Early birds catch Giants BP

Last night, the Giants opened the AT&T Park gates an hour earlier than normal for the first time this season, part of a special program where they’ll do that for every Friday and Saturday night home game so fans can see the entirety of the Giants’ batting practice.

Previously, the gates opening two hours before gametime would mean the earliest arriving fans would see perhaps the tail end of the Giants taking BP and all of the visitors. Now, with the gates opening three hours prior on Friday and Saturday nights, fans can see the home team stretch, take infield and swing away.

Each early opening will include an “Orange Plate Special” at the concession stands (last night, it was a meal deal of a hot dog, peanuts and soda) and 20 BP baseballs will be specially marked so fans who end up with them can redeem them for a prize.

Don’t I know you?

caincalendar.jpgAs we sit here hoping the rain holds off long enough to get at least part of this game in (it’s been dry for the last hour), some of the players participated in the now-traditional ritual of handing out Opening Day calendars to unsuspecting fans as they entered the gates at AT&T Park.

While most fans were thrilled to get their calendar from Matt Cain and snap a few photos, one gentleman held up his hand and shook his head when Cain offered a calendar.

At another gate, some fans couldn’t identify new reliever Jeremy Affeldt, but he took it in stride when one fan wished “Brian” a great season. “I’m not Brian [Wilson], but thanks!” Affeldt cheerfully replied.

Below, a young fan is so engrossed by the calendar, he doesn’t even notice a player is the one handing it to him. After being told, he stared with his mouth open for a full minute.


Giants add green to orange and black

No, the title doesn’t refer to one of those hideous Giants/A’s split caps — it’s describing the Giants’ recent announcement of efforts to be the greenest ballpark in the Majors.

By the end of the year, the Giants plan to have AT&T Park become the first Major League facility to earn U.S. Green Building Council certification for  Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Existing Buildings, Operations and Maintenance. Conservation steps they’ve already taken include being the first MLB  park to install a solar energy system, advances in irrigation practices (including a cool-sounding “irrigation clock” that receives weather conditions, including “evapotranspiration” information, to establish watering times) and adding energy-efficient office equipment to the executive offices.

Two of the cooler green inititatives fans will notice:

The Green Team — Employees wearing special uniforms and badges made from recycled material will help fans with recycling and composting of ballpark trash. During the seventh-inning stretch, fans can pass their trash to Green Team members.

greengarlic.jpgThe green garlic fries stand — The popular promenade level garlic fries stand behind home plate has been converted into a sustainable concession stand. It has new Henny Penny open fryers (love that name), a Coca-Cola Energy Management System Cooler, more efficient lighting, signs made from 100 percent biodegrable and recyclable materials, environmentally friendly paint, recyclable drink cups and compostable trays. The energy saved by this stand is enough to fry 110 tons of garlic fries a season. Fun fact: 800 pounds of garlic fries are made at this stand every game.

Oh, the entire ballpark is now a no-smoking facility — the smoking areas are no more.

American hero, American Idol

The Giants held their annual media day Wednesday, with tons of information about what will be happening at AT&T Park this season. It’s too much to share in one post, so I’ll dole out the highlights over the next couple of days, but if you want to consume the info all at once, here’s a 15-page PDF with all the details.

sullenberger.jpgOpening Week will be special as always, and they’ve already started hanging the bunting at the ballpark. Opening Day on Tuesday will have an especially American theme, as the first pitch will be thrown out by national hero Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the US Airways pilot who safely landed a jet in New York’s Hudson River, saving the lives of all the passengers and crew. He’s a local guy from the East Bay town of Danville.

The national anthem will be sung by Taylor Hicks, who won the fifth season of “American Idol” and is now starring as Teen Angel in the national production of “Grease” currently performing in San Francisco.

