New season, new stuff (OK, mostly food)

The Giants held their annual media open house Wednesday, unveiling some upgrades to the ballpark and highlighting promotions and special events slated for the upcoming season. Of course, the big attractions as usual were the food offerings, as AT&T Park continues to find new ways of expanding fans’ waistlines in all sorts of delicious manners.

First, in non-food-related news, perhaps the most visible change to the ballpark will be out next to the Coca-Cola Fan Lot (where the Coke bottle, incidentally, will have a fresh paint job in honor of a seven-year extension of the soda company’s partnership with the Giants).

Gone is the Build-A-Bear Workshop and in its place will be a new social media center, which “will display social chatter of Giants fans in real time including tweets, photos from Instagram and polls from Facebook, all in real time.” The center, which will be named during its grand opening, will also feature a Peet’s Coffee Bar.

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Also notable on the Promenade level: The From the Clubhouse shop, where fans can buy authenticated and game-used items, has been relocated and expanded to a spot right where fans enter the concourse off the ramp inside Willie Mays Gate. Nearby is a newly expanded ticket office and a large new walk-in Guest Services center, next to the Gilroy Garlic Fries stand.

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The Giants will continue to lead the Majors in cool giveaways, which are listed here and include many World Series champions items, three bobbleheads, two gnomes and Giants announcers bottle stoppers.

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The special events calendar also is packed, with highlights including Metallica Night, Elvis Presley Night and Until There’s a Cure Day featuring a Rod Beck bobblehead. A personal favorite: On Social Media Night (July 26), the Giants will recognize an idea posted to the McCovey Chronicles blog and give away a Marco Scutaro rain globe, in tribute to Scutaro’s legendary pose in the rain during the NLCS-clinching game. Both the fan who posted the idea to McC and the blogger who runs it will be included in the night’s events.

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Remember that all special events require a special ticket in order to receive the giveaway item and participate in pregame parties.

Lots of sponsorship news, including Coca-Cola partnering with the Giants for a “Salute to the Military” program and Mumm Napa releasing two new Giants-branded sparkling wines. Fans will also be happy to hear the ballpark will have more than double the number of WiFi access points this season, as well as the addition of more than 400 mobile charging points.

But let’s get to what draws the most attention: the ballpark food. Pop-up bistros will appear at AT&T Park, and they’ll only be advertised on the @sfgiantfoodie Twitter feed, a la food trucks.

The list of new and featured stands, kiosks, carts and offerings is long, so I’ll paste it in directly at the bottom, after a selection of photos from the media open house. Keep in mind that the portion sizes shown here are much smaller than normal, since we’re sampling a wide range of offerings.

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Poutine fries (fries with brown gravy and white cheddar cheese — alas, not traditional cheese curds)

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SF Giant roll from Mashi’s Sushi.

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Lamb burger from Murph’s Pub, Idaho Russet potatoes and buttery mashed potatoes from the Emerald Isle Potato Bar.

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Original Joe’s burgers will be available at the Derby Grill Specialty Burger Stand on the Promenade level in left field. (The burgers were cut into very tiny pieces, so not photogenic.)

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Giuseppe Bazurro’s popular Greek salad and chicken Caesar are now available as wraps.

Here’s the full food rundown from the press materials:

Promenade & View Levels
Vintage 58: A new wine bar with an exclusive location behind home plate on the Promenade Level featuring tasting room décor and offering selected varietals from various regions.

McCovey’s BBQ Restaurant Kiosk: A new location for McCovey’s tasty BBQ at the top of O’Doul’s Gate featuring pulled pork nachos.

Say Hey Sausage Kiosk: A new portable kiosk on the Promenade Level featuring a variety of specialty sausages including Atomic Hot & Half Pound Polish kielbasa sausage and Bavarian Pretzels.

Chicago Dog Cart: Located directly behind home plate on the Promenade Level featuring the Original Chicago Dog with all the authentic toppings.

Lefty O’Doul’s Bar: Another San Francisco icon joins the team at AT&T Park. This satellite location of the historic Lefty O’Doul’s bar located at Union Square, features their famous Bloody Mary mix, specialty cocktails and is located at the top of the O’Doul Gate.

