AT&T Park – San Francisco – #40
What an incredible place! Having been to the cold, windy, damp baseball structure known as Candlestick Park in 1994, this new palace is as different from the old one as night and day! Magnificently set beside San Francisco Bay, this beautiful ball park is a fan’s absolute dream. Fans arriving via the massive public transit system or by personal vehicle are greeted by statues of San Francisco Giant greats of the past: Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda and Willie Mays. Mays’ iconic replica of his famous bat swing follow-through, is located at 24 Willie Mays Plaza, the central entering gate directly behind home plate.
Once inside, the panorama of the playing field, along with the view of the bay in the background is spectacular. Complete with an oversized baseball glove and Coke bottle behind the left field seating area featuring a children’s playground and balanced by the picturesque McCovey Cove beyond right field, the various sights to behold are marvelous. It is here, in front of McCovey Cove, that the team keeps track of all homeruns hit into the cove via the term, Splash Hits. Later in the evening, as the sun goes down, the Bay Bridge is illuminated in lights for another breathtaking scene!
You can walk around the entire ballpark on one level to enjoy all the amenities that AT&T Park has to offer from craft beers to an incredible variety of food options. A must try is the delicious garlic fries. This snack is a staple of the ballpark and one of its most sold food items. And it goes great with a cold brew! During my stroll around the park, I was struck by the age group of the majority of the patrons. This being the 40th major league ballpark that I have visited, I also found it to have the youngest fan base. It seemed to me that most of the folks in attendance were what we are now calling “millennials” – those young adults in their mid-20’s to mid-30’s. This was great to see as the average age of major league baseball fans is above 50 years old nationwide. But, it’s obvious why these folks come out in large numbers to this ballpark. Not only do they have a great team that has won three of the past five World Series, but this baseball facility is truly a beautiful place. Right now, I’d have to rank it as my second favorite, right behind PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
Originally named Pacific Bell Park when it opened in 2000, it became SBC Park in 2003 after SBC Communications acquired Pacific Bell, then ultimately christened AT&T Park in 2006 following SBC’s merger with AT&T. During its short 16 year history, the venue has hosted 4 MLB World Series, beginning in 2002, the major league All-Star game in 2007 and many of slugger Barry Bonds’ historic homeruns. Bonds hit his 500th here in 2001, the same year he connected for season numbers, 71, 72 and 73 breaking Mark McGwire’s single season record. Bonds also hit number 600 here in 2002, #660 (tying Willie Mays) in 2004, #700 in 2006 and the record breaker #756 in 2007, besting Hank Aaron’s all-time mark. While I never saw Bonds play at this ballpark, I did get to witness in person his homerun #400 in Miami, #713 in Philadelphia and #751 in Cincinnati. Oddly enough, Barry Bonds has not been included on the Giants’ Wall of Fame yet. Introduced in 2008, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Giants move to San Francisco from New York, the Wall depicts star players who played at least five years for the SF Giants.
Finally, since San Francisco is also known for its famous cable cars, there is a cable car sitting behind the right center field wall. And it pays tribute to the other team from New York that moved west with the Giants in 1958. There is a sign at the cable car that reads: “No Dodger Fans Allowed”