Please help-out a baseball newbie
March 10, 2011 6:38 AM   Subscribe

I'm visiting San Francisco in May and am hoping to go to my first ever baseball game. According to the Giants website they're playing the Diamondbacks on Tuesday and Wednesday evening, and Thursday from mid-day on the days I'm in town. What's that all about? I thought baseball was a one day game. Are they playing three separate games, or is it one game spread over three days?

Given that I've never even watched a game on TV (I'm from the UK) let alone been to one, which would be the best day to go? I'm more interested in a good atmosphere and an all-round enjoyable time than the seeing the most technically proficient passage of play (although I guess the two usually go hand in hand).

Finally, for anyone familiar with the ground, which is the best stand? For example, at a cricket ground, the purists would be sitting behind the bowlers arm, jotting down the outcome of every ball in their notebooks. Most of the singing and cheering, however, would be coming from somewhere else. I want to sit in that stand, if such a thing exists in baseball.
posted by fatfrank to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (36 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It's three separate games. To cut down on travel, the same teams will usually play between 3 and 5 games in a row.
posted by hwyengr at 6:42 AM on March 10, 2011

First, baseball teams usually play a series of between three and seven games.

Second, you're going to be treated to a game at Pac Bell park. There isn't a bad seat in the entire place.
posted by JimmyJames at 6:42 AM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

The bleacher seats are usually where the crazy fans hang out. They're located behind the outfield. They're usually cheaper too.
posted by JimmyJames at 6:45 AM on March 10, 2011

And if you can - get there early to walk around the park and perhaps watch some of the batting practice.
posted by nightwood at 6:53 AM on March 10, 2011

Yes, baseball is definitely a one-day game. Games are usually about three hours but can range from two hours to four plus.

Make sure to plan for snacks! Good lord, I love ballpark food.
posted by sugarfish at 6:55 AM on March 10, 2011

Best answer: "the best stand" really depends on what you want. If you just want to soak up the general ambiance, and get a good view of the entire field and of the view, sit in the upper level along one of the baselines for a panoramic view. As you are a baseball newbie, I would recommend this - there are great seats to be had right down on the field level, but you'll probably not get as much out of the game as you will by seeing the whole field.

As others have said, they are three separate games. The Thursday game is a day game because Thursday is what's called "getaway day" - the visiting team is flying out to their next city for their next three-game series (the Giants may be too, haven't looked at the schedule), so they play early and fly in the evening. Day baseball games are a lot of fun, I would recommend that if you have the chance. Otherwise, there's no bad choice - as the series gets closer, check the Giants website for pitching probables, and if you see the name Lincecum listed on one of the days you might want to go, go that day no matter what. He's that good.

I am envious that you are going to your first baseball game - I have been to thousands, and the novelty never wears off, but that first game is an amazing experience. Pac Bell, or AT&T, or whatever the heck they call that park now, is my second-favorite ballpark to see a game at (PNC in Pittsburgh beats it but not by much) - it's a beautiful place.

posted by pdb at 7:01 AM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

*and get a good view of the entire field and surrounding area, I meant.
posted by pdb at 7:01 AM on March 10, 2011

first off, the overview of baseball rules seems pretty straightforward if you're unfamiliar with the mechanics of the game.

a note on snacks - vendors will walk around in the aisles selling food and drink. the general protocol is that people pass their money down the line of seats one to the next and the food back the same way. just so you're not startled if you see someone handing you either money or food with no explanation.

in general, baseball fans are pretty friendly, so feel free to talk to folks around you - i bet at least some of them will be happy to explain things that are going on. there are likely to be some people around you who are tracking the specifics of the game either on forms of their own or on a form included in a program that you can buy at the game. these folks are even more likely to answer questions as long as they're not actively writing things down. there is stats nerdery in baseball that is positively boggling.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:01 AM on March 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Seats in the upper levels along the baselines provide some fantastic views of the bay.
posted by gnutron at 7:04 AM on March 10, 2011

Here's a seating chart. A lot of the joy of our ballpark is it's beautiful, great view of the bay and with good weather, a nice day outdoors. It can also be cold, if the fog's in, check the weather and bring a jacket. I'd recommend a day game over an evening game if you have the choice; even better, do both!

I'm kind of snobby so I like the Club Level seats. It's a semi-private tier of the ballpark; only folks with club level tickets are allowed in the area, the seats are nicer, and there's a less crowded bar and snacks area with shorter lines. All in all, a more genteel experience. The views are great, too, although as folks noted there's hardly a bad seat in the place. But I'm not a real baseball fan, and club level seems mostly for people who want a fancy outing and don't want to rob shoulders with hoi polloi. Ie: not a real fan experience. Choose accordingly.

