Photo taken by Erik Catalan and is for use only by aroundthefoghorn.com
AT&T Park (formerly Pac Bell Park, and then SBC Park) is the home of your World Champion San Francisco Giants. The Gigantes are down south preparing for the regular season, but perhaps you didn’t know that, while the G-men are readying themselves for the rigors of the 2015 regular season, the grounds crew back at 24 Willie Mays Plaza are prepping the field for the players to make their home debut.
Now I have a renewed respect and admiration for everything that goes on at AT&T Park
I took the time to enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour of the “country’s greatest ball park” and was in awe of how much care and consideration went into the yard’s planning, construction and upkeep. Before my tour, I already felt like we were fortunate enough to have such an outstanding venue to watch the home team, but now I have a renewed respect and admiration for everything that goes on at AT&T Park.
First off, I have to give KUDOS to our guide, Dennis Pierce. He had an obvious passion for the Giants organization and his genuineness shone through at every stop in the stadium. Thank you, Dennis.
The tour began in the Giants Dugout Store. If you haven’t been to the main location at the Lefty O’Doul entrance it is a Giants fan’s paradise. It has anything you might be looking for with a Giant’s logo on it (and even more).
The visitors side dugout at AT&T Park.
The tour began promptly at 10:30am and we made our way into the park and our first stop was the batting cages just behind the visitor’s dugout. The pitching machine in the cage can be set to variable speeds from 60-90+ mph with movement towards and away from the hitter. Oftentimes when a team sends a player down to the cage prior to a pinch-hitting appearance, the opposing manager will follow suit and make a change as well, knowing that the pinch hitter has been down in the cage prepping for the pitcher’s repertoire.
From the cage, we headed upstairs to the visitor’s dugout, and I have to say it was pretty thrilling. The World Series decor was still up, and it made up for the fact that the grass on the field was absent.
The field at AT&T Park is in preparation for re-sodding. the clay portion of the infield remains, but all the grass is pulled up and the field gets a complete off season makeover.
Fun fact #1: the home dugout is typically on the first base side, but at AT&T Park, it is on third base side. This is to give the home team a slight advantage over 81 games (that’s 729 or more innings). The distance to the positions on the field is shorter from the third baseline than from the first base side.
Every year the field is re-sodded to keep it in pristine order. The stadium hosts events nearly every day, with everything from concerts, to wine-tastings, school proms, and many of these events take place on the field. With all of that foot traffic, the grounds crew has their hands full making sure that the field meets the standards of MLB professionals, and also takes into consideration the preferences of the their home team.
After a short stroll along the warning track, and back through the dugout we returned downstairs into the visiting team’s clubhouse. Although, we were told, it is much smaller than the Giant’s dwelling, the visitor’s clubhouse has its own kitchen, a few televisions, and monitors set-up for the visitor’s scouting purposes. They even have an in-house cook to prepare food for the away squad, and will take requests, catering to their likes and dislikes.
Joints were built into piping where the five separate sections of the stadiums meet to expand or contract in the occurrence of an earthquake.
As we traveled about the park, Dennis pointed out that the park is actually built in five independent sections. Those of us who were alive during the 1989 “Battle of the Bay” World Series know that this is to meet the strenuous seismic codes. Between each section is a sizable gap that also considers the pipes which have joints that are built to expand and contract. It was really astounding to see first hand the amount of planning that went into constructing the stadium.
From the bottom up to the top, we visited the view level, where (just as the name would tell you) the view was spectacular! The temperature was considerably lower, and you could feel the wind much more, but treat yourself to a Ghiradelli hot chocolate, enjoy a nice value and sit up top for a game.
We can actually thank a team of researchers at the University of California, Davis for the fact that the wind is tolerable (and for the view of the bay). The stadium was actually planned to face the city skyline, but to create a more pleasant experience for the park goers (and to make it more hitter-friendly, which is funny to think of) the design was actually pivoted 180 degrees.
The center field garden.
- Fun fact #2: most MLB stadiums require a 22-acre footprint to build on. AT&T’s foot print is only 13 acres and makes up for its area by being the most public transit accessible ballpark in the country. Also, because of this small footprint, the seating is at much steeper rake, making the feel of every seat in the park much closer to the field and provides a more intimate perspective for fans.
- Fun fact #3: Looking down past the center field wall you can get a good view of the organic garden that has been planted. Vegetables from the garden can be consumed in the form of salads that are served in selected locations around the park
Down the stairs we traveled to the Oracle Suite Level. These seats located between the upper and lower levels are more spacious, with access to an enclosed suite where you can also order food to your seat, and there are also monitors showing the game. You can leave “Your Heart in San Francisco” and admire the Tony Bennett artwork that is featured in the suites at the end of the first base side.
The Peanuts, an AT&T Park exclusive can be found on the Virgin America Club Level.
The “Suite” seats were only second to the next level down, the Virgin America Club Level. The beautiful concourses were decorated with more memorabilia and exclusive photos than we had time to look at. The view of the field from this level feels very close to the action and I would feel fortunate to enjoy a game from there once in my lifetime.
- Fun fact #4: the late Charles M. Shulz was a huge Giants fan. The Peanuts statues of Charlie Brown, Snoopy and Lucy can only be found at AT&T Park and in no other MLB stadium in the country.
Onward we moved into the press boxes. This was a really neat experience. To see where the announcers and commentators from all over the world view the game was a treat. It was funny to know that the small chips taken out of the Formica tables are left as somewhat of a warning to be on your toes at all time. The windows are open during the games and on multiple occasions foul balls will make their way into the box and wreak havoc on anything in their path.
McCovey Cove home of the signature field for the Junior Giants
- Fun fact #5: there are exactly 24 palm trees planted in Willie Mays Plaza in honor of #24 himself.
- Fun fact #6: The Coca-cola Slide is open (when the team is away) on weekends, and during the months of June, July and August daily from 10am-4pm to the general public, free of admission. Children 14 and under can go down the slide and toddlers and preschoolers can pretend to be a Giant at the mini ballpark.
- Fun fact #7: There is a park that is the signature home for the Junior Giants just beyond the statue of Willie McCovey, in McCovey Cove. The Junior Giants is a free program that looks to help at-risk kids by providing an alternative to drugs, gangs and crime by playing baseball.
As we ended our tour right past Willie Mays Plaza and back at the Dugout Store, I felt so lucky to be a Giants fan. From top to bottom the organization is passionate about building a winning atmosphere, and making sure that the field and ballpark is the best in Major League Baseball.