Up Close and Very Personal

What's it like to be so near the field of play during the Giants 4-3 nail-biter? From this writer's perspective everything moves fast – on and off the field.

Take everything that you ever knew about baseball and put it one big imaginary pile. Pause for a moment to observe the vast knowledge you've accrued from watching so many games in your lifetime. You're impressed with yourself. You can do things like recommending favorable match-ups with hitters and relief pitchers and have the uncanny ability to recognize the right time to hit-and-run. Again, impressive.

Now gather everything in that pile and promptly chuck it in the trash. Why? Because I was there to witness the Giants broom the Braves out of San Francisco. And by "there", I mean right there. The game that we watch every day in our living rooms is nothing more than a video game and a nicely packaged product for our viewing enjoyment. Here's why: Pull out your Pac Bell Park seating chart. Look up where Premium Field Club Seat #5 in section 112, row BBB is located. From Jason Schmidt's first warm-up pitch to the first sighting of a baseball groupie, it occurred to me as I sat in this first-class location that everything we've ever thought we knew about baseball should be cast aside, altogether.

To save you some time, I'll tell you that my seat was one of the thirty-or-so seats submerged behind the plate and adjacent to the dugouts. From my vantage point, hearing (NOTE: Hearing, not "seeing" because that was impossible) a 98 MPH fastball made me silently swear to never ever curse out a batter after striking out in addition to having a newfound respect for the managerial position. It is nothing short of miraculous that these players even make contact, let alone do what Barry Bonds did in the bottom of the tenth inning. But we'll get to that in a bit.

As a baseball fan, you owe it to yourself to get that ultra-primo seat just once. Forgo something. Anything. Don't eat for a week. But just get a seat like that one time. You haven't experienced baseball until you sit practically on the field of play. There was Jason Schmidt throwing a ball so hard that it literally hissed before violently popping into Benito Santiago's mitt. There was Rafael Furcal doing his best impression of a Howitzer with each throw he made to first. There was my 31-year-old buddy and myself – two allegedly grown men, mind you - sheepishly looking at 26-year-old Andruw Jones as if he were Abe Lincoln, Zeus and Elvis all rolled into one as he stood a mere 4 feet away. And watching Rich Aurilia boot a ball for the third consecutive night and hearing Tim Worrell say a naughty-naughty after walking Gary Sheffield makes a Giants fan's stomach wrench exponentially more when sitting so close to the action.

Did I mention that I had decent seats? I haven't had seats for a little league game that were this good.

Not only are you able to closely scrutinize what happens on the field, you also get a front-row-center seat to observe the shenanigans that go hand-in-hand with pro sports and the world of celebrity. For the sake of not killing my budding career as a sportswriter, I won't name names but let me assure you that one player has a person who's either his agent or so-called friend finalizing the details of the player's postgame "date" with an array of women who aren't necessarily dressed for a ballgame. During the game. While the player's getting loose in the on-deck circle. I wasn't born yesterday but – man, oh man - the last thing I expected to see was a player coyly getting an update about what (and who) was in store for him later that night.

Sleaze and the underbelly of the game aside, what happened in Pac Bell Park on Thursday night was about as magical as it could get this side of winning a division or even a pennant. After watching the groupies get shooed away by the ushers and enduring a painful top half of the ninth, Barry made it all better.

If you think watching Barry go yard looked good on your TV, I want to let you know that I could practically hear him breathe as he strode into the box before he so kindly sent us all home in giggling awe and amazement. I am convinced that the networks will never be able to properly record the sound of a Bondsian blast. Sitting that close, I can only describe the sound of Barry's 652nd career home run as metallic without the ping. The instant Trey Hodges' hanger connected with Barry's sweet spot, bedlam erupted at home plate and in the stands located at 24 Willie Mays Plaza. Players mobbed, slapped, hugged and high-five'd Barry as he touched the plate. Fans lept from their seats and remained standing if they weren't dancing. Even the groupies joined in the revelry of the postgame celebration.

I was right in the middle of it and was in no hurry to leave. And if you had my seat, you wouldn't have been in a big rush to hit the road, either.



Keith Larson writes for SFDugout.com because he's lived and died with the Giants since 1972. He welcomes all words of praise and insult at keith49ers@yahoo.com, but mentioning anything having to do with Game 6 is to be done with extreme caution.

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