April 2010

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.

Taming the elements

Almost six hours after the Giants were able to start their rain-delayed contest vs. the Braves, it’s absolutely POURING here at AT&T Park. But assuming the wet stuff stops before tomorrow night’s game vs. the Pirates (and it appears as though it will), there will be no question the Giants grounds crew will have the field ready for play.

They did an astounding job today of prepping the field once the skies cleared just long enough to get the game in, using a combination of push rollers, big ol’ blow dryers, a clay conditioner named Turface and cool machines called Waterhogs (plus the amazing drainage design of the park).

Below is a video of a Waterhog in action, plus a couple of photos from the field prep:

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Rolling the water away.

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Spreading Turface on the mound.

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And just for fun, Lou Seal verifies the rain has stopped.

A soggy reunion

We still don’t know if they’ll get to play the series finale between the Braves and Giants today here at AT&T Park, but they’re going to wait as long as possible, since Atlanta doesn’t have another trip back here this season.

The weather is a particular shame because the Giants have a bunch of players from the 2000 team here for a reunion in honor of the 10th anniversary of the first regular-season game at AT&T Park.

Here are some photos from the media gathering held about three hours ago:

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Kirk Rueter, who delivered the first pitch in the first regular-season game at AT&T Park.

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All-Star closer Robb Nen gets interviewed.

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Bill Mueller gives an interview.

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The Fightin’ Hydrants: Armando Rios, Marvin Benard and F.P. Santangelo (Santangelo wasn’t on the 2000 team but stopped by to visit old friends).

Opening Day is here

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It’s a spectacular day here at AT&T Park, where the Giants are taking batting practice before Opening Day vs. the Braves. If you’re coming to the game, why aren’t you here already??

Seriously, make sure you get here early for the pregame festivities. They will include a special video tribute to someone special in the Giants family, the national anthem performed by Matt Nathanson (and he sounded GOOD in the pregame sound check) and the first pitch thrown by 49ers legend Jerry Rice (he let the cat out of the bag himself this morning on Twitter, of all things).

There will also be the traditional Opening Day flyover, from the VX-9 Vampires out of China Lake-Point Magu, and the first 40,000 fans get Opening Day calendars.

Perfect setting for Opening Day

(UPDATE: Apologies for the videos accidentally being marked as private. That’s been changed, so you should be able to view them now.)

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Fans line up to enter the ballpark for the Opening Day party.

Giants fans had to like Monday’s Opening Day in Houston, where Tim Lincecum was brilliant, new Giant Mark DeRosa bashed a homer, John Bowker showed off a nice glove (and bat) and Brian Wilson was downright filthy in the ninth.

fanswatch.jpgBut the fans who showed up to AT&T Park for the CSN Authentic Opening Day viewing party REALLY enjoyed the day. They got to watch the game on the high-def video board, surrounded by fellow orange-and-black faithful, eating a free hot dog and getting an autograph from Vida Blue and Jeffrey Leonard. Here are some of them getting excited for the first at-bat of the season (love the guys jumping out of their skin with excitement in the dugout):

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A sneak peek

(Administrative note: After having to give up early last season, I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep up with blogging about ballpark happenings this season, but I’m going to try.)

Wednesday was the annual media open house at AT&T Park, where the Giants discuss what exciting things are planned for the upcoming season (beyond the guys in uniforms throwing a ball around).

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Opening Weekend kicks off April 9 with Opening Day vs. the Braves. San Francisco’s own Matt Nathanson will perform the national anthem (seriously, if you don’t know this guy, go download “Come On Get Higher” RIGHT NOW) and the first pitch will be thrown out by a mystery San Francisco sports legend. Toss out your guesses on Twitter (address to @sfgiants or tag it #sfgiants), and no, it’s not Barry Bonds.

But speaking of Bonds, he’ll be at AT&T Park on April 11 as part of the 10th anniversary of the first regular-season game played at the yard. Other guests from that 2000 National League West championship team include Rich Aurilia, Marvin Bernard, Ellis Burks, Felipe Crespo, Bobby Estalella, Shawn Estes, Aaron Fultz, Mark Gardner, Jeff Kent, Ramon Martinez, Bill Mueller, Robb Nen, Armando Rios, Kirk Rueter and J.T. Snow.

The night before that, Tim Lincecum will be honored for winning his second consecutive Cy Young Award, with postgame fireworks also planned.

Here’s a sampling of some of the giveaways planned this year:

Six bobblehead giveaways include this awesome Willie Mays “The Catch” bobblehead on May 16 (the Giants started the bobblehead craze with a Mays bobblehead back in the ’90s):

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An Orange and Black Attack team member shows off the skateboard deck to be given away May 30:

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Another Orange and Black Attack member models the “wearable blanket” being given away April 23:

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This next one isn’t a giveaway, but it’s sure to be popular — Tim Lincecum wigs will be sold at the ballpark. Here, senior vice president Mario Alioto models the wig with both a Giants cap and with Lincecum’s preferred headwear, a beanie:

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The highlight of media day (at least for the media) is a sampling of some of the new and returning food items offered at the ballpark. Some of the new comestibles include cheesesteaks, a caprese sandwich, a classic grilled Reuben, a Columbus St. Combo, a Lettieri Family Italian beef sandwich, a potato bar, sushi bar and grilled kabobs.

A new party area is coming to the park — the Coors Light Deck out in right-center (near the flagpoles and the cable car). Watch the video below to learn more about this space:

And finally, I leave you with a photo of the new Guest Services uniforms. Much cooler than the old green and beige numbers:
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