The man with the plan that saved the team that won the World Series arrived at AT&T Park early Monday.
“It was around 7 o’clock,” team President Larry Baer told me before the Giants’ home opener. “I walked on the field. I breathed the fresh air. I smelled the grass. I was alone, and it was quiet, very quiet. Then it hit me.”
What struck Baer like so many red bricks was everything the organization had accomplished over the years. All those smiley faces and capacity crowds and victories and championships.
“An emotional experience,” Baer called it.
The Giants’ players received rousing ovations in the pregame introduction, but Baer and general manager Brian Sabean deserved to be in line with them. If Baer didn’t have the vision for a knockout ballpark in China Basin years ago, there’s no way the organization would have experienced this kind of wild success. Put the Giants in Candlestick Park a few miles away, and they would be just another good team in a bad ballpark.
If they hadn’t relocated to Montreal or Oklahoma City or … “What does this day mean to me?” Baer said. “It means a rebirth of the baseball season. It’s the realization we’ll be playing here in the spring and in the summer. And the fall, hopefully.
“It’s nice to celebrate with our fans, but most of all, we want to play well for them. We want them to leave with the thought that this really is a special place.”
Third and King streets is a place where dreams have come true, and for that, Baer can take another bow.
MORE TORTURE AHEAD?: OK, enough of the obligatory warm-and-fuzzy stuff already.
If the Champs expect to contend again, they’ll have to hit better. A lot better. After some Colorado Rockies pitcher named Eddie Butler and a bunch of relievers shut them down 2-0, the Champs have scored seven runs in their last five games.
“It’s so early in the season,” said skipper Bruce Bochy, a half-full guy. “You’re going to go through these streaks like pitching and defense. You stay behind them and keep working. That’s all you can do.”
Maybe so, but Casey McGehee has as many bone bruises as home runs at the moment. Gregor Blanco and Brandon Crawford have been dead wood. The return of Hunter Pence can’t come soon enough, and that won’t be for two weeks and maybe longer.
Nori Aoki can carry the team only so far, you know.
BEN HUR, DONE THAT: The most positive sign was the performance of rookie Chris Heston, who was solid for the second time in as many starts.
So if Madison Bumgarner carried the latest World Series banner to the flag pole on a horse — relax, he cleared it with the higher-ups — will Heston ride a chariot if he pitches the team to another championship?
TOKE’S ON HIM: Before the game, Bochy, Tim Lincecum and Buster Posey carried the three World Series trophies to the infield from beyond the center-field fence, not far from the edible garden that made its debut last season.
So much for the rumor that something other than flowers and vegetables grow there. Because if there was, Lincecum might still be there.
MESSAGE RECEIVED: When Balls stepped out of the media elevator, it came upon a farewell tribute to legendary broadcaster Lon Simmons, orange roses and all.
Not five minutes later, the sun made its first appearance.
NO BALLS ASSOCIATION: Sure seems like the NBA is up to no-good again.
For the second time in seven games, the league police rescinded a technical foul on Oklahoma City Thunder ball hog Russell Westbrook. It would have been his 16th of the season and resulted in an automatic one-game suspension.
The decision has the potential to affect the playoff race, which finds the Thunder and the New Orleans Pelicans in a tight battle for the right to lose to the Warriors in Round 1. The league lives and dies by its television ratings, and there’s no doubt that Westbrook and the Thunder make for a far better draw in that regard.
(Quick: Name a player other than Anthony Davis on the Pelicans’ roster.) If the NBA wants to handpick the matchups, then so be it. But can’t it be a bit more discreet about it?
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