The Coke bottle and giant glove in left field are easily recognizable elements of Oracle Park in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Loren Elliott/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network
SAN FRANCISCO – From my seat in Section 122, McCovey Cove felt closer that the yellow-stenciled “309” painted on the right field wall indicated.
On a Sunday afternoon, the San Francisco Giants took on the Chicago Cubs at Oracle Park, and it was the kind of Sunday afternoon at the ballpark that ends all too quickly and leaves you counting the days until you can return.
As the fog created by the marine lawyer over San Francisco Bay burned off in the late morning, I made my way around the Embarcadero by Uber to the ballpark in a scant 20 minutes and entered the ballpark in the left field corner.
After going a few ramps (remember those?) I was on the main concourse, and walked down the third base side of the park. Concession options abounded: Gilroy Garlic Fries to Filipino cuisine from The Lumpia Company to seafood, including a Dungeness crab on sourdough sandwich.
I settled into my seat, shaded by the upper deck, and watched the Giants climb back above .500 with a 13-3 win that featured pairs of homers by Joc Pederson, who’s two-run shot in the seventh inning was the 101st to land into McCovey Cove, and a pair by Thairo Estrada, as the Cubs, now nine games under .500 at 28-37, had no answer for the Giants’ offense.
Perhaps the single best feature of Oracle Park, now 23 years old, is that the ballpark feels like it’s always been there. Architecturally, it feels older, with the brick, concrete, and exposed steel construction that came to dominate stadium architecture just before World War I, and it’s crammed into an oddly-shaped space, hence the short right field with the water beyond. It doesn’t try to cram aspects of every new ballpark built since Camden Yards into one space like Citi Field does, and it’s a great showplace for baseball that doesn’t feel like an upscale shopping mall where baseball happens to be played.
But like a modern ballpark, there are no obstructed view seats, and while the upper deck is high enough above the field to put the cheap seats out of foul ball range, it also affords a terrific view of the bay.
And not to sound like an old man – or perhaps worse, like my own old man, a Giants fan since the Truman Administration – live organ music predominated the sound of the ballpark, rather than recording music played at decibels that rival a NASCAR race. It’s a pleasant anachronism, one that allows fans to actually be able to converse between at-bats and innings and leave the game with their hearing and fillings intact.
Ticket Prices – 3/5
I’m an avid user of StubHub, and was able to get a single ticket in the lower bowl for $68, which I guess is ok for a Sunday. A “get-in” costs around $28, which is understandable for a Sunday game that’s also a Bark in the Park Day, where fans can bring their dog to the game.
Transit Access – 4/5
Having never been in San Francisco before, I opted to take an Uber from my hotel near Fisherman’s Wharf to the ballpark, which cost about $15. Coming back, I took the San Francisco Muni light rail, which stops outside the ballpark, back to the Embarcadero station and hopped on the F Streetcar back to the hotel. The trip back took a little longer, in part because I didn’t know where I was going and partly because of delays on the F line. But it’s easy and cheap, and the old-time trolley cars on the F line were a nice nod to the past.
Concessions – 4/5
As noted above, the concession selections are vast, and the ballpark has a terrific selection of microbrews and a wine bar (hey, Napa and Sonoma aren’t that far away). In the lower bowl, the beer man came by frequently, and they take plastic for payment. The prices are high, but it’s a Major League ballpark. What did you expect?
Game Experience – 5/5
The music isn’t blasting, the organ plays, the fans clap, and the focus is on the game. This is how it should feel.
Overall – 4.5/5
It’s modern, but feels comfortable, broken-in like it’s been there for three times as long as it has. With all the amenities of a modern ballpark from concessions to kids activities, Oracle Park is not to be missed.
Editor’s note: This piece represents the opinions of the author and not those of the World Baseball Network.