BTW, it's totally cool during a game to get up and walk around the whole park. Recommended.

Bonus tourist tip: visiting Alcatraz is totally worth it, it's not the cheesy tourist thing you might think. You need to buy tickets a few days in advance.
posted by Nelson at 7:10 AM on March 10, 2011

I've been to a lot of baseball games, and I still get choked up (and not just because I'm a Mets fan!) when I go to my first game of the season each year -- there's something absolutely beautiful about a ballpark.
posted by thinkpiece at 7:17 AM on March 10, 2011

Are they playing three separate games, or is it one game spread over three days?

Three separate games.

I'm more interested in a good atmosphere and an all-round enjoyable time than the seeing the most technically proficient passage of play (although I guess the two usually go hand in hand).

You've already said you want to sit with the wacky fans, and that's exactly the right way to do this.

Also, don't be surprised how many other "bells and whistles" will go into the experience of watching a game that don't have anything to do with the game as such. The stadium will have its own silly traditions that fans will follow along with -- silly songs they'll just play periodically that the fans will all sing along with, things like that. One to watch out for is called the "seventh-inning stretch" -- this is simply a very short break after the seventh round, or "inning," of ball play, so the fans can stand up and stretch their legs a bit. Some stadiums get very goofy with this, giving fans a silly song to dance to or broadcasting old exercise videos on the stadium's television screen or some such. I've heard Yankee Stadium used to play the "Macarena" for a while, so at the seventh-inning stretch suddenly you had the fans all standing up and doing the macarena. Some stadiums have lately taken to making this a patriotic salute by playing "God Bless America," but this is starting to fall out of favor.

I'd maybe mention to the fans you sit near that you're a little unfamiliar with the game itself, as I'm sure they'd be very eager to explain things to you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:19 AM on March 10, 2011

From the perspective of someone who's always been brought to baseball games but would never watch on tv or go on my own: For me it's much easier to stay interested/invested by being as close as possible to the action - it's easier to remember that this is a "real thing" that's happening over there, and not some abstract thing I'm looking at on TV. There's not going to be a separate cadre of fan type in any different section of the park. YMMV.

My baseball fan BF says if you can get field level seats, sit along the base line. If you can't get that, sit further up behind home plate. If you're just there to get drunk and make a lot of noise, sit in the outfield.
posted by amethysts at 7:21 AM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'll second going to the afternoon game if you can. The night lights sort of block out the surrounding world and focus your attention solely on the field. Especially for a first visit, it easier in the daytime to take everything in (IMO).
posted by mikepop at 7:41 AM on March 10, 2011

Definitely try to go to the afternoon game. And, for the same reason, bring a light jacket. Pac Bell Park can get *cold.*
posted by ewiar at 8:00 AM on March 10, 2011

Seconding that you should feel free to walk around the ballpark and get different views of the action, that's really encouraged by the design of the newer parks.
posted by seventyfour at 8:02 AM on March 10, 2011

It really does get cold and the area around the ballpark is dead at night, if not slightly on the unsafe side if you head too far in the wrong direction. Go to the earliest game possible. Don't eat at Public House or Mijita, there's a lot more options around - including the ballpark foods already mentioned. :)

I can see AT&T Park right now from my desk, and I've lived in Pittsburgh, and they are indeed two of the best ballparks in the US. AT&T definitely has the food edge.
posted by kcm at 8:35 AM on March 10, 2011

Bring a jacket whether you go to a day or a night game; if you're going to a day game, also bring sunscreen. The bleacher seats are cheaper, but also more uncomfortable - they're backless benches, and they also tend to be much colder, since the wind swoops down from the home plate side of the field and hammers right into the bleachers. The best view (IMO) is going to be in View Reserve (lower is better because you don't have to climb as many stairs) somewhere between 312 and 321 - you get a tremendous view of the Bay and the East Bay hills as well as the whole field.

You'll have to go through a bag inspection when you get to the park. You can bring a plastic bottle of water, but they still might make you toss it or dump it out (they don't want you smuggling alcohol into the park). You can bring your own food if you want (lots of people do, since snacks are not cheap). Still, you should buy some garlic fries.

On preview:

It really does get cold and the area around the ballpark is dead at night, if not slightly on the unsafe side if you head too far in the wrong direction.

