16th stop: AT&T Park (August 17 2014)

Our trip is not only about baseball. It is also the ‘’road trip around America’’.  Every person, once in their life, dreamed of touring the United States by car. This is why, on our schedule, we added a few destinations that have nothing to do with baseball but that represent the United States in people’s imagination. We were lucky enough to see Gettysburg and Nashville already. Sadly, because of our car problems, we had to skip Savannah and New Orleans. In the next part of the trip, we will be able to encounter great attractions that are part of the American landscape.

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First: Las Vegas. Who never dreamt of going down there? Doesn’t matter if you are a gambler or not, this city will fascinate everyone. Situated in Nevada, Sin City is filled with Casinos, hotel resorts and tourists activities. Oddly, the prices of the hotel rooms are pretty low. They anticipate that you will put money in the casino or in the different restaurants or shows. With a beer in our hand (totally legal) we walk down the ‘’Strip’’ (huge boulevard with all the biggest casinos and hotels) to observe the city. Every hotel is so big and all of them have a particularity that makes it original. New York New York as a replica of the Statue of Liberty, The Venetian has Gondola rides in a pool and the Bellagio has its famous water fountains.

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Everything is fascinating! We could relax a few hours by the pool when it’s too hot to walk or we could go play slots and get free drinks while we are playing. At night, the streets get crowded with tourists (lots of French people!) and we get harassed by people giving us business cards for prostitute or by charismatic men and women that are trying to bring you to the night club they’re working for.

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Leaving Las Vegas, We decided to visit two major attractions on that day. First of all: the Hoover Dam. This huge dam was built between 1931 and 1936. It filters the Colorado River, is 736 feet high and has a annual capacity of 4.2 billion kilowatts. The construction of this dam was dangerous and cost the lives of more than 100 men during the great depression. The view up there is amazing. We could understand why so many people drive out there to see it. You’ve probably seen the dam in Michael Bay’s Transformers.

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We quickly left the damn to drive the long road in the desert towards Grand Canyon. It really is a long drive to south ridge but the view out there is breathtaking. When we got there, the sun was slowly setting so we got an amazing view. We walk towards the edge of the canyon and we had to stop talking for a few minutes just to observe what we were seeing. We can describe it so we’ll you judge by the pictures. At some places, the Canyon can be 6,000 feet deep. At the bottom, the Colorado River is slowly making its way.

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The next day, we had another stop: The Yosemite Park. This park is almost 750,000 acres big and was opened in 1890. This huge park is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and is open to tourists, hikers, rock climbers and even ice skaters during the winter. We went down to the Yosemite Valley after driving in a long and narrow road. Down there, we had an extraordinary view of the famous half dome. A shuttle helps the visitors to go from one attraction to another. It was full house on this week-end day! Traffic jams at the exit were to be expected. Although, the view of the mountains, the rock formations and even a bear are memories that we won’t forget.

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We were really happy that we could take the time to see those great American landmarks and we are now driving towards the great San Francisco area. We were attending a Sunday afternoon game so we crossed the bay to get to AT&T Park, home of the Giants. San Francisco is a city fully packed so the cost of the parking lot was very expensive. We still found a good spot not too far and we got into the ballpark by the Willie Mays Gate.

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How could we describe the experience at AT&T Park: we have to talk first of the view we get there. Walking next to right field, we get to see McCovey Cove. Kayakers are patiently waiting for a home run ball to get in the water (the count for the Giants is at 66 since the opening of the ballpark!). Walking to the upper deck, we get a breathtaking view of the bay. Secondly, at the ballpark, the Giants are offering to their fans a huge variety of food concessions: crab sandwich, full ice cream counter owned by a local company, burgers, Mexican food and the famous garlic fries! Those fries are the best selling product at AT&T Park.

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The ballpark is full of particular attractions for older and younger fans: a giant coca-cola water bottle with slides inside, an edible garden at center field, an old San Francisco Tramway that you could sit in to watch a few innings of the game, a social media center, etc. We met with a Giants employee (that would like to remain anonymous) so he\she could give us a special tour of the ballpark. He\she presented us the different aspects that the Giants are putting up front in the ballpark. The team is working really hard with the city for two things. First to get the ballpark ‘’green’’ and second to make sure they could work together to develop the surrounding area of the ballpark. This ballpark, which opened in 2000, has a capacity of 42,000 fans and is a big contrast comparing to the old candle stick park where the Giants used to play. Candle Stick Park retired a few weeks ago since the 49ers inaugurated their new football stadium. Like we said earlier, football and baseball in the same stadium are not doing well for baseball teams.

