Thursday, May 12, 2016

Toronto Blue Jays at San Francisco Giants - May 9-11, 2016

I have two goals left that keep me going on these seemingly endless sports road trips. The first is to complete all minor league ballparks (plus the AHL rinks and CFL stadiums) while the other is to see the Maple Leafs and Blue Jays in all road cities. The most difficult part of this dream is seeing the Jays in all 15 National League parks, as they only visit every six years assuming a regular rotation. This year, they play the NL West, which means trips to San Francisco, Colorado, and Arizona for the team. I saw them play the Diamondbacks back in 2010, so this year I would only have to follow them to SF and Denver, both home to fantastic baseball venues.

So after completing my Texas League trip, I flew from Dallas to San Francisco early Monday morning, enjoying clear views the whole way and some amazing scenery, as you can see above. I had clear views of El Paso and Tucson as well. After I arrived, I headed to my hotel, where my buddy Sharpy, who had arrived from Ottawa the night before, met me. After dropping off my stuff, we explored the neighbourhood around AT&T Park (i.e. bar hopping). Along the way, we saw many other Jays fans doing the same thing. The 21st Amendment is the establishment of choice for many fans as it is just a couple of blocks from the stadium, but if you are looking for something a little less crowded, try the Brickhouse Cafe and Bar, which has $4 pints during happy hour from 3-7, ideal for both day and night games.

From there, it is a short walk to AT&T Park, which is located at the corner of 3rd and King. Transit options abound as well, with the Muni stopping directly across the street, while CalTrain's terminus is at 4th and Townsend if you are coming from the South Bay. If you wish to brave the Bay Area's rush hour traffic, you can always drive and try to find parking but I do not recommend this option.

Before going inside, you should take a walk around the entire stadium. There are statues of past Giants stars (Orlando Cepeda above is one example), and along the Port walk next to McCovey Cove, you can see 22 plaques that celebrate many Giant achievements that took place at the stadium, such as when Barry Bonds hit his 756th home run back in 2007.

You can also view the iconic Coke bottle and glove from behind, an angle that is rarely shown for obvious reasons.

When I first visited here in 2001, the area behind right field was open to the public who could stand and watch the game for free. On the day I visited, it seemed that it had become a party area, though this may only be true before the game as the Giants website still indicates that these viewing portals, known as the Knothole Gang, are available to the general public. Note that you are limited to three innings if you decide to stand here, so don't bring a scorebook.

Once inside, the first stop is along the lower concourse to look at three World Series trophies and marvel at the Giants recent run of playoff luck.

Then head to the outfield area known as the Fan Lot, where you can get a close up look at the bottle and glove, which is the largest in the world.

I've included Sharpy and myself so you can see just how big it really is.

There are a number of colourful concession stands here that offering items that are slightly more unusual than what is available at the more mundane markets.

A small tribute to Candlestick Park can be found on this level, including a set of four bright orange seats. I saw the Expos there in 1992, and of course, the final 49ers game there on my NFL road trip in 2013. Candlestick was demolished in 2015.

Another interesting feature is the Buster Posey Lego figure, which looks remarkably like him. Check out the link to see how it was put together.

Oh yeah, there's also a baseball field here.

The obligatory view from behind home plate, which is not recommended because you really should be sitting up high so you can see the surrounding area.

Finally, the panorama shot from Section 302, which includes downtown, the Bay Bridge, and McCovey Cove. I met a fellow from Calgary here who had purchased the seat furthest from home plate and couldn't disagree with his logic as it is the best view in sports.

The Giants franchise has a long and storied history, including 75 seasons in New York, and AT&T Park includes references to those years as well, with old-time jerseys on display and world championship pennants along the roof of the stadium. There is so much on offer here that a single visit is probably not enough. When I first visited here in 2001, I considered this to be the second-best stadium in MLB behind PNC Park in Pittsburgh, but with the team's recent success and subsequently more history on display, it might have taken over top spot. Regardless of where you rank it, it is a must-see for any baseball fan.

The Games

Toronto is not a big draw in San Francisco and tickets for all three games were very cheap on the secondary market. For the first game, we sat about 30 rows back between home and first which set us back $20.

The Jays came in at 16-17 having lost 2 of 3 to the Dodgers back in Toronto, while the Giants were one game better at 17-16. The first game saw Aaron Sanchez facing Jake Peavy in a walkfest as the teams combined for 11 free passes. Josh Donaldson walked in the first and scored on a Michael Saunders single and then Jose Bautista walked in the third and scored on an Edwin Encarnacion homer that gave the Jays a 3-0 lead. In the 6th, Matt Duffy walked, moved to third on a Brandon Belt double, and scored on a Hunter Pence groundout. That was the only run given up by Sanchez, who completed 7 innings while scattering 3 hits and 5 walks. Gavin Floyd pitched the 8th and Roberto Osuna closed it out, getting pinch-hitter Posey to ground out as the tying run for the save. A good start to the trip.

For Tuesday's game, my friend Duncan flew down from Ottawa to join us, making his first sports road trip appearance since 1990. Fellow sports traveler and Bay Area resident Tike Narry, a Giants season-ticket holder, met us at the 21st Amendment before the game for a few libations. He had also received an invitation to a pregame wine tasting in the club area and kindly brought us along. Free wine and a chance to see the club section? Yes please. Several area wineries were on hand offering as much wine as you cared to drink, and the quality was outstanding. Sharpy and I were dressed in our Blue Jays jerseys and received many curious looks and a few questions, but all the fans were quite friendly, no doubt helped by all those frickin' championships. Anyway, once we had (more than) our share of wine, we took a brief tour of the club area, which includes a lot more memorabilia, such as a case honouring Dave Dravecky (above), and one celebrating the 2014 title (below). I had nothing against the Giants before I went there, but now I think they are just a bunch of show offs.

We eventually made it to our seats and watched as J.A. Happ pitched 8 2/3 shutout innings, only to give up a single and a walk to end his evening. Osuna came in and walked the bases loaded before striking out Jarrod Parker to earn a ridiculous save as the Jays won 4-0, with Troy Tulowitzki finishing with 2 runs scored and 3 RBI.

Wednesday was an afternoon game, and as Tike was working, we were able to use his seats. As you can see above, the view is not that bad. I really was hoping the Jays could complete the sweep, but they were down 5-2 after 7 innings. However, they scored 2 in the 8th and then Saunders led off the 9th with a homer and we went to extra innings with hope in our hearts. In the 11th, Encarnacion swung on a 3-0 pitch with men on 1st and 2nd and flew out to end the threat. I'm not a big fan of the 3-0 swing, but in this case, it made sense. In the 13th, Ryan Goins led off with a single but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double, in a play that was upheld after review. The next two batters singled, so yeah, Goins aggressiveness cost them a run. Of course, the Jays could not score, and in the bottom of the 13th, Ryan Tepera came in, essentially waving the white flag. A hit batter, misplayed sacrifice, wild pitch, and intentional walk loaded the bases. Joe Panik lined out, but Posey walked on 4 pitches to give the Giants the 6-5 win in 13 innings, leaving both teams at 18-18.

I'll take a 2-1 series win any day, but just once I'd like to have a 3-0 sweep on one of these trips.


The lateness of the game forced us to miss the San Jose Earthquakes game that night as we missed the last CalTrain that would have got us to Avaya Stadium in time. We instead went back to the Brickhouse and lamented the loss with a few more beers.

After this season, I still have to see the Jays at five National League parks: Washington (rained out last year), Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Los Angeles, as well as Seattle and Oakland in the AL. I suspect that this goal will keep me road tripping until 2020 at least.



No comments:

Post a Comment