Tuesday, July 7, 2015

On baseball: At San Francisco's retro AT&T Park, free knothole area offers fans unique view of players and field

The Giants' AT&T Park / A jewel of a baseball park along San Francisco Bay.
Tickets to see the San Francisco Giants play along the water's edge of San Francisco Bay in their jewel of a baseball park, AT&T Park, are both pricey and tough to obtain. Winning three World Series during a five-year span easily caused the demand to exceed the supply.

So, the Giants offer a free standing room viewing area at AT&T Park. It's one-third of the view but for none of the price.

Indeed, it's a priceless experience that not only offers a unique view of the field -- close enough to smell the grass -- but also a chance to shout out a "hello" to Giants right fielder Hunter Pence.

The knothole area provides a viewing portal through a
chain-link fence into the Giants' ballpark.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, my wife and I took advantage of the opportunity to stroll up and stand in the "knothole" area under one of the three arches at the base of the 24-foot high brick wall in right field that provides a viewing portal through a chain-link fence into the Giants' ballpark.

The knothole area underneath the right field arcade is one of many retro features that arrived when AT&T Park (then known as Pac Bell Park) opened in 2000. None of the other 29 Major League ballparks across the country include such a viewing section as part of a built-in feature. From what I've learned, the idea behind the knothole area was to attract passersby to drop in from the adjoining promenade who might not otherwise be inclined to watch.

The view from the knothole / The Giants'
Hunter Pence at bat with Joe Panik on base.
There are few rules for watching from this area -- no cursing, no folding chairs, no alcohol, no pets -- and it can accommodate up to about 75 fans at a time.

When necessary, such as when this is a sought-out spot during the playoffs and World Series, fans are rotated in and out every three innings. On the day we visited, we could have stayed as long as we liked. The knothole area was only about one-third full.

There aren't many amenities, so if you plan to stay a while you may wish to bring along your own snacks or purchase something from the nearby Yard at McCovey Cove, which features a variety of food and beverage options.

With our backs facing the boardwalk along McCovey Cove, we stood and watched as various Giants players -- among them, Pence and Madison Bumgarner -- warmed up for the game.

Madison Bumgarner / Everyone wanted to take his picture.
Pence ran wind sprints across the outfield while Bumgarner, the MVP of the 2014 World Series, threw to battery mate Buster Posey in the Giants' bullpen. We also saw several other Giants players -- Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik and Mike Duffy -- come out on the field to run sprints and play catch.

At 1:05 p.m., it was "Game On." We stayed for the first inning and absorbed the view. Then, it was time to head into the breezy San Francisco afternoon in search of lunch and other adventures.

All photos by Michael Dickens © 2015.

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