Last week I was on vacation in San Francisco. I went for baseball. The Jays were playing the Giants, and because of the way interleague play is set up in an unbalanced fashion this is a pretty rare occurrence. My current job pays me well enough to be able to go on vacation and even buy decent tickets for sold-out ballgames in expensive cities. So I went.
But before going to see the two teams I cared about play, I went to Oakland. I hadn’t really thought about the proximity that Oakland and San Francisco share until I arrived and learned it was a quick trip across the bay. I had some mistaken notion that Oakland was further, maybe past small mountains or something, but you can see it from SF.
The Bay Bridge. I took the BART under it to get to Oakland, which is on the lower right of the picture.
I took the train and bought a cheap centre-field ticket, because really, I don’t care about the A’s beyond their Moneyballishness. I also knew that O.co Coliseum is the kind of place I’d be able to sit in better emptier seats by the 4th inning if I cared to.
Coco Crisp playing centre field in the first inning of White Sox @ Athletics, June 2, 2013.
But I liked sitting out in centre field. Foul territory is huge, but the mere fact that the ballpark is outside gave this prairie boy with deep-seated memories of the Metrodome a good impression. I did wander the coliseum and watched innings from a few spots, but returned for the 6th and following, which meant I was in a good spot to witness a positioning thing I’d never seen so clearly.
There’s an Oakland runner on first. The pitcher delivers. The runner breaks for second. The shortstop moves left to cover second to catch him stealing. The batter smacks the ball to the spot the shortstop just vacated. The shortstop lunges right but the ball glances off the end of his glove into the outfield. The play ends with a runner on first and third. I loved it because I was looking at the exact right spots for the play to make sense in my unmechanically assisted view. Those perfect little moments are totally why I go to baseball games.
Athletics v. White Sox, O.co Coliseum, Oakland, June 2, 2013
At the first Jays-Giants game I went to I got to see Tim Lincecum pitch like it was 2009. He was so good. In that game I was sitting on the third base side and had a perfect view of the double play where they called Josh Johnson out and he totally wasn’t. Sergio Romo closed out the game (and caught the ceremonial first pitch by a kid, who totally didn’t bounce it).
Tim Lincecum, AT&T Park, San Francisco, June 4, 2013
But the highlight of that game was the father and maybe 7-year-old son sitting in front of me and their interactions with the old park attendant in charge of our section. The old guy was a proponent of grassroots cheering. He was the kind of guy who would whistle the traditional “Charge!” songs and yell for people to get loud when the Giants were on offense. Once the section got going the ballpark organist would join in. The kid loved that guy, and then mistakenly tried to start similar cheering when the Jays were batting. The old guy was all “No no no kid, that ain’t how it works. You only cheer when we’ve got 2 strikes on the enemy.” The kid’s dad had that kind of awkward minor embarrassment but thankful mien and tried to teach the kid a bit more cheering etiquette instead of just how the game worked as the innings moved on.
R.A. Dickey v. Buster Posey, AT&T Park, San Francisco, June 5, 2013
At my third game R.A. Dickey pitched well, and I got to see Zito do some Zitoish pitching. There was a couple stuffing AllStar voting ballots in the row ahead of me through the first few innings (if you wonder why Buster Posey is beating out Yadier Molina to be the NL catcher, the Giants’ fans are organized). I was also sitting in (almost) my favourite spot in the ballpark to watch right-handed hitters from. There were a couple of good foul balls up the left-field line but not that perfect double that hooks and stays just fair. Oh well. You cannot have everything.