich history dating back to the days in New York City. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
The giant 1927 old-time four-fingered baseball glove is a 26-foot-high, 32-foot-wide and 12-foot-deep replica of a vintage 1927 four-fingered baseball mitt. It is 36 times the size of the original model and weighs 20,000 pounds. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
The Giants Buster Posey takes a few practice cuts while standing on deck during the baseball game against the New York Mets at AT&T Park in Francisco. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
A view from the left field corner at AT&T Park, the home of the San Francisco Giants in San Francisco. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
On the walls of the walkways of the park, images from the Giants' long history are displayed throughout AT&T Park in San Francisco. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
The Giants Wall of Fame honors 43 former Giants stars over the past 50 plus seasons in San Francisco. The Giants moved to the west coast from New York after the 1957 season. The Wall of Fame was established in 2008. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
AT&T Park is an excellent ballpark and drastic upgrade from its predecessor Candlestick Park. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
The Crazy Crab was a mascot of the San Francisco Giants for the 1984 season. As opposed to other mascots, Crazy Crab was meant as an "anti-mascot", satirizing on the mascot craze that was going on at the time. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
AT&T Park, the home of the San Francisco Giants in San Francisco, California on July 17, 2010. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
New York Mets pitcher Johan Santana delivers a pitch against the San Francisco Giants during a baseball game at AT&T Park, the home of the Giants in San Francisco. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
A cable car and sign post sit in the walkway along right center field. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
A display case filled with autographed baseballs signed by former New York and San Francisco Giants players. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
Fans can visit Coca-Cola Fan Lot at no charge for ticket holders on game days and at no cost on selected non-game days for the entire community. The attraction features special slides, a mini-version of AT&T Park, giant baseball glove, fantasy photo booth, and "Make Your Own Lou Seal" workshop. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
Lou Seal, the Giants mascot, stands on top of the Giants dugout trying to motivate the crowd as the Giants seek a rally. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
The seats behind home plate are probably the worst seats in the house. The plexiglass for the doors are not clear for visibility. Fans are asked to not use cell phones or take photos with a flash during the game. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
Fans can stop to take an occasional peek at the ballgame in the tradition of the old knothole gang. Guests may view a game, free of charge, for up to three innings or longer, depending on the size of the crowd. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
A shameful marker in the sidewalk at AT&T Park, the home of the San Francisco Giants. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
A - Beautiful ballpark with not a bad seat in the house, except maybe directly behind home plate with plexi-glass doors with dents and scratches. The kids area at the big glove in left-center is cool. McCovey Cove and cable car add nice touches. Great ballpark tour with excellent tour leaders. It San Francisco, always remember to bring extra layers.
Fans & Atmosphere: B - Great loyal fans, very knowledgeable. Were lined up five hours before game to get a Tim Lincecum bobblehead.
Food: B - Chicken Fingers with garlic fries and ice tea for 15.25. No real signature food.
Mascot: A - Lou Seal, fan friendly seal with just too cute and fun. Much better than the crab.
Staff: A - Very courteous, professional, friendly to all.
Team Tradition: A - Proud of San Francisco Seals and Giants heritage. Honor the NY Giants HOF players and the greats of San Francisco Giants.
Location: A - The park is located at 24 Willie Mays Plaza, at the corner of 3rd Street and King Street, in the South Beach neighborhood of San Francisco, California.
Photos taken July 17-18, 2010 using a Canon EOS-1D Mark IV Digital SLR with a EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Standard Zoom Lens, EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM Telephoto Zoom Lens.