Original Joe’s Burger: The Derby Grill Specialty Burger Stand located on the Promenade Level in Left Field, will feature the exact recipe of the iconic Original Joe’s burger.

Other new Items found throughout the ballpark: Pannini sandwiches, Poutine Fries — French fries smothered with beef gravy & white cheddar; Mumm’s Sparkling Wine; Carmel topped Ghirardelli hot cocoa; and field roast artesian vegetarian sausages.

Field Club & Virgin America Club Levels
Pop Ups: Playing on the popularity of mobile food carts, pop-up bistros will be advertised only via the @sfgiantfoodie Twitter feed. #GiantPopUp will feature treats not currently available at the ballpark, including made-to-order hot pastrami sandwiches and knish, oysters on the half shell, hot apple cider and warm turnovers filled with Frog Hollow Farms fruit preserves.

Ferry Terminal Seafood: In partnership with Ferry Terminal Seafood, the new Club Level seafood cart located near the Carvery and Section 234 will offer up such favorites as New England and Manhattan clam chowder, shrimp and crab Louis, seafood cocktails, and freshly baked sourdough bread. Still and sparkling wine by the glass.

Emerald Isle Potato Bar: A baked potato concept located next to Murph’s Pub on the Club Level. Like Long Taters, Emerald Isle will feature extra-large baked Idaho potatoes and buttery mashed potatoes with an array of classic toppings.

Farmer’s Market: A brand-new look for the Farmer’s Market, located on the Club Level. The mercantile offers locally grown produce, fresh fruit aguas frescas, strawberry shortcake, seasonal pies and gelato. Indulge a savory appetite with seasonal vegetable antipasti and a wine bar specializing in sustainable and locally crafted wines both on tap and from the bottle.

Joe Garcia’s: New items available at Joe Garcia’s include: Crisp griddled gorditas topped with a house pickled cabbage and jalapeno slaw; Chipotle Sweet Potato Fries; and a Burrito Bowl featuring char grilled chicken, ancho chile rubbed skirt steak, carnitas or chile lime marinated white fish served with Spanish rice and topped with classic burrito fillings.

Guiseppi Barzurro’s: New items available at Guiseppi Barzurro’s include the favorite Greek and chicken Caesar salads available in wraps and a Grilled Eggplant Sandwich featuring balsamic, thyme and garlic marinated eggplant grilled and topped with roasted red bell peppers, goat cheese, salsa verde and baby arugula on a baguettini.

Mashi’s Sushi: New items available at Mashi’s Sushi include SF “Giant” Roll-ahi tuna, avocado, bok choy, shiso, green onion, fried tofu and scichimi aioli create one giant roll; Sashimi Bowls with ahi tuna or arctic char garnished with shiso and mayo with a choice of brown or white rice; and Tofu and Bok Choy in a lemon-grass green curry topped with ice peppers served over brown or white rice.

Murph’s Pub: The Irish Lamburger served with Guinness caramelized onions and Irish Cheddar will be a new item on the popular menu.

Krukow may remind fans to bring their gloves, but it’s fair to say they should also bring their appetites.

New season, new look

We’re back! The Giants‘ annual media open house had so much interesting stuff, I just had to share it, and that seems like as good of an excuse as any to revive this too-long-dormant MLBlog.

Escalator to club level

The media open house is an annual event the Giants hold where they invite — duh — the media to learn about AT&T Park improvements, promotions, marketing campaigns and food items that will be prominent in the upcoming season. The event is usually held on the field and in the Field Club, but this year, it was moved to the club level.

Make that the Virgin America Club level. Thanks to an expanded partnership with the San Francisco-based airline, the club level has been rebranded as the Virgin America Club. Flight attendants greeted the media as we went up the escalator to the club level, and the new look of the escalator trumpeted the partnership in a big way. Yep, that’s a mockup of the inside of a Virgin America plane, featuring their signature mood lighting. The lighting (purples, grays, reds) is subtly repeated in various areas of the club level itself.

The Virgin America sponsorship also includes the introduction of “Fly Bye Baby,” the newest member of the Virgin America fleet. It’s an Airbus A320, and Giants games and feature programming will be featured on Virgin America’s in-flight entertainment system. See a photo of the beard-wearing plane here.