The next game is Opening Night, and in addition to the traditional postgame fireworks show, it’ll be the night Tim Lincecum officially receives his 2008 National League Cy Young Award (the first 20,000 pins get a Lincecum Cy Young pin). Randy Johnson makes his Giants debut as well, looking to notch one of the five wins he needs for 300.

To close out the three-game homestand vs. the Brewers, the Giants will be the inaugural game for MLB Network‘s Thursday Night Baseball (a special 4:05 p.m. start time for that) and the Giants are going to have a Fan Appreciation Day, much like the one traditionally held at the end of the season with lots of prizes given out to random fans.

Bet your shirt

playershirts.jpgIf you’ve ever thought about buying a Matt Cain player T-shirt, today would be the perfect day to do so at the AT&T Park Dugout store.

As part of the Dugout store’s “Shutout Saturday” promotion, not only is that shirt (along with selected other player T-shirts) $5 off on Saturdays, if Cain pitches a shutout today and you’ve purchased the shirt by the sixth inning, you’ll receive a baseball autographed by Cain himself. And even if he doesn’t, hey, you’ve got a cool shirt for $5 off.

The Dugout store also has a “Walkoff Wednesday” promotion, where player T-shirts are again $5 off, but this time, if a player hits a walk-off home run, you receive his autographed ball. I suppose you could still pick up that Cain shirt you’ve been eyeing, but I’d think the likes of Bengie Molina or Aaron Rowand might be a better bet.

Then again, if it’s the bottom of the 15th inning and Bruce Bochy’s run out of position players, he could do worse than tap Cain, who has four career long balls.

Bow wow

clouseauwin.jpgSaturday featured one of my favorite annual events at AT&T Park, the Giants’ Dog Days of Summer. More than 700 dogs got to come to the yard, participate in a pregame parade and costume contest and then watch the game from a special dog zone section in the bleachers.

For the second time that I can remember, the costume contest was won by a great big ol’ dog wearing some kind of frilly thing. This time, it was Clouseau, sporting a festive color and cuffs that flung bits into the air when he gave a good shake. In the photo at right, his proud parents are celebrating his victory.

Check out my photo gallery for more shots from this fun event. Take special note of Thing 1 and Thing 2 in one of the photos — those two kept getting pushed together by their mom and dad for photos, but they did NOT want to be that close to each other and made that quite clear with plenty of snarling and nipping. Ah, siblings.

On Sunday, the ballpark will be invaded early by two other wild packs — participants in the Plate to Plate 5K Run/Walk to benefit Project Open Hand (with Matt Cain serving as the race’s official starter at 9 a.m.) and more than 4,000 Junior Giants as part of Junior Giants Day. All fans are asked to donate just one dollar to help the 15,000 kids who participate in the wonderful Junior Giants program, which will receive a prestigious honor before Sunday’s game as well.

Show your spirit

The Giants come back home Tuesday, and AT&T Park will host another Heritage Week, spread over the nine days of the homestand. Things kick off Tuesday with the second Irish Heritage Night of the year, featuring a pregame party in Lot D and a special Irish-themed cap for those who purchase the special ticket package.

renel_bobble.gifWednesday is Italian Heritage Night, with the special ticket garnering fans a Giants “beanie” (ski cap, or tuque to our Canadian friends) that has the SF logo in the Italian colors of red, white and green. On Orange Friday, it’s African-American Heritage Night, featuring a neat talking bobblehead of Renel Brooks-Moon, the AT&T Park public-address announcer. Renel has made plenty of history in her nine years behind the mike, becoming the first woman to announce a World Series Game and an All-Star Game.

luau.jpgEach night will include pregame and in-game heritage-themed entertainment, which is always pretty cool to see. The Giants find some very talented groups to show off their culture’s music and dance, like the dancers shown at right who performed last homestand as part of Luau Night, celebrating Polynesian culture.

Speaking of Luau Night, here are a couple more photos from the event:


Three more Heritage Nights are slated for the second half of the homestand — more on those later.

