Monday, September 04, 2006

AT&T Park

Now here's a ballpark. Surprisingly, despite the fact that everything I've heard and read about the park formerly known as Pac Bell says it's one of the best ballparks ever created, this one actually lived up to the hype. Yeah, it was cold and windy - it is in San Francisco, after all - but the sights, the seats, the setting... it was all awesome.

Let me start with the negatives so I can get straight to gushing over everything else. First, everything is overpriced. Programs were $5 (and they didn't even include a pencil - that was an extra $1), shot glasses (my souvenir of choice) were $8, and beers were anywhere from $7 to $10. Souvenir sodas were enough that I didn't buy one. Beyond the prices, the Bonds worship there is stomach-turning. That doesn't have a whole lot to do with the park, but still, I found it amazing. Little boys and girls were running around - everywhere - wearing #25 jerseys. It was a little disconcerting, to say the least.

Anyway, enough of that - this park was tremendous. The all-brick exterior just beyond the cable cars running down Willie Mays Plaza gave the park an old-school feel right from the start. Once we got inside, we were surprised by not only a Giants team baseball card set giveaway, but also a promotional bag of trail mix from... I don't remember who. Even walking up the never-ending ramps to the mezzanine level you could feel the buzz inside the park before you were even there.

And once you do actually get there? It's amazing. You get the same unadulterated view of the entire field that you get at Safeco, with the bonus being that when you look towards the outfield, you don't just see seats upon seats: you see clear skies and McCovey Cove. The giant Coke bottle (which doubles as a slide for the kids) is a little contrived, but, the enormous baseball glove behind the gratuitous 501 foot marker (according to a fan sitting next to us, Andres Gallaraga came closest to the 501 sign with a 470-foot-plus blast) in left-center is a nice touch.

Speaking of our seats, we were way up in the nosebleeds - the last row in the upper deck directly behind home plate, which wouldn't have been so bad if we weren't in the shade with nothing but a chain link fence covered in vinyl mesh protecting us from the wind. We lasted a surprising six innings before we decided to move around, spending an inning each standing in right, center, and left field. In our seats, we got to talking to some fans near us, who were knowledgeable about the game, but also didn't seem to mind too much when we booed the Giants (Danielle gave it to former Sox headache Shea Hillenbrand; myself, of course, to Bonds). All in all, it was a decent enough experience.

But, had I known how sweet it was to stand on the pavilion out in right field, I would have bought standing room tickets from the start. Standing out there, it feels like you're right at field level, even though you're 24 feet up (the height of the right field wall below Levi's Landing was designed after Willie Mays' jersey number). There are even two rows of seats right atop the wall, which make you feel like you're sitting in privileged seats even though they're readily available to the public and reasonably priced. Even standing behind the seats, you feel like your view is unique, especially when you can turn around and look into the Cove.

McCovey Cove is, of course, AT&T's signature attraction. It seems a little gimmicky now that it's been over-exposed by Barry Bonds and SportsCenter, and I went into this game thinking that I would never be caught dead sitting in a kayak for five hours in the off chance that a home run would be hit right at me, but in person, it's really cool. There aren't that many kayakers out there anymore - there were maybe seven for our Sunday afternoon game (although one was wearing a Batman mask and had a hibachi on an anchored-down boogie board tied to his kayak - that was fun) - but there are a few boaters, and plenty of people just hang out on the boardwalk, soak up the sun, and watch the game through the chain link fence beyond right field.

(Quick aside: I'm not a boater, but is there a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than to gather a few friends, take your boat down to the ballpark, drop anchor behind right field, and listen to the game on the radio with a few beers and the sounds of the ballpark right there? I can't think of one.)

The only things that keep AT&T from the top spot on my personal list are the wind and Barry. It was just too cold in our seats to be totally enjoyable, and to be perfectly honest, the Bonds worship still makes me sick. I'd like to go back to this park in ten years and see a game from the outfield bleachers on a clear day - then I feel like I'd be able to give an unbiased assessment. Right now, though, the bottom line is that I had more fun in Pittsburgh, which had views that were just as cool as San Francisco.

Updated Rankings:

  1. PNC Park
  2. AT&T Park
  3. Great American Ballpark
  4. Fenway Park
  5. Camden Yards
  6. Comerica Park
  7. Citizens Bank Park
  8. Safeco Field
  9. Kaufman Stadium
  10. Jacobs Field
  11. Yankee Stadium
  12. Rogers Center
  13. Shea Stadium
  14. Veteran's Stadium


Warren said...

Thanks for the descriptions - I really need to get to a new ballpark, because I haven't been to a new (for me) major league park in almost 10 years, when I first visited Yankee Stadium (which I think is totally overrated, although my anti-Yankee bias may have something to do with that).

I've been to both Arlington and Houston a few times, and they're both in that middle tier - nice, but lacking that special something. It's a tough job to give a modern stadium that special something, because I think great things we usually attribute to great stadiums are their weird, old quirks: the Monster, the ivy wall in Wrigley.

It is fun to watch a retractable dome open in the middle of the game, though. It's a better distraction than The Wave, at least.

Sully said...

That reminds me, I didn't see the wave once on the whole trip, which was awesome, especially since during last year's I saw it in Toronto and... somewhere else. I forget where, though - my eyes must have been bleeding. Anyway, that shot a hole in my "nobody does the wave outside of Fenway" theory. I can't tell if that's a good thing or a bad thing.