The club level also includes the Virgin America Flight Deck, which the Giants describe as a “hip, outdoor club-like environment” behind sections 229-230, overlooking Second and King streets (it’s the same location where Switchfoot performed last year). It will include new seating, the Widmer Brothers Fan Haus bar and two fire pits surrounded by wind screens to create a more protected fan environment.

After covering promotions (including four bobbleheads, two gnomes and two World Series team reunions) and the new commercials, the Giants discussed major capital improvements to the ballpark. First and foremost, the goal with the offseason renovations has been to enhance views, improve traffic flow and create a more open feeling overall. It’s noticeable right away in the main Promenade level concourses.

The overhead hanging signs have all been removed, and the lighting has been improved. They’ve also moved all the food carts wedged behind the lower bowl seating to the opposite side of the concourse, mostly in new nooks created along the outer wall.

New lighting, removed overhead signs

Carts have been moved from the field side to nooks on the outer concourse walls.

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It wouldn’t be media day without some bathrooms news, and restrooms along the Promenade level have been reconfigured, with the left-field one getting additional capacity.

A new men’s room behind section 132-133 has what the Giants are calling “Northern California’s best view from a public bathroom,” looking out to the Bay Bridge (and another larger window overlooks MoMo’s, but don’t worry — they’re pretty high up in the wall).

The Bullpen Box, a premium group seating area next to the visitors dugout, is being turned into the Corona Beach Club. It’ll include a small sandy beach, two Adirondack chairs and other beach-themed amenities.

Fresh concrete poured for Ghirardelli Square South

As you may have read previously, another notable change is coming down the left-field line, where the congested narrow bridge near the Coca-Cola Fan Lot is being replaced with a new area spanning the entire width of the Fan Lot. It’s called Ghirardelli Square South and will include a Ghirardelli location plus a full concession stand that will include garlic fries and (I’m told) the popular Sheboygan brats.

Little Giants Park, the mini ballpark in the Fan Lot, is also being renovated to open up the views toward the Bay Bridge and to add a padded left-field wall just like the real park.

Out behind the scoreboard, the upper concessions area has been dubbed Anchor Plaza and will include an Anchor Brewery Tap Room kiosk. We were told that more Anchor Steam beer is sold at AT&T Park than any other location in the world.

Anchor Plaza

Finally, media day wouldn’t be complete without a whole lot of food. Seriously, I think some media members attend the open house just for the food offerings. Some of these are new items; others will be available in new locations. Here’s a sampling (note that many of these selections are presented in mini sizes just for media day, since there are so many choices available):

Gigante tostadas

Eisenberg premium hot dogs and veggie dogs

S'mores sandwiches

McCovey's Restaurant Forty Four BBQ ribs

Tres Kitchen bacon-wrapped hot dogs and three-cheese blend nachos

Curry sweet potato fries, corned beef sandwich on marble rye and chicken pot pie from Murph's Pub

Marinara meatball subs

Lamb sausages

Build your own grab-and-go healthy selections

Healthy snack bags

New seating area opens

coorsdeckview.jpgOver the past 10 years, the Giants have added a number of additional seating spaces at AT&T Park, including the Dugout and Lexus Box seats behind home plate, the Legends Club in the left-field corner of the Club level, the Bullpen boxes between the dugouts and bullpens, and the Virgin America Loft in the right-field Arcade wall.

But those have all required group bookings, which can be out of reach for a number of fans. Starting with Monday’s homestand opener, however, there’s a new seating area available for the cost of a single-game ticket: the Coors Light Deck.

coorsdeckwatch.jpgThat won’t be its name for long — KNBR is sponsoring a contest to rename it — but you can find it listed in the ticketing system for the upcoming week under the name “Coors Light Cold Zone.” The area is located in right-center field on the Promenade level, right next to the cable car.

For the price of an Arcade ticket, you can get one of approximately 40 tickets to the
deck, which features 20 premium padded seats lining the wall overlooking the field. The seats are each adorned with the name and number of a Giants legend, from Juan Marichal and Willie McCovey to Duane Kuiper and Kirk Rueter. Behind the seats is a deck area that features two Coors Light beer stands.

coorsdeckseats.jpgAs someone who had season tickets in the Arcade for years, I can tell you that the location of this seating area is fantastic for both watching the game and for amenities. Express restrooms (so named because they’re underused and thus never crowded) are located right under the scoreboard area, just a staircase away from the Coors Light Deck seats.

