March 2008

Get the party started

First, a note about the new blog format — the importing of my photo galleries was done automatically and in a quick-fix method, so that’s why the embarrassing parade of giant food items appears below. I’m debating just deleting all the photos and waiting for proper photo tools to be added, but maybe I’ll leave them for now and just have it look a little stupid.

But much bigger things to discuss, namely OPENING DAY. On Monday, AT&T Park will be buzzing despite the Giants being hundreds of miles south to face the rival Dodgers in Los Angeles. That’s because FSN Bay Area is sponsoring a party at the ballpark to commemorate the channel’s relaunch as Comcast SportsNet.

fan_batting.gifThe yard opens at 11 a.m., with batting practice beginning at 11:30 a.m. Anybody who wants to wait his/her turn can take five swings from home plate, believed to be the first time BP has been offered at the ballpark for free (though a donation to the Giants Community Fund is suggested).

At noon, the special one-hour pregame show from Los Angeles will air on the scoreboard’s high-definition screen, followed by the Giants-Dodgers game. At roughly 12:03 p.m., as part of that show, Hall of Famer Willie Mays will unveil CSN-BA’s new outfield sign. The day’s festivities will be hosted by PA announcer Renel Brooks-Moon.

Oh, perhaps the best part: FREE HOT DOGS for the first 5,000 fans.

McCovey Cove Loft

The new McCovey Cove Loft is under construction in the right-field wall.

McCovey Cove Loft view

The view looking out from the new McCovey Cove Loft in the right-field wall.

Legends Club

The new 120-person Legends Club suite, under construction on the Club Level.

Catfish Po boy

The new McCovey’s Restaurant Catfish Po boy sandwich, available in the plaza behind the center-field scoreboard.

Asian chicken wrap

New marinated Asian grilled chicken and vegetable wrap available at Edsel Ford Fong stands.

Tim street banner

Baby face, Giant heart — Tim is a gamer.

Bengie street banner

Stands in front of freight trains — Bengie is a gamer.

Welcome back

Welcome back” — that’s what the ballpark sound system was playing as fans entered AT&T Park for tonight’s exhibition game against the Mariners, the first time the Giants have played at home this year.

One of the more noticeable differences tonight is the absence of PA announcer Renel Brooks-Moon, but it’s for a very good reason: Renel has been selected to be the ballpark announcer for Saturday’s Civil Rights Game in Memphis, Tenn. This is a huge honor for Renel, who hopes to be back in time for Sunday’s exhibition finale vs. the A’s.

Yesterday, the Giants held their annual media open house, the highlight of which — other than the eagerly anticipated sampling of new ballpark food, which included a phenomenal catfish po boy sandwich from McCovey’s Restaurant — involved the two new luxury suites being built at the ballpark. The Legends Club, located in the left-field corner of the Club level just below the retired number plaques, is a large, all-inclusive entertainment space that can hold up to 120 people.

Cove_loftThe other suite, the McCovey Cove Loft, is a quirky addition, a 40-person space built into the right-field wall. Fans who sit in Section 150 of the Arcade are probably very happy to note that the “shed” originally constructed to house Rusty, the reviled mechanical man who used to appear at the park, is gone, no longer obstructing right-field views. In the shed’s place is the opening for the McCovey Cove Loft, which sits just to the right of where the out-of-town scoreboard crew does its work.

Also new this season will be added food offerings on the View Level, including another outlet of the very popular Orlando’s Caribbean Barbecue (home of the famous Cha-Cha Bowl) and a carvery station. They’ve also installed a glass wind screen along the top of the outer wall, along with a drink rail, so fans wanting to check out the magnificent city and bay views from the View Level concourse will be more comfortable.

Some other cool things on tap for the ballpark this season:
* If you bring your wireless-enabled device to the park this year, you’ll be able to get instant replays on the in-house WiFi network. Wireless food ordering is coming soon.
Bengie_gamer* The View Level will have a timeline display of photos from the last 50 years of Giants baseball, and 16 new display cases on the Promenade and View levels will showcase Giants jerseys from 1951 to today.
* On the streets around the ballpark, the light-pole banners feature a pretty neat advertising campaign centered around the “Gamer” theme the Giants are using this season. My favorite is the one for catcher Bengie Molina, which says “Stands in front of freight trains — Bengie is a gamer.”

Some photos of stuff from the media open house are available here.

Hitting the ground

I’ll have more about some of the exciting events and ballpark additions for the 50th Anniversary season in the coming days, but first a quick update about a change at AT&T Park:

The Giants have hired Greg Elliott as their new head groundskeeper, only the second top turf man in the ballpark’s history after Scott MacVicar’s distinguished eight-year tenure.

Field_2

Elliott comes with impressive credentials, having been the South Atlantic League Groundskeeper of the Year four times for his work with the Lake County Captains. Twice he was named Sports Turf Manager of the Year for all of Class A baseball. He’s a graduate of Michigan State University’s Sports and Commercial Turfgrass Management Program and has worked for USA Baseball and the Arizona Fall League.

Some fun facts about AT&T Park’s field:
* Spare turf is grown in the “sod farm” located directly behind the center-field wall. Scott once told me that other things, like tomato plants, have been grown in the sod farm.
* The grass is a custom Kentucky Bluegrass blend, grown especially for the Giants in the Delta.
* The Giants have never mowed any pattern into the field, per the wishes of managing general partner Peter Magowan. For the 2007 All-Star Game, a splashing-ball logo was painted into the grass and etched into the infield.
* Contrary to some fans’ concerns, offseason events like football, concerts and motorcross don’t affect the field, since the turf is entirely replaced prior to the baseball season. For concerts and other on-field events during the season, a special flooring that prevents the grass from being crushed is used.