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SF Giants Opening Day 2014

There is nothing quite like the beginning of a new baseball season. You see players, both pitchers and hitters, as well as teams who start off doing surprisingly well. The hitters will end up where they usually do, around their lifetime batting average, and the pitchers around to their lifetime ERA. For the most part, you figure that the good teams will rise to the top, and the bad teams will sink to the bottom. Sometimes, a surprising team might make some personnel adjustments during the season, and end up shocking the baseball world by winning it all. This happened to the 2010 San Francisco Giants. In 2012, the Giants knew they had a good team so making the playoffs wasn’t a huge surprise. What was a huge surprise was being on the brink of elimination in the playoffs so much, clawing back to win two playoff series, and then, sweeping the World Series.

 

I always read most of the pre-season baseball magazines. It is interesting to see how the national media will predict the upcoming baseball season. Very rarely do they get it right, but it is an interesting read anyway. You do get a good analysis of all the teams, but the baseball media never pick the Giants to win it all. I actually feel good about that, because I don’t want it to jinx the team. Yes, I am a little superstitious. My general philosophy is that you want your team to sneak up on other teams, and have these other teams not realize that they’ve been beaten until hopefully, your team is the one carrying the World Series trophy down Market Street in San Francisco. I don’t want to sound too confident or arrogant, but I like knowing that my team is good, while waiting to see what will happen during the season, and in the postseason. There seems to be a prevailing philosophy among Giants fans that because we are in an even year that the Giants are meant to win the World Series again. I don’t necessarily subscribe to this theory, but I don’t object to supporting it, either. And, now that the regular season has started we get to find out what will happen in 2014. How exciting!!

 

For me, Opening Day has always been a truly special day and event. It is the beginning of a new season with so many exciting possibilities. There is a palpable sense of excitement that exists around the ballpark. I absolutely love Opening Day. I’ve been to every Giants’ Opening Day since 1988, with the exception of the year, 1995. I was ticked off with Major League Baseball and the owners due to the 1994 strike. I blame the 1994 strike on the owners, and I think it subsequently led to the steroid era, which the owners and the commissioner turned a blind eye to. Their general philosophy was that fans were showing up and coming back to baseball, and they were happy to have fans in the seats with the bulked up players on the field and their bulked up statistics. Onto happier topics, like the current one at hand…

 

I had a great time this Opening Day. It was exciting to see AT & T Park decorated in bunting with the enthusiasm of a new season. On my way to the game, I left early and stopped off to have a bloody mary at the Public House, a bar/restaurant located right next to the ballpark. It is always great to rub elbows with fellow Giants fans at the local bars. Giants fans are very passionate about their team, as well as wanting their team to win. I think that a lot of it comes from so many years of not winning along with so many years at a horrible ballpark, Candlestick Park. There is just a sense of excitement and passion about being a Giants fan, along with the start of the upcoming season.

 

After stopping at the Public House, I walked around the outside of the beautiful ballpark. It is a great to see the statues—Willie Mays’ statue is a meeting place for many people looking to connect with friends and family for an upcoming ballgame. There is a statue of Juan Marichal in his classic pitching motion with his leg raised up above his body close to the Lefty O’Doul Bridge. On the other side of the Lefty O’Doul Bridge is a great statue of Giants great Willie McCovey, one of my favorite statues.  As you walk down towards the McCovey statue, there are plaques with all the Giants teams from 1958 to 2003, along with smaller plaques bought by the fans. One Christmas, my then-wife bought one for me with my family. It was one of the best gifts that I ever received, and I still cherish it. It’s located near the 1986 Giants team plaque, one of my favorite teams, and it was located there by accident. On the other side of the ballpark is a statue of Giants great Orlando Cepeda. One of the things I love about the Giants is how well they acknowledge and celebrate their team history, and there are reminders of it all over the ballpark. I don’t mean just the great players, but those players who played for them for any length of time. On one side of the ballpark there are plaques on the wall of the ballpark recognizing San Francisco Giants players who played nine years with the team, or who played for five years and were an All-Star in one of those years. It’s known as the Giants’ Wall of Fame.

 

Along the port walk between the right field fence and McCovey cove on the ground there are plaques that celebrate the recent great moments in Giants history. There are plaques for the Giants’ two recent World Series Championships, as well as Pablo Sandoval’s three homeruns in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series, Matt Cain’s perfect game, Jonathan Sanchez’ no-hitter in 2009, and several of Barry Bonds’ homerun records. The plaques are a testament to the accomplishments of great Giants players and teams. I think that Giants fans get a special feeling seeing these plaques; it creates a connection to their team. I am always thrilled to see the plaque of Jonathan Sanchez’ no-hitter, because I was there with a longtime childhood friend who was visiting San Francisco. It was a great evening, and a very special game.

