ALL-STAR GAME: 2007 WORLD SERIES: 2002, 2010, 2012 (2 wins, 1 loss)
AT&T Park, as it is now known, is widely regarded as the finest of all the retro- / neoclassical baseball stadiums built in the last few years. It shares with PNC Park the unique attribute of water beyond the ballpark perimeter on the right field side, but in terms of the grandstand shape it more closely resembles Oriole Park at Camden Yards. It is beautiful in almost every way, from the Bay scenic backdrop to the palm trees to the brick construction. The commercialized big Coke bottle fits in with that huge old-style fielder's mitt behind the left field bleachers, in terms of nostalgia. There is a kids' playground and miniature baseball diamond behind those bleachers.
Much as Yankee Stadium was built to favor the pull-hitting left-handed slugger Babe Ruth, AT&T Park was designed in part to facilitate Barry Bonds' home-run hitting. The very short 309-foot distance to right field in AT&T Park is offset, however, by the 20-foot height of the wall plus the prevailing winds that blow from right to left field. The distance to the left field fence is slightly above average, but the 382-foot marker exaggerates that a little, since it is positioned much closer to center field than to the left field corner. The deep (421-foot) distance to the corner on the right side of center field is a very welcome opportunity for triples and inside-the-park home runs! Some say that AT&T Park is decidedly unfriendly to batters, and there were only 114 home runs there in 2002, fewer than in any other stadium, but I'm not completely convinced. The combination of the asymmetrical outfield dimensions plus the proximity to the Bay waters (splash!) makes this a unique ballpark. Where else do baseball spectators get around in kayaks? The seats are very close to the playing field, but there is a downside to the intimate layout: Just like at Wrigley Field, putting the bullpens along the foul lines exposes relief pitchers to line drives, especially in a park such as this where foul territory is so scant.
One feature that makes AT&T Park particularly attractive is that it was built almost entirely with private financing. The total construction cost was $319 million, and the San Francisco municipal government kicked in a mere $15 as a loan guarantee. (From the perspective of baseball franchise owners, however, this is an embarrassment, which may be why the MLB bosses postponed holding an All-Star Game there until 2007.) In its first two years in operation, Pac Bell Park was sold out for almost every single game, and the attendance figures in every day's game were exactly the same: 40,930. Since then, the capacity has been increased by several hundred, but I haven't detected any newly built permanent seats, so I assume they just allow more standing-room-only spectators. Average attendance relative to capacity in 2002 was an astonishing 96.9 percent, even higher than at Fenway Park. (Indeed, official attendance at almost every one of the 2002 postseason games approached 43,000.) People can watch from ground level through the brick arches in the right field brick wall, as well as from the narrow walkway on top of that wall. To the left of the "jog" by the 365-foot marker, there is a small (elevated) bleacher section.
From both a player's perspective and a spectator's perspective, this is unquestionably a much more comfortable ballpark than the old Candlestick Park. It does get rather windy and chilly in the evenings, but it's (usually) not as bad as before. Being close to downtown Frisco makes it a much more attractive after-work entertainment option than the old place was.
In January 2004, the stadium was renamed "SBC Park" to more accurately reflect the ownership structure of the stadium's naming patron. SBC was the parent company of Pacific Bell, Southwestern Bell, Cellular One, etc., etc. After SBC bought AT&T (which was the parent organization of Pacific Bell, once upon a time) in 2005, the stadium was renamed "AT&T Park" in March 2006 Go figure.
Even though it was built expressly as a baseball stadium (unlike its predecessor Candlestick Park), AT&T Park was used for football games when the San Francisco Demons XFL team played their home games there in the spring 2001 season -- the XFL's only season. AT&T Park has also hosted the Emerald Bowl. They set up temporary bleachers in right field, and it actually was not a bad arrangement. In March 2012, AT&T Park hosted two soccer matches: between the MLS San Jose Earthquakes and the Houston Dynamo, and between Olympic hopefuls Mexico and Senegal.
SOURCE: Lowry (2006), Pastier (2007), Rosen (2002)
FAN TIP: Brandon Henderson ("Demons"!)