ORACLE PARK, SAN FRANCISCO — No, the Jock Blog does not usually use datelines. But this one is different. This one is written from the ballpark.
Yeah, that ballpark. The one where the Giants are winning, and no fans are here to see it.
I know a KNBR dispatch from the yard is not unique. Our ace digital department has been crushing it all pandemic with written and visual dispatches via social media.
But for yours truly, it’s the first trip out. I even had to steal a credential from the digital guys, as we’re only allowed two per game for the 50,000-watt flagship. That’s how serious they are about keeping this place empty, and virus-free.
So what’s it like?
Man, did I miss this place.
At once, it feels like two lifetimes since I’ve been here, and at once it feels like I was just here yesterday, brushing back a couple of tears as the late afternoon autumn light glowed last September and Bruce Bochy waved and waved and we all cheered and cheered and generations of his players kept coming through the center field fence.
That was the last time we were all together, Giants fans.
This place has become such a part of our DNA. Squint real hard and past the cardboard cutouts on this empty pregame field and I can see the whip of Barry Bonds’ bat. Open my ears and I can hear the crack, followed by the deafening roar of 40,000 as they watch the white baseball disappear into the black night above McCovey Cove. Keep squinting and I can see Tim Lincecum twisting and contorting and blowing away yet another hitter with a split-change in the dirt, with still more roars as he walks back to the dugout, head down. Keep squinting and I see Madison Bumgarner on a sun-splashed 2015 Opening Day, mounting a horse on the warning track and delivering a third World Series flag to the center field flagpole, those roars still washing down.
Now, this haunted house has none of the lifeblood that makes the park magical. It doesn’t have you, the fan.
That’s what hits me the most. A house is not a home without a family. Third and King ain’t the same without all of you.
What makes it all the more heartbreaking, sports-wise, is I could have seen the Giant fan base slowly, then quickly, falling in love with this unexpected band of contenders called the 2020 Giants. Healthy skepticism (hand raised right here) over the new manager and the roster construction has given way to the pure surprise of sport, and of baseball — of a team coming together piece by piece, Yastrzemski swing by Dickerson swing, Gausman fastball by Coonrod fastball.
I could see this summer turning into a lovefest, as we all pack away the previous decade of unforgettable memories and begin to embrace the changing of the guard, begin to embrace the Dubons and the Slaters and the Barts who wear the same uniform worn by the Clarks and Vogelsongs and Snows. This place would have been filled with the roars of unexpected joy witnessing another incongruous but wholly welcome home ballpark explosion of runs. Attendance would have been light early, then back to its more and more packed state as Kapler’s Kids made a run into September.
That’s what hits me the most. It’s the old if-a-tree-falls-in-a-forest thing. If the Giants stitch together a summer of surprise, and there are no fans to see it, does it make the same noise?
It doesn’t, of course. But it’s the best we have. Radio and TV bring you the games, and we talk about them every morning on the show, and hopefully that helps you all.
But if there’s one thing I get from being here, it’s how much we miss you.
Oh, one last thing: the place still looks fantastic. Pretty as the day she opened.
See ya here again one day. Can’t wait.