 

McCovey Cove is a little cove or inlet, which stands between the port walk outside the ballpark and a little strip of land at the end of which sits the McCovey statue. During Giants games, Giants fans come out there in kayaks, and wait hopefully for splash hits. One of my Facebook friends, Dave Edlund is one of those Giants fans who sits out there in his kayak waiting for a splash hit homerun. Since the ball park has opened in 2000, there have been 62 splash hit homeruns hit by the Giants, and 31 splash hit homeruns hit by their opponents. There are, of course, obstacles towards hitting a splash hit homerun. The batters who have hit them are all left-handed. Not one right-handed hitter has ever hit a splash hit homerun. The right field wall is 24 feet tall, which is that tall to honor Willie Mays’ jersey number. The Giants had to get special permission from Major League Baseball to build the dimensions of the ballpark, and to have it fit into the limited geographic space that they had.

 

As I stood on the port walk talking to a couple fans looking out onto McCovey Cove two former Giants, Jeffrey Leonard, “Hac-Man” and Dave Dravecky walked past me. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera ready to go. I stopped them, and briefly engaged them in conversation. Dravecky will always have a special place in my heart, and in Giants history. Dave Dravecky, a left-handed pitcher, in 1988 was discovered to have a tumor in his pitching arm. The tumor was removed from his arm along with a lot of the deltoid muscle. The idea of Dravecky coming back to pitch in the majors was almost unfathomable, but come back he did. Dravecky pitched in several re-hab starts in the minors, and on August 10, 1989, Dave came back and pitched for the San Francisco Giants in a game they won, 4-3. In Dravecky’s next start in Montreal his arm was broken at the same spot where the muscle was removed. Dravecky for his courage and bravery was awarded the Willie Mac Award, which is a yearly prize given to the best team mate voted on by the rest of the members of the team. Dravecky’s was re-broken during the 1989 pennant-winning celebration, which effectively ended his playing career. The cancer came back in Dravecky’s arm, and his left arm was surgically removed. Despite all this, Dravecky remains one of those former players who is truly an inspiration not just for those people with cancer, but for those people who encounter all sorts of hardships in life.

 

I strolled down the port walk further, and met up with some friends, a group known on Facebook as the Gamer Babes. They come to Giants games wearing orange and black tutu’s, and signs stating that they are Gamer Babes. Former pitcher and current Giants announcer Mike Krukow has even pointed them out on television. The Gamer Babes are utterly wonderful, a great collection of Giants fans. I’m known as a Gamer Dude, and I’m proud to be a part of this group. We’ve done tours of AT & T Park together, as well as other social occasions.

 

After hanging out with the Gamer Babes for a little while, I decided that it was time to go into the ballpark, and find my seat. Despite all the enthusiasm of Opening Day, it is still a baseball game, and it was time to go inside. I watched the pre-game festivities on the field enjoying every minute of it as I sat in the bleachers. The most fun that I ever had there was at the first Opening Day at the inaugural opening of the ballpark, and the raising of the World Series Champion flag in 2011. I watched the announcing of the teams – the Giants on the third base side, and the Diamondbacks on the first base side.

 

Finally, it was time for the baseball game, the main event. Tim Hudson was pitching for the Giants, and Trevor Cahill was pitching for the Dbacks, as they’re known. With this pitching match-up, I was expecting a good time and a tight close game. This is not what happened on the part of Trevor Cahill. His control seemed to be off. In the bottom of the1st inning, Giants first baseman Brandon Belt hit a two-run homerun of Cahill giving the Giants an early lead. I actually missed seeing the homerun since I went to get a cheese steak. (I was hungry.) The Dbacks got a run back in the top of the 2nd inning on an error by second baseman Brandon Hicks.

 

In the bottom of the 3rd inning, the Giants were able to add three runs onto their lead with one run scoring on a Buster Posey single, and two more runs scoring on a Michael Morse single. The Dbacks answered back with a run in the top of the 4th inning on a sacrifice fly making the score: Giants 5, Dbacks 2, at the point in the game. In the bottom of the 5th inning, the Giants basically put the game away with two more runs scoring on an RBI single by Brandon Crawford. Yes, the Giants do have three Brandon’s on their team—Crawford, Hicks, and Belt.

 

In the meantime, Giants pitcher Tim Hudson was pitching like the ace veteran pitcher that he was, moving the ball around and pitching to contact. Hudson also demonstrated incredible control, not walking one batter in eight innings. Hudson also kept the tempo of the game going by pretty quickly, which is a nice change from a lot of pitchers who procrastinate too much on the mound. Santiago Casilla finished off the game with a scoreless ninth inning.

 

All-in-all, it was a spectacular day with beautiful weather, an excellent ballgame and a Giants victory. The Giants offense was humming, and the pitching was fantastic. The Giants also played great defense. So, good pitching, a good offense, and solid defense are the recipe for winning baseball. Now, we just have to see what will go on the rest of the season for the Giants and the rest of Major League Baseball…

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