Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Justin's Review: AT&T Park

Stadium Design:  At the beginning of this trip, San Francisco’s AT&T Park was one of the stadiums I was most looking forward to visiting.  Having seen countless games on TV there, with the beautiful San Francisco Bay in the background, it looked like a great park, and it did not disappoint at all.  The water is, of course, the first thing you notice as you enter – the ballpark looks like it is literally surrounded by water.  We sat in the upper deck of the stadium, and views were pretty incredible – if you don’t feel like watching the game for some reason, you can spend hours just watching boats sail by or staring at the gigantic Bay Bridge out past left field.  The Giants have done a fantastic job incorporating the surrounding Bay into the actual design of the ballpark as well.  Everybody has seen balls go flying over the right field wall into McCovey Cove, but watching on TV you don’t realize is how cool it is to stand at the top of that wall, with the field about 15 feet in front of you and the water 15 feet behind you.  It is truly one of the most unique places to sit (not to mention one of the best standing room areas) in any ballpark.  The water jets that shoot out over the right field walkway whenever the Giants hit a homerun are a great added touch, as is the area located under the right field wall where anybody walking by on the street can peek into the park and watch the game for free.  The open concourse on the lower level is very well designed, and the upper concourse, while not open to the field, was wide and offered great views of downtown San Francisco.  In short, there really is nothing not to love about AT&T Park.  It is, simply put, the prettiest and most well designed ballpark in baseball. A

Scoreboard/Soundtrack: The primary scoreboard is located in centerfield and has a giant screen that always has both lineups on it plus all the stats you could need and the line score at the bottom.  One of my favorite things about the scoreboard was how well they used it to further incorporate the “water” theme of the ballpark.  Before the game, as well as between some innings, rather than just have a graphic on the screen or a random video playing, the screen would just show live shots of either the bay bridge or boats passing by outside, adding to the bayside feeling of the ballpark.  The out of town scoreboard is a series of manual boards located within the right field wall, and adds perfectly to the old-time feel of that whole part of the ballpark. A-

Food/Drink:  Another area where this ballpark excels.  The only real problem was that there weren’t many options on the upper deck – we had to go down to the bottom level concourse to find food variety.  But when we did get there, boy was there a lot – a stand selling pub style food, an Italian food station, a deli, and so on.  I ended up getting fish and chips, which were pretty good – unfortunately, I ate too much and didn’t have any room to try the famous garlic fries afterwards.  There were also a bunch of other options that we didn’t really check out located behind the centerfield scoreboard – it would have taken us a long time to see all the food choices available.  Well done.  A-

Fans:  The game looked sold out, and the fans seemed to be having a great time watching the game and just enjoying the sun on a Sunday afternoon.  While Sunday games usually draw pretty good crowds, it’s impressive that the Giants, who have had mediocre seasons the last few years, still draw so well.  Part of it has to be the ballpark – with such a great place to spend an afternoon (and in such an easily accessible location), who would pass up going to a game?  The crowd wasn’t as loud as some of the other sellouts we’ve been too (weekend afternoon games tend to be quieter in general), but the atmosphere was great.  A-

City/Stadium Neighborhood:  San Francisco is one of my favorite cities that I’ve ever been too.  It’s a small, compact city that’s very walkable, and a good (if slightly confusing) public transportation system makes it easy to get around.  The city is just a fun place, and we had a great couple of days exploring it.  AT&T Park makes great use of the city by being located within easy walking distance from downtown, and being located right on one of the subway lines.  City: A-; Neighborhood: A-

Game: The Giants won the game 3-2 - it was a great game, but the real story was Barry Zito.  After walking two batters in the first inning, Zito proceeded to pitch lights out baseball, and took a no-hitter into the seventh inning before a 2-run homer by Andruw Jones broke it up.  The Jones homer tied the game at 2, but the Giants quickly took back the lead on a Randy Winn RBI single in the bottom half of the seventh, and held on to win.  In the end, Zito finished with only 2 hits allowed in seven innings (although he also walked 4), and a well deserved win – probably one of the best pitching performances we’ve seen thus far.  A-

Overall Experience:  AT&T Park is the best ballpark we’ve seen yet, and it’s hard to imagine anything will top it.  We saw a great game, had beautiful weather, and ate some good food – I can’t imagine many more perfect ways to spend a Sunday. A

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