Absolutely true about it getting cold, although May can be warmer than July around here. Don't worry about the unsafety of the area at night; I've been to tons and tons of night games, and the area is packed with fans leaving, waiting for public transit, walking to the parking lots, etc. for a long time after the game ends - it's anything but dead. There are also lots of cops around to wrangle traffic and keep drunken shenanigans from getting out of hand. The Diamondbacks are certainly rivals, but they are not a Deadly Enemy like the Dodgers - those games have the potential to create a lot more post-game fightyness. You'll be fine.
posted by rtha at 8:47 AM on March 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

It's dead as in there's little to do around the area, food and drink wise. Especially in relation to the option of spending your evening in a more interesting area of town, like the outer Richmond. ;)
posted by kcm at 8:52 AM on March 10, 2011

I guess I'm not understanding why you'd need to worry about where to "spend the evening" if you're going to a night game.
posted by rtha at 9:01 AM on March 10, 2011

Enough about the seats people. Talk about what's important. Tell the guy about ballpark food.

Go hungry and bring cash.

Don't eat the first thing you see that looks good. Unless you've got a bottomless pit of a stomach, you need to walk through the food vendors and plan. The Gilroy Garlic fries are sort of a classic choice and many people will tell you the fresh crab sandwich is the way to go. Have a plan and have everyone in your party order different items and share.

Ah, ballpark food. I can't wait to go get me a Dodger Dog.
posted by 26.2 at 9:51 AM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: to get somewhat specific following up my earlier comment, I would focus my seat search on either sections 307-310 on the first base side or sections 321-325 on the third base side. Sit in the first 9 rows of any of those sections and you'll get a great view of the game, and a fantastic view of the surrounding areas.

Also, if you're buying seats directly from the Giants, be aware that they don't really have set prices - they have a minimum price, but they employ a "market pricing" scheme which means the price varies based on demand and "other factors". It's a pretty bewildering mess, if you ask me, but here's what the prices are as of today. If you want a little less uncertainty in your ticket buying, use StubHub to get tickets from the secondary market (stubhub are basically electronic touts).

And people have sort of talked about this above, but I cannot stress enough how completely awesome it is that beer vendors will come to your seat and sell you a beer. Just be ready for some sticker shock, on both beer and food - beer typically runs $7 or so per beer (more for better beer) and food is also crazy expensive, but don't let that stop you - there's tons of good food to be had.
posted by pdb at 10:25 AM on March 10, 2011

many people will tell you the fresh crab sandwich is the way to go.

I am one of those people. It is spendy but so good. Some people also enjoy the Cha-Cha Bowl stand located in the same area as the crab place, in the arcade. My wife is a devotee of a hot dog called the Sheboygan. Ahem.

Also, there are number of good beer stalls around the stadium, all of which will run you at least $8 for a bottle. Of course, if you really want the traditional baseball experience, you have to get the largest commemorative plastic cup filled with the uriniest beer you can find--Bud Light comes to mind.
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:33 AM on March 10, 2011

And people have sort of talked about this above, but I cannot stress enough how completely awesome it is that beer vendors will come to your seat and sell you a beer.

They what now?! I've never seen this in View Reserve - coffee, yes, peanuts, ice cream, cotton candy (down in front!) - but never beer. Only when I've sat down in the Field Club seats have I had beer vendors - or at least, people who take your order, then bring you your food/drink - come by.

Non-Bud/Michelob beers (e.g. Sierra Nevada, Lagunitas) will run you about $8.50 or so per beer. Bring money!
posted by rtha at 10:41 AM on March 10, 2011

Most of the singing and cheering, however, would be coming from somewhere else. I want to sit in that stand, if such a thing exists in baseball.

We have lots of cheering. However, baseball really doesn't have the same tradition of Supporter's Singing that footall/futbol/soccer has. So, if you're expecting some of that, it won't be there. However, baseball has a lot of other fun stadium things that will be just as entertaining, like the 7th Inning Stretch etc.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:09 AM on March 10, 2011

Nth-ing upper levels along baselines, but would also say that sitting within the bases gives the better view of what's happening. To be specific, finding an upper level seat either between home plate and first base or home plate and third base. Being in an upper level seat out in the outfield is always a little too far from the action for me.
posted by buzzkillington at 11:31 AM on March 10, 2011

I was just at AT&T park for a tour. There isn't a bad seat in the house, really. Just buy your tickets (early, I hear they're selling out! champions, and all), and enjoy yourself. It's really, really easy to enjoy a baseball game.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 11:40 AM on March 10, 2011

I went to my first baseball game last summer, the middle of a three-game series of the Phillies at the Mets.

Had seats for the upper level over the left foul line, with an amazing view, but it was a bit steep and dizzying. We ended up watching most of the game from the concourse at the back of the lower level. There was a rail to stand at to rest your drinks and eat your hot dogs, and even from there the view of the diamond was fantastic. Saw Jose Reyes hit a home run, too!

