Overnight sensation

sunrise.jpgAfter the Giants wrap up their homestand Wednesday vs. the Tigers, it’ll be time for an annual tradition that’s one of the most special experiences the Giants offer to fans: the AT&T Park Slumber Party.

I attended the first three Slumber Parties (this year will be the sixth time they’ve held it), and it’s hard to describe just how special the night is. While I get to go onto the field at AT&T Park on a regular basis, many fans dream about getting to just set foot on it once. At the Slumber Party, you get to spend the entire night there, and it’s pretty surreal.

The Giants also make it a very entertaining night all around, especially for families. The warning track is ringed with all kinds of games, from air hockey to Playstations to speed pitch, and in recent years, AT&T has set up a WiFi tent for fans to surf the Internet and send e-mail. Some fans even bring their own laptops to take advantage of the ballpark’s free wireless access; I did a live blog from the Slumber Party several years ago. Fans obviously enjoy the chance just to play catch and walk around barefoot on the lush lawn that the big leaguers tread upon. I still get a kick thinking of the two women who were thrilled to find the shells of Barry Bonds’ sunflower seeds in left field.

There’s plenty of food, all of the party variety (pizza, ice cream, popcorn), and a lot of fans get a kick out of eating dinner in the dugout. A couple of movies are usually shown on the ballpark’s video board, even nicer since it was replaced with a giant HD screen two years ago. In the past, they’ve also given away mattresses, with the lucky winners getting to sleep upon their prize that very night.

The wakeup call comes early at the ballpark, but I recommend getting up even before that to catch the sun rising over the East Bay hills. It’s a spectacular sight as it rises over the Coke bottle in left, before a nice buffet breakfast and the delivery of photos taken at home plate the night before (the Giants’ amazing publications department stays up all night printing them). Fans leave with a cool goodie bag of Slumber Party favors.

This year, a great added bonus is an autograph session with Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson. That alone could be worth the price, as Lincecum is an All-Star candidate this year and Wilson is leading the league in saves.

I’d call the Slumber Party a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but there are folks who have returned year after year since the inaugural event in 2003. It’s not too late to sign up and see for yourself what a treat this night is.

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