BLS Big Ballpark Review: San Francisco's AT&T Park

'Duk
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A few weeks ago, I attended a party at the apartment of a friend of a friend. Upon walking in, I was instantly stricken with apartment envy. From the high ceilings to the wood floors to the bookshelved lined study, I was consumed by the fact I hadn't gotten to it and rented it first. By the end of the night, not only was I looking around and imagining what it might be like to live there, I was asking my friend's friend to call me if and when he ever decided to move.

I assume most of you know what I'm talking about and, truth be told, it's the feeling anytime I'm ever out in San Francisco and attending a Giants game. From walking down the Embarcadero to munching on garlic fries to drinking way too much Anchor Steam, I start daydreaming about what it might be like to have AT&T Park as my regular place to watch baseball. The stunning views? McCovey Cove? The beautiful San Fran women, just off from their jobs as designers for The Gap? Better believe I daydream of being able to watch more than just an occasional game by the Bay.

Of course, just like any visitor's envy, I don't fully see the negatives. The sudden drops in temperature. Having to wear a sweater to a game in July. The pitching of Barry Zito.

But I'm pretty sure that everything else at AT&T Park makes up for that short list of shortcomings. And it's why even though there are ballparks I haven't been, I keep scheduling trips to go back. If the Giants ever decided to move out, I'm sure there'd be a lot of teams willing to move in.

For an insider's look at visiting AT&T, follow the jump. To submit tips on your home ballpark, e-mail 'Duk at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com. Next week's schedule includes Fenway Park, Camden Yards and Miller Park.

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Facts and figures (More at Ballparks.com)

Address: 24 Willie Mays Plaza San Francisco, CA 94107
(415) 972-1800

Built: 2000

Capacity: 41,503

Cost: $357 million

Dimensions: Left field: 339 feet; left-center: 364 feet; center field: 399 feet; right-center: 421 feet; right field: 309 feet; backstop: 48 feet.

Biggest moment: Barry Bonds hits his 756th career homer on Aug. 8, 2007, breaking Hank Aaron's record and sparking plenty of controversy.

Fun fact: The pocket of the giant baseball glove in the left field stands is 518 feet from home plate.

Resources

Buy tickets ($20-$120) • Seating chartStadium infoOnlyInSanFrancisco.com

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How to get there

"The best bet is take a MUNI bus or train that meets up with the N-Judah line, which drops you off right in front of the ballpark. It takes a little while to get there, but the $1.50 fare definitely beats fighting traffic and paying $20 for parking." — Jay Senter, San Francisco

"There are several bus lines that stop no further than 2 blocks from Willie Mays Plaza. The N-rail line stops right in front, Caltrain brings you in from the Peninsula a block away. If you're in the North Bay, you can come in on the Larkspur Ferry." — Lareina Chu

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"Caltrain is the best way to get there. Close by, inexpensive and no worries if you are drinking!" — Michelle Squires

"Take the BART train into the city and get off at the Embarcadero station. Walk to the park along the piers and you'll get a great look at one of the hottest new areas in San Fran. You'll run by some fun modern art and sidewalk stands, too." — Chris Cooper, Benicia, Calif.

"Although entering the yard through Willie Mays Plaza is tempting,
nearly everyone and their brother is trying to enter there as well.
I suggest strolling along the portwalk and entering the yard through Seals Plaza behind centerfield. Walk up through the bleachers to get a Field of Dreams experience of seeing a big league ballpark from this angle." — Gary Lau, Gilroy, Calif.

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Before and after the game

"There are plenty of swanky establishments along King Street that cater to the "I'm sitting in the $90 seats behind home plate" crowd, but if you're looking for a dive-y sports bar in which to whet your whistle before the first pitch, Zeke's at 3rd and Brannan is a good bet. Standard bar food. Average service. Really cold beer. Kind of a winner. I'm also partial to a place called SBC Pizza on 3rd Street, just around the corner from King, mostly because they've refused to play catch-up with the ballpark's frequent name changes. The beer is overpriced, but a lot less overpriced than inside the ballpark. Works for a quick pre-game brew and a slice if you're in a hurry." — J.S.

"You're in San Francisco! Walk along the waterfront and enjoy the scenic views before a game. Walk towards the Ferry Building to get a mish mash of the greatest food grown in the Bay Area's backyard. Momo's (across the street from the park) is a great bar/restaurant. If you're going after a game, you'll likely bump into any of the young Giants players having a beer (and they might serve you one, too!). Zeke's is just steps away and is an awesome bar too. Don’t want to stand in line inside the park for garlic fries? Gordon Biersch is two blocks away and offers stunning views of the bay, a ton of beers on tap and good food." — L.C.

"The Acme Chophouse is a great place before or after the game. You can go there, get a beer and walk straight in to the ballpark from the bar. There is also a doughnut shop across the street that is good for the day games." Andrew Miller (Not the Florida Marlin)

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"Make sure to check out the amazing statues of Willie Mays and Juan Marichal with his huge leg kick near the home plate entrance. On the other side of McCovey Cove is a statue of the namesake and there's also a fun little park and walkway that has plaques of every Giants team." — C.C.

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What to eat

"If you enter the park from Willie Mays Plaza, make a pit stop at the hot dog cart at the top of the first escalator that takes people up to the view level. They serve a "Chicago Dog" that is truly something to cherish. Combine that with a Budweiser served in an ice-cold, futuristic aluminum bottle, and you should be set." — J.S.

