Monday, April 7, 2008

San Francisco Giants

It is one of the best days of the year for thousands of San Franciscans - the much-awaited opening home game of the season for baseball team San Francisco Giants!

In team colours of black and orange, over 40,000 people were there to cheer on their beloved Giants who this year celebrate the 50th anniversary of their presence in the city.

To mark the occasion, there was a flypast of two F18 fighter jets. They swooped in over the Bay and soared over the stadium with impeccable timing as the last strains of the national anthem faded away.

There was also a trip down memory lane with an appearance of some of the original players from 1958. Riding in open-topped cars of the fifties, they did a circuit of the grounds. The Giants, like the LA Dodgers, had begun life in New York but moved to California to bring baseball to the West Coast.

'It's a great day - the best day of the season,' enthused one fan as he walked to the game wearing the signature black and orange sweatshirt and baseball hat. 'Whether we win or lose, I'm rooting for them!'

The team this season is facing a big change, the equivalent of Man United kicking off without Becks for the first time. Their star player for 15 seasons, Barry Bonds, has been dropped.

'It's a powerful loss', said the fan. He shrugged, 'When we lose, we lose, but when we win, it's a great feeling!'

'We're so excited! said a lady who had travelled all the way from Monterey to watch the game with her friend. 'This is my first opening day! We're happy fans!' she said. Her friend, dressed in smart orange 'crops' and black top, agreed.

'I've been a fan since I was born, and my father before me,' she recalled. ' We used to listen to them on the radio in the back yard.'

The stadium is south of the city alongside part of the bay known as McCovey Cove, named after a famous player.

How do you think the Giants will get on this season? I asked a group queuing by the water.

"I'm hoping we'll win at least 50 per cent of the games,' said one man, and then laughed at himself for what was possibly a hopelessly optimistic statement!

How much will you miss Barry Bonds?

'It was time for him to go,' ventured a lady and with an eye on the future added, 'I'm looking forward to seeing the youngsters today.'

In front of them stood a long crocodile of Giants crew people holding yards and yards of a rolled up American flag ready to carry in for the official opening ceremony.

Alongside a ferry boat pulled up with passengers for the game and a flotilla of small boats and kayaks began to fill the cove. They were Giants fans happy to sit on the water and listen to the commentary of the game as it was relayed outside the stadium.

One of the hopes, no doubt, is that a boater might just have an opportunity to catch a ball that flies out of the stadium and heads for the water! Known as 'Splash Hits' - the Giants have only been in this stadium since 2000 - Bonds holds an outstanding record of 35 Splash Hits out of a total team count of 45, as well as the record for home runs.

One of the excellent features of the Giants is that they give fans who perhaps can't afford tickets for every game, a few innings of free viewing per match. There is open fencing beneath the stadium by the cove where fans can stand and watch.

I stood next to a Nicaraguan lady who has lived in San Fran for 50 years, and has been a fan for the same time. Her face glowed with anticipation. 'I love it!' she said.

'I watched Barry Bonds' father play,' she added.

'Barry Bonds' father?' I said.

'Yes, Barry Bonds' father!' she affirmed, amused at my astonished tone.

With Barry Bonds, there is an unresolved legal matter that has stunned fans. Last year he was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice regarding steroid use. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

But even with Bonds the Giants sadly have not been noted for their winning streak in recent years. And this brief season so far is not looking too hopeful. Whilst today is the opening home match for San Franciscans, the official start of the season was last week and the Giants have already lost 5 out of 6 away games.

But that's not what fans were focussing on today. As the opening ceremony ended with the flypast and a burst of coloured smoke, boats in the cove tooted and a fireboat sprayed jets of water high into the air.

For now, the future was what counted!

PS The Giants lost to San Diego Padres, but beat them the following night in a glorious nail-biting finale. After which there was a dazzling firework display that turned the sky into a supercharged sparkle that rivalled many a city's New Year's extravaganza.

Happy New Year, Giants!!!

Click for pics. Click to enlarge.

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