Also under the scoreboard are some of the best concession stands in the ballpark, including a Ghirardelli sundae stand, a Gilroy Garlic Fries stand, Stormin’ Norman’s Fabulous Frybreads (like a funnel cake but a thousand times better) and the legendary Big Guy’s BBQ. Immediately behind the scoreboard, on the Promenade level, is a food court-ish area that includes Crazy Crab sandwiches and the world-famous (or should be) Cha-Cha Bowls.

And it’s a snap to exit (or enter) the ballpark through the less-used Marina Gate, which is closest to the new seating area. Take the ferry to the game and you’ll be dropped off right at that gate.

A few more photos from the preview event for the new area:
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Sudsy Saturday

brewfestfans.jpgbrewfest.jpgbrewfestfans.jpgWhat goes together better than beer and baseball? The Giants held their first Brewfest before Saturday’s game, with the line to get into the Lot D event stretching clear across the Lefty O’Doul Bridge before the Brewfest opened.

Fans attending got a souvenir Giants sampling glass and a punch card good for seven tastings from among the nine participating San Francisco
Brewer’s
Guild
craft breweries: The Beach Chalet, 21st Amendment Brewery, Thirsty Bear Brewing Co., Magnolia Gastropub and Brewery, Social Kitchen and Brewery, Gordon Biersch, Speakeasy, Lagunitas Indian Pale Ale and Blue Moon.

Lions ring in busy homestand

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Tuesday was not only the start of a nine-game homestand for the Giants at AT&T Park, it was Chinese Heritage Night, one of many special events slated for the ballpark during the season. Those with special pre-purchased tickets, proceeds of which will benefit local Chinese charities, received a Giants-themed “Year of the Tiger” figurine.

Pregame entertainment featured the always-amazing lion dancers, a video of which is embedded below. Check out Lou Seal having some fun with his new friend partway through the video.

The remainder of the homestand is jam-packed with promotions and special events, including:

skatedeck.jpgWednesday: Crazy Crab crab feed and Avon Walk for Breast Cancer Night

Thursday: Day baseball!

Friday: College Night and Healthcare Night

Saturday: Brewfest at the Park, Exploratorium Day and Giants cap giveaway

Sunday: Giants skateboard deck giveaway (shown at right)

Monday: Day baseball! Giants stars and stripes T-shirt giveaway

Tuesday: Irish Heritage Night

Wednesday: Senior Appreciation Night, Girls Softball Night with Jennie Finch and San Jose Giants Night

A special note about Monday’s Memorial Day game: Not only is it a day game, but Tim Lincecum is scheduled to make his 100th Major League start against Rockies ace (and no-hitter owner) Ubaldo Jimenez. Best of all, that game is a Giants Dynamic Deal of the Week, with View Level tickets available for just $7. See you at the yard!

Switchfoot rocks the Club

Tuesday wasn’t just Carnaval Night at AT&T Park, it was the first installment of the Giants’ new pregame concert series, this one featuring Switchfoot. Fans purchased special tickets to attend the acoustic set on the Club Level Terrace, and they got their money’s worth, as radio station sponsor Live 105 DJ No Name encouraged all fans in attendance to get ridiculously close to the object of their musical affection.

switchfoot.jpgSo enthusiastic was the crowd (even beyond the young woman who kept screaming, “We love you, Switchfoot!” and eventually snapped a tabletop off its pedestal when she stood on it) that lead singer Jon Foreman had to chastise fans for cheering when he announced they were from San Diego — the Giants were taking on the Padres later that evening.

Fun sidenote: When the ballpark opened 10 years ago, what is now the Club Level Terrace was originally a port and cigar bar area. How times have changed.

Below, check out the band performing the title track off their most recent album, “Hello Hurricane,” and take note of fans along the ballpark’s View Level taking advantage of the chance to see a bit of the concert for free:

Lou Seal feels the spirit of Carnaval

The Giants celebrated Carnaval Night on Tuesday, and the pregame entertainment featured dancers and drummers getting into the rhythm of Carnaval (watch video here). Giants mascot Lou Seal couldn’t help but join in, as seen in the video below:

He shoots, he (almost) scores

In honor of the Sharks’ Game 1 victory over the Red Wings last night, here’s a look back at Dany Heatley throwing out the first pitch at Monday’s Giants game at AT&T Park.

