Monday, September 15, 2008

SF Giants at San Diego Petco Park-Road Trip

Road trip with youngest daughter to see the Giants in San Diego, check out Petco Park, and meet up with oldest daughter who now lives down there.

1)Padre Camouflage uniforms--the ugliest ever 2)First view of Petco Park

Usually late season games iffy with all the call ups, but timing was perfect this year. Giants were unwatchable during the first half of the year--no power--no prospects. The crosstown A's were also in transition, but being run by a "genius," and were loading up on supposed "blue chip prospects." Their success was killing the Giants in the local media--and it was constantly getting worse. May 31, A's +6 games better; June 31, A's +9 1/2 games better; July 13, A's +12 games better.

But come mid July Billy Beane finally outsmarted himself with one (or two or three) too many deals of solid young players for prospects. Meanwhile the Giants finally jettisoned some mediocre veterans who had seen better days and started playing some unheralded minor league prospects--like Pablo Sandoval who turns out may be both the most exciting AND the best hitter in the Bay Area. Pudgy, with quick feet, who hacks away at everything and shoots line drives all over the place--he may be the 2nd coming of Kirby Puckett. And in the pitching department while everyone knew Tim Lincecum was good--he may now be the BEST pitcher in baseball. So though the Giants were having a disappointing season in the post-Barry era, suddenly they were hot and only -1 game behind the A's.

We also wanted to see Petco Park--supposedly one of the nicer "retro stadiums" built in a revitalized area of downtown where an old building, Western Building Supply is stuck in leftfield. The Giants hit a grand slam with Pac Bell Park but apart from walking around Pittsburgh's nice PNC Park, I have never seen a game from another new retro park (while I've been to all the classic stadiums and some of the multipurpose horrors), so it would be nice to compare.

In short the Giants did great, sweeping the Padres and with Tim Lincecum getting his first complete game (and shutout) ever. Meanwhile while Petco Park isn't as nice as Pac Bell (see below), it is just a shade below. The people working at the park were the nicest I've ever encountered, always inquiring if they could be of help and wanting to know if they could take our photo. And had a great "hello" with Giants Broadcasters Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow who tossed my daughter a ball which she used the next day to chat with and get Omar Vizquel's autograph and have a "sharpie marker" catch with Tim Lincecum. Really wonderful rooting for such nice guys--the Giants have a real likable team this year and if Burris and Sandoval continue their progression, just a free agent slugging first baseman away from contending.
Re Petco Park.
Big pluses over Pac Bell:

+Easy access and parking, loads of tiny lots and garages around the stadium that are easy to drive in and out of.
+Friendliest staff you'll ever meet.
+Infield seats are great--even on third deck. Seems like 2nd and 3rd deck seats a little further back than at Pac Bell but lower.
+Wide concourses--everyone loves to say that Pac Bell built on the smallest footprint in baseball but the concession areas and ramps are ALWAYS crowded.
+The Western Materials Building exterior (interior is gutted for ballpark use) in left outfield corner is a nice touch but much less imposing than it looks on TV.
+Park in back of bleachers to lay out and watch a game.
+Easy to get good seats on Stubhub.
+No stupid huge coke bottle in the outfield that is out of place.
+Great Weather--about 10-15 degrees warmer than San Francisco.

Some negatives in comparison to Pac Bell:

-A good open view of a secondary downtown skyline but doesn't come close to Pac Bell overlooking the SF Bay Bridge and the Bay. Ironically if Petco was turned the other way there would be a nice view of the Coronado bridge but would still be a few blocks away from the waterfront.
-Limited choice of food, eg. 2 types of sausage instead of a half dozen. And their skinny/ soggy garlic fries don't compare.
-Outside of park looks unfinished and apart from main entrance not like a stadium but more like an office building.
-Inside of park tried almost every "retro" trick and stadium sometimes looks like a hodgepodge instead of a unified structure--tower of luxury boxes split the stands which have dozens of different seating options/ price points, Western Building shell dwarfed by gigantic scoreboard, some wrap around double deck outfield seats, some single deck seats, some lawn seats, some sand area seats (small sand area looks like a litter box), main scoreboard facing first base, while left field corner with Western Building creates a true weird angle, the right field corner is artificially gamed with a high wall that juts out into a small short porch. Same with behind home plate where the 2nd deck has a variety of seats that are visibly different.
-Overrated redeveloped Gaslap district outside stadium had great choices of restaurants but kinda short on unique stores, and Horton Plaza just another generic mall.
-Minor league type atmosphere-promotions-"Sunday" military fatigues uniform day, country music night, still have dot racing...

But all in all, I used to think old Milwaukee County Stadium was the greatest place for the TOTAL ballpark experience (seeing the game plus concessions) and Wrigley and Fenway were the greatest places to see a game (if you didn't mind two mile walks to and one mile lines at mediocre concessions, tiny bathrooms, and nonexistent parking,) Pac Bell and Petco have both surpassed Milwaukee for the TOTAL experience.

Anyway, my we had a great time on the road trip, thanks to the hospitality of the Padre staff at Petco Park and players on the Giants.

Photos below (1) Krukow and Kuiper--easy going whimsical style makes them great to listen to, especially the BEST during a bad game since Hank Greenwald, (2 & 3) Tim Lincecum catching sharpie marker and returning ball he autographed-nice, (4) My daughters and me, thanks to another nice usher who insisted on taking it (5) Pablo Sandoval distresses the "princess" by nicely indicating no autographs now (6) Sand sculptor in the bleachers area (7) Greatest fielding shortstop ever, and nice guy, Omar Vizquel talking with daughter and signing autograph (8 &9) both daughters in bleachers area and in front of Tony Gwynn statue. (10) Youngest daughter on 3rd tier of stadium--looking out toward Western Building Supply

Funny things overheard--
--Outside ballpark said by a Mexican American--"I was down at Wal-Mart San Ysedro and they came over the PA system asking for a cashier to go to the front who spoke ENGLISH."
--Inside ballpark by 80+ year old lady during batting practice, yelling "I love you Omar--I'm 83 years old and I don't care who knows it."
--Right outside the ballpark--Guy who is running an Obama table wants us to buy some signs and bring them in and wave them around if the camera is on us.

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