"Two things are a must when visiting: Gilroy Garlic Fries (it's our signature concession food for a reason) and Niman Ranch Bratwurst. There are several garlic fry stands located throughout the promenade — underneath the bleachers and on the view level —but make sure you go to a concession stand that actually reads "Gilroy Garlic Fries. "They sell garlic fries at the other concession stands with hot dogs and drinks, but it's not the same. The fries aren't as crispy and there's not as much garlic smothered on every piece.

Also, try to find a Doggie Diner cart. There are two on the promenade level, one at the edge of the RF/Arcade corner and one at the LF/corner before you hit the coke bottle and two upstairs on the view level. You MUST go to a Doggie Diner cart, not a Doggie Diner concession stand. These carts are portable grills where they grill the dogs, brats, onions, and sauerkraut. You can smell the deliciousness as you walk by. There's always a line, but well worth the wait. If you go to a concession stand, the dogs/brats are boiled and stuffed in a little tin foil blanket — no thanks. The grilling gives it all of the flavor." — L.C.

"Go with Orlando Cepeda's ChaCha bowl, which is jerk chicken and rice. Very tasty." — A.M.

"Yes — they do serve Napa wine and the garlic fries have local garlic." — Johnny Daly, S.F.

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Where to sit

"The best experience at AT&T is sitting in the view level (upper deck) behind home plate on a Sunday afternoon. When it's nice out, your seat will be warm (not a guarantee elsewhere in the park), and you'll have a sweeping view of the Bay, Oakland and McCovey Cove. Plus, the upper decks tend to house more die-hard Giants fans, so you're likely to be around an involved crowd." — J.S.

"Normal people like us can't always afford to sit right behind the plate, but you can get great seats for most games on the view level right behind the plate. You can see all the action (since the park is so small, there are few "bad" seats), you're still behind the plate, and when you look up in between the innings, you have an incredible view of McCovey Cove and the Bay Bridge. If you're heading over on a night game and you catch the sunset along the water, you'll know why Journey wrote the song "Lights". As the game winds down, you'll see the fog begin rolling in and San Francisco looks just like people describe it." — L.C.

"Stand on top of the arcade — the brick wall in right field. From there, you can look behind you and see McCovey Cove, you can get a good look at the Bay Bridge and you can get the best look at splash hit home runs. Also, if you walk back away from your seat you can even see the A's ballpark across the bay." — A.M.

"Many have said there isn't a bad seat in the house. I beg to differ. View Reserved 335/336 and View Box 234 during day games. You are looking at the teeth of the sun and you can't see part of left field.
In order to see the field and have a view of the bay, you need to sit in the upper deck — View Reserved or View Box. If you want to see McCovey Cove (and the chance to see a ball go from
bat to splash), site in View Reserved or View Box, but closer to the right field foul pole. You also get the bonus view of the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge as well. On day games, the shade hits the stands alone the right side of the field." — G.L.

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Misc.

"In the late spring and throughout the summer, if you're attending a night game, unless you've heard the weatherperson specifically say it will be a balmy night in San Francisco, say, in the 70s or 80s, bring a jacket or two. Most nights, it will cool off rapidly. There's also always a few nights during the season where the evening weather becomes "Candlestick-like. But don't tell your Dodger buddies about that — let them freeze and force them to spend $40+ for Giants merchandise that will keep them warm." — G.L.

"Mark Twain's quote about 'the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco' may not be true, but still make sure to dress in layers when you go to the park. Though it's certainly not Candlestick cold, it is the one ballpark where the sweatshirt and jacket vendors in the outfield make out like bandits in July. It will be 75 and sunny at first pitch, and by the 4th inning you are freezing your **** off in the dead of summer." — J.D.

"This being the Bay Area, there's free Wi-Fi in the ballpark. Yeah, it seems sacrilegious ... I should be paying attention to the game. But, it's the only way I can attend a weekday game and honestly say I'm working out of the 'San Francisco office', catching up emails and the like in between innings using the free Wi-Fi and the company's VPN." — G.L.

"The real estate around the place is booming. They just built three glass high rises with million dollar condos two blocks from the park. It's probably some of the most expensive real estate in the country right now in the SoMa (South of Market) 'hood. That kinda gives it the "Wrigley" feel in that the casual fan is VERY present and NOT paying attention." — J.D.

"The Giants organization really put everything they had into this ballpark. It is one of the best looking ballparks around and they were one of the first to utilize a waterfront property like this. Plus, any ballpark other than Candlestick is going to be monumentally better." — A.M.

"The Giants are not a great team this year, but going to the game is such a event. I love to people watch, heckle the players and spend a wonderful day/evening under the San Francisco sky." — M.S.

“It feels old, but it still feels new. It’s hard to describe, so just fall in love when you step into the venue.” — L.C.

Have an insider's tip for AT&T Park that you didn't see listed here? E-mail it with your name and home town to 'Duk at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com for possible inclusion in the post.

Big League Stew's Big Ballpark Review will run all summer and will feature all 30 MLB ballparks. We welcome reviews for any ballpark. To do so, visit this post for submission guidelines.

NEXT WEEK: Camden Yards, Fenway Park, Miller Park

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