Aloha to the Giants

luau_lou.jpgThe Giants return home Monday for a weeklong homestand, and prior to the opener against the Braves, there will be the latest addition to the Giants’ wildly successful heritage celebrations: the first Luau Night at AT&T Park.

Those who purchase a special game ticket will get admission to the pregame luau in Lot D, a free adult beverage or Polynesian food option and the awesome Lou Seal grass skirt bobbler.

Other discounts for Monday’s game include tickets in honor of the San Francisco Marathon and to support Project Homeless Connect. Tuesday is the first annual Girl Scout Night with special tickets available for Girl Scout troops and their friends and families.

gardners.jpgOn Tuesday, the Giants present the 11th annual Organ Donor Awareness Night. When Giants bullpen coach Mark Gardner was a pitcher for the team, his wife, Lori, a former All-American softball player at Fresno State was diagnosed with liver cancer, receiving two transplants before her death in 2004. The Gardners became advocates for organ donations and the Giants supported the cause by holding Organ Donor Awareness events.

The first 10,000 fans at Tuesday’s game will get commemorative baseball cards of Giants players that include organ donation facts on one side.

Don’t forget Wednesday is a Tim Lincecum K-Zone game, with View Reserved tickets available for $7 thanks to the 13 strikeouts Lincecum, Jack Taschner and Sergio Romo racked up last Friday.

All-Star Saturday

Saturday’s pitching matchup alone — All-Stars Tim Lincecum and Brandon Webb — should be worth the price of admission alone, especially when bleacher and view reserved seats are $11 off thanks to the ongoing K-Zone Ticket Offer. The first 20,000 fans will also get a Giants Greatest Moments postcard set.

If you get to the ballpark early, don’t expect to see batting practice. Instead, you can catch the always entertaining Family Softball Game, in which the children of the Giants players and coaches get to take over the field for their own contest. Here are some photos from the 2006 event (I wasn’t at the ballpark for last year’s game) — wow, none of those players are still with the team.

cain_bobble_180x150.gifSunday’s giveaway, when the Giants wrap up their lengthy homestand, will probably be one of the most popular of the year — Matt Cain bobbleheads. Get there early, since lines will likely form several hours before gametime. It’s also a matchup of Cy Young-winning lefties: Barry Zito vs. Randy Johnson.

So which is cooler, a Matt Cain bobblehead or the Crazy Crab bobblehead?

By the way, Friday’s Forever Giants Friday guest was Tito Fuentes, who’s now a color commentator for the Giants’ Spanish-language broadcasts.

Need tickets?

It shouldn’t be too tough to get tickets for the Giants’ three-game series against the Nationals this week, but if you’re looking for a great deal on either really cheap seats or really good seats, I’ve got a few tips.

First, the entire series features KNBR ticket specials, with seats in the View Reserved Outfield available for only $6.80. If you’re a fan of the Giants flagship radio station’s personalities, many of them will be at Thursday’s day game, working as members of the grounds crew, balldudes and peanut vendors, singing the national anthem, participating in pregame contests and more.

Wondered how people get to sit in those amazing seats right behind home plate and next to the dugouts? Well, some are available via a ticket auction run by the Giants with a portion of the proceeds going to the Giants Community Fund and Community Access Ticket Service. Select games, including some versus the Dodgers, are up for bid right now.

stocking_0722_180x150.gifIf you’re coming to the game Tuesday, bring $5 or a toy for the Giants’ Christmas in July Toy Drive and you’ll get a nifty orange Giants stocking. It’s also Family Safety Day, which usually entails an interesting safety festival along Terry Francois Boulevard. And if you’re a knitting enthusiast, get special tickets for Stitch-N-Pitch Night, a weirdly wildly popular event at ballparks across the country.

And Wednesday, finish off your set of Gamer posters with the Omar Vizquel version, given to the first 20,000 fans. It’s Law Enforcement Night, so come salute those who help keep us safe.