I know I am almost 1 month overdue for this post, but things have been hectic and took priority. It won't happen again.
As I sit here on the cusp of being an adult with real bills and real house responsibilities, I look at the things that I enjoy to help take my mind off of the fact that soon I will have little to no money to do fun, expensive things. The geekiest thing I like to do is travel to major league cities and see the sights, and also check out their baseball stadiums. For some reason, ballparks are so unique to each city/team, and while they are starting to look similar with the Camden Yards theme, each offers distinct options to get a look at the rich history of the teams, as well as sample local ballpark cuisine. I have been to multiple football stadiums and hockey/basketball arenas, but they all seem the exact same and the main focus is the action on the field. Now I'd travel to these ballparks and cities even if the Phillies weren't in town, but it makes it so much sweeter when the opposing fans at a ballpark outnumber and are louder than the home fans (see Nationals Park).
I'm lucky that I found a girl who likes the Phillies almost as much if not more than I do, and will go on these crazy excursions with me. When the Phillies schedule came out late in 2010, we quickly looked at where we could go and the choice was clear - heading out the west coast to San Fran and LA. This will focus on San Francisco. LA to follow. I will keep the non-baseball related details out as much as possible....
We left Philly at 6am and landed in San Fran by 11am. It was a long flight, but not as bad as I'd imagined. Our hotel room was not ready by the time we landed, so we went out towards AT&T Park to check out the surroundings and get a feel for what bar we might stop at for pre-game and post-game drinks. From the outside, AT&T Park is beautiful and set right on the water at McCovey Cove. The stadium has everything you would expect in a California ballpark, with palm trees outside, sailboats in an adjacent dock and multiple statues paying tribute to Willie Mays, Juan Marichal and a seal balancing a baseball (as a nod to the San Francisco Seals).
As we walked around the outside of the stadium, we were interviewed by local ABC news about our reaction to the sad news of the young Phillies fan from PA that was hit by an apparent drunk driver leaving the stadium. I had not heard the news before then, and honestly it was sad that a family out in SF on vacation had to deal with that. DST's thoughts continue to go out to that little guy as he faces a long road to recovery.
After a quick power nap, we headed to O'Neills Irish Pub on 3rd street, which to no surprise was packed with Phillies fans. It was so Philly friendly that E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES cheers broke out with little or no backlash. The beers were pricy but it was that or go thirsty and who wants to do that.
We finally got into the stadium and walked around the concourse. Everything was open-air, with great views all around the ballpark, with awesome food options including garlic fries, a carving station, paninis and seafood. Everything was expensive but it's a sold out stadium, they can charge what they want. We initially sat in right center field but were quickly booted from that section and started to walk over the scoreboard in right field. Coolest feature about the traditional score board is that you can sit in a bar inside the scoreboard and watch the guys change the out of town scores, while still seeing the game through the outfield fence. Parking is something I am glad we got to avoid because being downtown options are limited. They do however have ferries and a pedestrian only bridge (see PNC Park) to help ease congestion but it's not easy leaving.Finally into our seats and I can easily say it is the most scenic park I've been to, even better than PNC Park in Pittsburgh. You can see the cove, the sailboats and the kayaks from your seat. The only issue was the weather. The entire day was warm and sunny, almost to the point of breaking a sweat while walking, but as soon as the sun set, temperatures dropped into the 60's with a constant mist/fog/cloud on top of you. Locals said August is the worst time of the year weather-wise, but any ballpark that doesn't have beer vendors in the stands, but rather hot chocolate vendors should consider heated seats and hoodie giveaways.
The game Friday, 8/5 was great, as we saw a Phils win, a brawl and one of the best stadiums I've ever been to. The city of San Francisco is great, but AT&T Park is easily in my top 3 of best stadiums ever.