I went to my first Giants game of the year today, as the Astros visited "AT&T Park". All of the signs still say "SBC Park", and all the fans still say "Pac Bell Park", so I can't get too worked up over the constant name changes. It was one thing when Candlestick Park became "3Com Park", because there was still a sense of anti-corporate indignation among the fans. No nickname has emerged for the ballpark at China Basin, and it's hard to feel righteous about using a different corporate name for the stadium. When we pay bills at work, we still use "Pacific Bell" as AT&T's vendor ID, but that's out of laziness, not protest.
The park has undergone some changes since last year. There is an extremely high-tech scoreboard along the bottom of the second deck on the third-base side. Presumably there's also one on the first-base side, but I was sitting just above where that would have been, and thus cannot confirm or deny its existence. The scoreboard was mostly used to display fancy advertisements and implore fans to make noise. Apparently Seinfeld reruns are lucrative enough to justify a permanent stadium ad. There's also a Spanish-language TV station called KTNC 42 Azteca America (which my notes incorrectly call "King 42"), which I may have never learned about without the magic of stadium advertising.
Another big change comes in right field, where the Old Navy Splash Landing has been replaced by the Levi's Landing. It's a fascinating reversal in Bay Area denim fortunes. The Fisher family, former Giants part-owners, bought a 90% stake in the A's last year. The A's in turn were once owned by the Haas family, the owners of Levi Strauss & Co. For baseball fans, the main changes are that the "Splash Hits" counter in right field is now a digital display, and the A's will be adding five additional pockets to their uniform pants.
You might notice I haven't dealt with the actual baseball on the field much. That's because the game was depressingly one-sided. Our game was actually a makeup of the rainout two nights earlier, played as part of a split doubleheader. "Split doubleheader" means the team plays two games in a row, but charges a separate admission to each game. As a result, the stands were half-empty, and so was the Giants lineup. Barry Bonds, Moises Alou, Omar Vizquel, and Mike Matheny all sat for the second game, leading to the discouraging sight of Mark Sweeney hitting cleanup. Our helpful stadium graphics informed us that Sweeney has "the third-most pinch-hits since 1974", which is kind of like being third in your class at a continuation high school. His walkup music is Prodigy's "Firestarter", a song that, coincidentally, came out the last year Sweeney was considered a prospect.
Needless to say, this was a lineup of scrubs. Steve Finley thinks he's fly and is also known as a buster. Jose Vizcaino's game is weak and he's looking like trash. After the game, I saw backup catcher Todd Greene hanging out the passenger side of his best friend's ride, trying to holler at some girls.
Scrub Giants lineup + Roy Oswalt pitching for Houston = 8-0 defeat. We really should have left in the eighth inning when Felipe Alou brought in reliever Tyler Walker, AKA "The White Flag". It got so bad that my dad admitted to missing J.T. Snow, after replacement first baseman Lance Niekro missed two easy pop-ups. Dad pining for J.T. Snow is like Paul McCartney saying he really misses Pete Best's drumming.
The game was pretty much a disaster, as was the infield grass after two days of being under a tarp. There was a tiny moral victory when a semi-rally in the ninth inning ruined Oswalt's chance at the complete-game shutout, but the reliever needed only two pitches to get the final two outs, and everyone walked out to the strains of "That's Life". My dad was disappointed by the loss, but he still doesn't think Craig Biggio's a Hall of Famer.