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Our guide told us that the Giants really like to be the first team to introduce something. They were the first to introduce dynamic pricing for their tickets. This technique consists of a variation of price depending of the game: giveaway night, rivalry game, etc. Right now, the Giants are living their Golden age. World Series wins in 2010 and in 2012 really helped the team. The team as the actual longest sellout games streak. Our guide brought us to the virgin club level. This section is only for fans with a second deck ticket or season ticket holder. Over there we could saw the two World Series trophies and many team artifacts. On this level, the food choice is even crazier: olive bar, wine bar, meat cutter, etc.

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We asked our usual questions to our guides. The Giants fans are showing up to games and they love their team. According to our guide, the 2010 and 2012 World Series didn’t create any bandwagon movement. Our guide told us about the time she was freezing in the stands at Candle Stick Park with less than 10,000 fans. So we understand this is a sweet time for the Giants fans. We talked to her about the possibility of the Athletics moving from Oakland to San Jose. The Giants management is against that move. He\she admitted that a lot of Giants fans are coming from the San Jose area. Altough, the team is confident that this move is not going to happen. Also we asked if the subject of Barry Bonds was Taboo in San Francisco. We learned that Bonds was so loved by the fans that he is still loved. He receive great standing ovation when he visits the team. We’d like to thank our guide so much for taking the time to talk with us. Also a big thank you for the Giants gifts! It is nice to meet a real fan that is working for the team.

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Our second meet up was with Nancy Broden. Nancy is from Montreal but moved to California with her husband for work. She was proudly wearing the Expos colors when we met her! Nancy is a season ticket holder and, as she told us, people that are always coming to the games start to know each other quickly and are becoming like a family. Like our guide, she didn’t felt any bandwagon movement after the two recent World Series. The Fans just love baseball and their team.

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The Ballpark was paid in big part with season ticket money. This is why the team tried to reward these fans by building two special facilities only for season ticket holders that are paying an extra fee to access these amenities. First, the Gotham club: it has this name the honor the team as they used to be called the New York Gothams. In this place, you can grab a quick drink, relax or play bowling in an old school style bar. On the walls are pinned pictures reminding the history of the Giants and the Gothams. Then, we followed Nancy to right field where we got inside triples alley, behind the scoreboard. Behind the board lies another bar where you can watch the game while employees manually changes the big numbers indicating the inning and the score. Also, there is a special zone where you can check the game through a fence. Before the game, fans that have acces to this zone can stand on the field during batting practice and drink a beer while being really close to the players! Thanks a lot to Nancy for showing us a part of the ballpark that we couldn’t have seen if it wasn’t for her! Keep wearing your Expos gear proudly! It’s so nice to meet Montreal fans living outside of Montreal.

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Hey there was a baseball game also that afternoon! The Phillies (David Buchanan) were battling the Giants (Tim Lincecum). Lincecum got in trouble early in the game giving a triple to Chase Utley that pushed Jimmy Rollins home.  During the second inning, a missed catch will give the lead to the Giants (2-1). With bases loaded, Lincecum walked Cody Asche and the Phillies tied the game. The Giants didn’t give up and a single from Andrew Susac gave them back the lead. In the 8th inning, the Giants would score 2 more runs on two sacrifice fly ball: 5-2 Giants. Tim Lincecum was pulled out of the game after only 5 innings. His 4 Reliefs pitchers only allowed 4 hits and they got 9 strikeouts altogether. Giants win 5-2!

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We were seated in the bleachers section at AT&T Park. This section is known, in all the ballparks to be a little more ‘’party’’. People are drinking a little more and insults to the players are a common thing out there. Those seats used to be the cheapest but now they got more and more expensive. We are still happy to live that experience out there at least once in the trip!

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The Giants have a particular ballpark. It is one of the smallest in square feet since it is limited by the water. The walkways are very narrow so we would recommend getting there early if you don’t want to miss the first pitch! We are really happy to see that the fan experience is maximized out there whether it is because of the food choice or the kid activities. The Giants love to innovate and a lot of teams will follow in their footsteps when they find a good idea. We also loved the passion the fans were having for the team. When we walked around the city, we could see banners hanging from houses, fire trucks or simply people jogging with their Giants hat. Saddly, one of their great fan, Robin Williams, died recently. A negative point is that the World Series trophies are not accessible to any fans out there but only to specific tickets holder (more expensive ones!). Go out and a game at AT&T Park is a special thing to do by itself. If you are visiting San Francisco, it’s an activity that represents the city. We got a great reception from the Giants fans: they loved our project and the fact that we were wearing Expos Colors!

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Our next stop will be on the other side of the Bay: we will be visiting the Athletics in Oakland with their very passionate fans.

P.S. Did you know that the Giants got an association with the Mumm Nappa vineyard to create their special edition sparkling wine? Pretty usefull when you win a World Series!

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