Heatley came to the yard with teammates Ryane Clowe, Jay Leach and Niclas Wallin to take in a game during their four-day break from the Stanley Cup playoffs. Heatley’s said before that he would love to take batting practice, but because of the scheduling, that wasn’t possible. Instead, the Giants arranged for him to join the previously scheduled Boys & Girls Club California Youth of the Year, Winnie Phan, in throwing out the first pitch.

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Ryane Clowe, Dany Heatley and Jay Leach before the game.

Heatley, Clowe and Leach waited near the Giants dugout before the game (Wallin headed to his seat pretty quickly), indulging media requests for photos and interviews. He said despite not being raised in the United States, he’s still a fan of the American national pastime.

“I’m from Canada , but I’ve been in the States a lot,” said Heatley, who attended the Giants’ home opener along with some of his teammates. “I love watching games and love being at the park.”

Heatley even revealed that he’d been to a Giants game a very long time ago, when his family was visiting California and took in a game at the Giants’ old home, Candlestick Park.

As he waited before Monday’s game, rocking a Giants sweatshirt and cap, you could see he was getting a little nervous about the task that awaited him. At one point, he asked if someone could get him a ball and a place to warm up, and he went down to the Giants batting-cage tunnel to practice for a bit.

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Ryane Clowe, J.T. Snow, Jay Leach and Dany Heatley

Giants special assistant J.T. Snow dropped by to chat and pose for pictures with the Sharks players, and Heatley hung out with Barry Zito (someone told me they were already acquainted), who would be catching Heatley’s first pitch.

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Barry Zito chats with Dany Heatley

After pulling on his Sharks jersey (or sweater, in hockey parlance), Heatley took the field with Winnie, and while the 17-year-old rainbowed her toss into Sergio Romo‘s glove, Heatley fired the baseball version of a slapshot at Zito. Except his fastball came up a few feet short, and Zito had to make a nifty grab of the one-hopper.

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Dany Heatley throws his first pitch after Winnie Phan hurled a strike

Heatley took a lot of grief for getting outpitched by a 17-year-old (ESPN even interviewed Winnie), both when Clowe visited Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper in the broadcast booth during the game and later from his teammates. But he said he definitely enjoyed the experience and is still looking forward to the chance to take batting practice someday.

And any embarrassment over his first-pitch performance sure didn’t carry over to his play on the ice: He scored his first goal of the playoffs in the Sharks’ 4-3 victory over the Red Wings three days later.

NOTE: I’ve set up a Twitter account for updates and photos of ballpark happenings. Follow @ThirdAndKing on Twitter for all the fun!

Ponying up for the kids

zitoponyleague.jpgAs I drove to the ballpark today, it was almost weird not to see lines stretching all around the place, as they were for Wearable Blanket Night on Friday and Pablo Sandoval Bobblehead Night yesterday. But as I turned onto Third Street around 9:30 a.m., bam, there was a line extending from the Lefty O’Doul Gate past the Dugout Store.

zitokuiper.jpgTurns out it was the queue for Pony League Day, one of the many special events held in conjunction with Giants games throughout the season. Hundreds of youth baseball players and their coaches packed into a seating section along the first-base side and got a special presentation hosted by Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper.

Participants got to ask questions and hear from Giants third-base coach Tim Flannery, catcher Eli Whiteside, outfielder John Bowker and left-hander Barry Zito, fresh off his dazzling eight-inning, 10-strikeout victory from the night before. Check out the video below for some of Zito’s answers from the session:

Meet the authors

baseballcodes.jpgIf you happen to be at today’s game (and you should be — it’s a spectacular day here at the yard) or you’re in the area, stop by the Public House after the game. Jason Turbow and Michael Duca, the authors of the very well-reviewed “The Baseball Codes,” will be there to meet the public and sign copies of the book.

Jason and Michael, friends who were kind enough to give me a copy of their book, spent an enormous amount of time researching the “unwritten rules, protocols and superstitions” of baseball. NPR, The Associated Press, The New York Times and more have all raved about the book.

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