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Notes On A Ballgame

I was out at AT&T Part in San Francisco yesterday watching the Giants take on the Mets – the first West Coast game I’ve attended in over a year. The currently great Johan Santana was facing the once untouchable Randy Johnson. This, along with untypically warm San Francisco weather and a chance to sit in some exceptionally good seats seemed reason enough to make the effort. While my interest in Giants baseball has waned in recent years, I’m at least able to follow an entire game from start to finish. This tapered enthusiasm certainly trumps any appeal that baseball holds for me on the East Coast. While I still enjoy the ambient summer pleasures of the Mets and Yankees buzzing in the background, my specific interest in CC Sabathia’s ERA or Carlos Beltran’s opposite-field power ranks right up there with my attachment to the current front-runners on American Idol. Maybe it’s an age thing but I don’t have it in me to follow more than one franchise with any specific interest. (Although I’m still eternally grateful to baseball for the sacred place it serves in filling the gaps in otherwise awkward small talk and unavoidably banal social interaction.)

Having attended games at both Citi Field and AT&T Park only weeks apart, I can state with some confidence that the Giants’ ballpark has it over the Mets’ new home in every respect except the quality of the product on the field, and the unavailability of any beer – domestic or imported – for less than eight dollars and seventy-five cents. While the Mets have made a valiant attempt at laying Shea Stadium to rest, the fact that their new home is only a stone’s throw from the old one is an inescapable drawback. Nothing about Flushing can compare to San Francisco’s waterfront location, not even the abundant discount muffler retailers and chop shops on one side of the new stadium. And the food at AT&T is clearly superior. While there’s been some buzz about the “Shake Shack” burger stand behind the Citi Field scoreboard, their product falls far short of West Coast garlic fries. Both games that I attended at respective venues featured exceptionally warm weather, but San Francisco did offer some late inning relief in the form of a welcome breeze coming off the Bay. These benefits, while arguably superficial, still add up. There isn’t much about munching an average burger under stifling Queens temperatures and watching a pedestrian Mets-Nationals showdown that will keep the borderline fan coming back for more.

As far as the teams go, there’s really no comparison. The Mets may not be favored to go all the way this year, but they’ve got a far better club than the Giants. Santana had a rare off day yesterday, but his team backed him with the kind of run support absent from anything that San Francisco typically puts on the board for their marquee starter, Tim Lincecum. Lincecum is the sole reason for my tepid return to Giants fandom. At five foot ten and a buck seventy-five, this goofy looking kid with the Van Helsing haircut led the league in K’s last year and handily surpassed Santana in Cy Young voting. In this age of the juiced-up likes of Bonds at the plate and Clemens on the mound, there’s something refreshing about a guy with a two-seam fastball in the high nineties who resembles your buddy’s goofy kid brother. After dropping the first three games of this four game series, it’s about all I’m hanging on to.

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