I'd only been watching baseball since a year before but even without the commentators making it easy, it wasn't hard to follow the action and really get into the game. (It might help to bring a little transistor radio to tune in whatever local station is broadcasting the game, so you can get commentary while you watch, but that might be overkill.)

Oh yes, and seconding baseball fans being friendly. I'm not the outgoing type but ended up chatting with a few people at the game, even fans of the other team.
posted by macdara at 11:59 AM on March 10, 2011

You're so lucky, going to your first game! Whatever you do, enjoy the experience.

I would recommend seating along the first base line rather than the third base line...the initial action is always going to be between home and first -- the race to beat the ball to the base, the spectacular stretch by the first baseman to dig out a hit, etc. Then, once a player reaches first, there's drama of the runner leading off, the tension between the pitcher and the runner and the first baseman to head off a steal ... of course, a lot of this can happen at the other bases, but runners are often winnowed down as play advances, and there usually just isn't as much action along the third base line.

I don't consider baseball an action sport, though of course action exists, and the athleticism of the players is unquestioned. But in some ways, the game can be like combat: long stretches of boredom punctuated by moments of pure terror. It's a cerebral game, a game of numbers, which always pits a single offensive player against nine defenders, a battle between the pitcher and the batter, with the other players reacting to what happens between them.

Definitely bring an AM radio. I live in Seattle, where we lost Dave Neihaus, one of the all-time great baseball announcers, last fall. I don't know the broadcast team in SF, but any big-league baseball broadcaster is going to be among the best in all sports, able to tell stories, talk about the park, the weather and the players, putting it all together to painting a verbal picture of the game being played.
posted by lhauser at 12:21 PM on March 10, 2011

just nthing to be sure to talk to the people sitting next to you if you have questions or want to know more about anything you see. Most will be happy to oblige. One of my best memories of attending a game was a Chicago White Sox game I went to with my brother a couple years ago. Until about the 3rd inning, we had an empty seat next to us, then a guy came and sat in it. At first we thought he was kind of weird--with every pitch, every foul ball, he would jump up and down and exclaim, "woooooowwww!" After a couple of batters, he introduced himself to us: he was a tourist from London, and wanted to check out what this 'baseball' thing was all about. He was absolutely thunderstruck at how fast the ball moved, the crack of the bat, the way the field was set up, everything. He spent the whole rest of the game asking us about the rules, the players, the history, etc, and telling us a bit about his own life. It's one of my best memories of attending a ballgame.
posted by notswedish at 12:26 PM on March 10, 2011

Adding to the nthing about talking. Baseball is not a fast-paced game; there's as much downtime as there is action. Plenty of time to ask people questions if you see something you don't understand.

The radio thing is an especially good idea in San Francisco, where the Giants rely on the talented Jon Miller for radio work.
posted by pdb at 12:56 PM on March 10, 2011

Have fun. I'm partial to the Gilroy Garlic Fries. They are quite delicious.
posted by mmascolino at 1:06 PM on March 10, 2011

My one and only Giants game was an afternoon game. If you're going Thursday afternoon (and seriously, this is when you should go), know it gets HOT in the sun, so either bring sunscreen or pick seats on the first base line.

For the most part Giants fans are good people, enthusiastic, a little inebriated, but nothing like fans of a couple of teams named for their foot coverings who I've found to be utter jerks (at least in Seattle). You should be able to get your questions answered by the people around you; they're more than happy for the opportunity to try and convert another person to the Church Of Baseball.
posted by dw at 1:24 PM on March 10, 2011

I love a good ball game. To me, the baseball experience is summed up in Alabama's song, Cheap Seats.

We like our beer flat as can be,
We like our dogs with mustard and relish.
We've got a great pitcher, what's his name,
Well, we can't even spell it!
We don't worry about the pennant much,
We just like to see the boys hit it deep.
There's nothing like the view from the cheap seats!

The dogs and drinks might cost you as much as the tickets, but it's all part of the experience. Just let yourself cheer and laugh and give yourself permission to act like a nut, and you'll have the time of your life. :)
posted by xedrik at 4:13 PM on March 10, 2011

And, you know, there are a good number of mefite Giants fans. If you put out a call, you could probably get a bunch of us to go to the game with you and provide our opinionated commentary and explanation of the game as it happens.
posted by gingerbeer at 8:07 PM on March 10, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you all for the helpful and enthusiastic replies, am now even more excited about my trip, if such a thing were possible.

The seat recommendations are great, exactly what I was after. Upper level along the first baseline on Thursday afternoon seems to be the place to be. (And it sounds like I'm going to have to be hitting the pool pretty hard when I get back...)
posted by fatfrank at 3:12 AM on March 11, 2011

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