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Family Adventures: Baseball at Pacific Bell Park
By Janis Cooke Newman
Which ones are the Giants, and which are the Milwaukee Hebrews?" asks my 5-year-old son, Alex.
"The Giants are the ones in the shiny pants," I tell him.
In front of us, three guys who have dyed their hair orange are waving frantically, trying to get the stadium cameraman to notice them. Behind us, a man in a Giants T-shirt is talking on a cell phone. "I'm just below the pinkie of the giant glove," he tells the person on the other end.
"And now please rise for the very first performance of the national anthem in Pacific Bell Park," says the female announcer's voice. We rise and stand at attention while a man in a tuxedo plays the Star-Spangled Banner on a violin.
We're at the first game in Pac Bell Park: the San Francisco Giants versus the Milwaukee Brewers. It's an historic occasion, especially for longtime Giants fans. On the way in, we spotted a grandfather, father, and son in Giants hats climbing the statue of Willie Mays to have their picture taken. Beside them, a chubby man was waving around the plastic sleeve he'd brought along to preserve his ticket. "I've got every opening day," he told us, "and the earthquake game."
We bought our tickets at a fundraiser for Alex's preschool, where we paid considerably more than their $10 face value. They're bleacher seats, but what the heck, at least we're at the game.
Out on the field, Barry Bonds comes up to bat. Our bleachermates stand and chant, "Water! Water!" encouraging Bonds to become the first player to terrorize the fish in San Francisco Bay. In the water beyond the right-field wall, people in yachts and little dinghies float around in circles, hoping to retrieve any splash hits.
Bonds fails to stun any sea life (on this night anyway -- the next afternoon he gave the boaters a thrill), and Alex, along with a few of the grownups, starts to get restless. I take him to see the slides inside the giant Coke bottle.
Okay, okay, so the enormous Coke bottle is an in-your-face product endorsement. But it looks good lit up at night, and the slides are very cool. They are long silver tubes: two tall, straight ones called Guzzlers, and two curvy ones aptly named Twisters. Alex and I get at the back of a line made up mostly of adults.
"The Guzzlers are closed," a boy in a knit Raiders cap informs us.
"How come?" I ask.
"A kid threw up Coke in them," he says. It seems appropriate.
Alex and I try both of the Twisters twice, flying through the metal tubes like caffeinated soft drinks down a colossal robot's throat. Judging from the relative quiet in the stands, we haven't missed any actual baseball, so we head out to see what other diversions we can find.
The whole area behind the bleachers turns out to be a good place to take restless kids. Near the slides is a miniature replica of Pac Bell Park, with a small-scale baseball diamond and screaming fans painted into the stands. A toddler dashes around behind the bases like a disoriented outfielder.
On the other side of the Coke bottle, we find an astroturfed area that ends at a high padded wall. Small boys take turns flinging themselves against the wall, catching imaginary fly balls.
"I'm hungry," Alex says. Which is no problem, since ballparks carry plenty of kid food: hot dogs, popcorn, Cracker Jacks, cotton candy. We eat our hot dogs at a cafe table on the cement patio behind the bleachers. From here we've got a view of palm trees, the masts of the sailboats in the marina, and the strings of lights on the Bay Bridge.
This is the thing about Pacific Bell Park. Like the city it's built in, it's loaded with fabulous views. And the bricked walls and arched entryways give it an old-fashioned, small-town-America, field-of-dreams-if-you-build-it-they-will-come feel.
Back in the bleachers, it's the Giants' turn at bat.
"Go, whatever your name is!" Alex shouts at Armando Rios.
The lighted scoreboard behind us is acting up, and Felipe Crespo appears to be batting second, third, and sixth.
"It's the Amazing Crespo!" a guy behind us shouts when Felipe comes up to the plate.
"What the hell is he gonna do if he gets on base?" asks the guy's friend.
I'm thinking that the bleachers are pretty great after all. They're cheap, close to the action without being in the path of any foul balls, and within spitting distance of the Coca-Cola slides. They might even be the best seats for kids, as long as you don't mind having your child exposed to expressions like, "Rueter, you suck!"
Next to us, a man in a Giants' uniform shirt is beaming like a 5-year-old at a birthday party. "This is the coolest ballpark I've ever been to!" he says.
"Go, Crespo!" I shout. M
Tickets: Most games at Pac Bell Park are sold out. However, 500 bleacher seats will be sold two hours prior to every game. Here's how it works (don't ask me, I didn't make the rules): Four hours prior to the game, Giants Security will distribute 500 wristbands to fans in line at the King Street ticket window closest to Willie Mays Plaza. An hour later, a police officer will draw a random number between 1 and 500. The person with the numbered wristband that matches the lottery number will become the first person invited to purchase up to four day-of-game tickets. The next ticket buyer will have the number that comes next sequentially, and so on. Two hours before the game, the ticket windows will open, and the sale of the bleacher seats and Standing Room Only tickets will begin. (Yes, there is paid standing room within the stadium.)
But now that all the excitement has died down, I'd be willing to bet that you can show up one or two hours before a game and still get seats. Also, you're likely to find people scalping other tickets outside the stadium.
Seeing the Game for Free: You can also stand outside the ballpark and watch the game through the portholes on the bay side. While there's no official policy yet, you may not be allowed to stand in one spot for the whole game.
Getting There: The whole point of putting Pac Bell Park in the city was so that people could walk, bike, or take public transportation. We took the F-Market line to Third Street and walked south to the park. On game days you can take the N, K, or M lines to Second and King, adjacent to the park. There will also be a special ballpark shuttle from the Montgomery Street BART Station. Call 817-1717 for a schedule.
For More Information: Visit the Giants' home page at www.sfgiants.com or call 415-972-2000.