This article is meant for San Francisco visitors who are interested in catching a baseball game. Major League Baseball in the United States is played from April through early November. The regular season runs through September and the post season starts in October and culminates with the World Series in the late October, early November timeframe.
There are 162 games in the regular season and half the games are played in the team's home ballpark. Typically a visting team will play an average of 3 games on 3 consecutive days. Day games start around 1pm and evening games, around 7 pm. A typical game lasts approximately 3 hours. The ballpark opens two hours before the first pitch and for visitors, it may be fun to get in early to explore the park, scope out the food and drink counters, take photos, watch player batting practice and to allow kids in your party to stand in line for a player autograph.
This article is not meant to be a primer on baseball. Here is a one pager on the game from the LA Times.
There are two Major League Baseball teams so there is a very good chance that one of the teams will be playing when you visit. The two teams are the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A's. This article will cover each team separately.
San Francisco Giants
(AT&T Park when empty)
Where : AT&T Park, San Francisco (The link will take you to Google maps and you can see the location of ballpark with respect to the rest of SF)
When: Here is the SF Giants Schedule for their games. The games marked in ORANGE boxes are home games at AT&T Park
Getting there: From the major hotel areas, you can take MUNI to the game. Bus routes 30 and 45 from the Fisherman's Wharf area can get yiu to the ballpark. From the Union Square are the N, K/T Muni streetcars as well as the 30 and 45 buses will take you to AT&T park. Visitors can go here to get information on the bus routes. If one drives, parking is expensive and will cost between $30- $45. Walking to a game with fans dressed in Orange and Black is fun. It is an easy walk from the Union Square area down 3rd street or via the Embarcadero. Purchasing a ticket for the return bus or streetcar trip is recommended unless the visitor has a MUNI Passport. It is perfectly ok to walk back after the game. It may actually be faster to get back to Union Square
Tickets: The official site for tickets is the SF Giants Website There is an after market website called Stubhub (an eBAY company) which is the official reseller of SF Giants Tickets. Both sites guarantee the tickets purchased on their sites. Tickets holders are guaranteed seats and there are personnel available at the park to help if an issue arises. Please do not purchase tickets from other unofficial websites such as craigslist.com. Print at home tickets are availble from both sites for visitors from outside the SF Bay Area. International visitors can also purchase tickets in advance from the comfort of their home. PLEASE DO NOT PURCHASE TICKETS FROM SCALPERS
(View of the Park at night from the View Reserve left field. Note how small the players look . That coke bottle is a slide for kids to enjoy. Come early and they can have fun on that slide)
Where should visitors sit ?
It all depends on what one wants to get from a game. If one wants to just watch an American Sport, feel the excitement with 41,000 other fans, get great views of the SF Bay, one can pretty much get the lowest priced tickets available and have a wonderful time. In fact there are people who just walk around the ballpark and watch the game from different angles while checking out the various beer and food counters.
Baseball games in American ballparks are a family event. Kids, grandmas and grandpas, adults, friends and family all go to a baseball game and have a great time While there are some incidents with a few rowdy fans during a few games, in general AT&T ballpark is completely family friendly and visitors should not feel worried about their security. It is ok to sit anywhere in the Ballpark. Ushers are found in each section and there are security personnel all over the park
The seating chart is shown here You can check out the view from the seats using the SF Giants 3D viewer Allow a few minutes for the viewer to load and then click on the various sections to get a view from the seats. The information below references the seating chart
- In a ballpark, the better seats are in the infield (the section between 3rd base, home plate and 1st base) In the chart above, that would be the section in Orange from 308 to 324 and all the sections below that. The best seats are directly behind home plate and they would be sections 315, 215 and 115.
- For casual observers and one time visitors to a ballgame, sections 308 through 324 would be great to get a birdseye view of the game and the ballpark. Visitors will be sitting up high and it does get windy and COLD during night games in Summer. It may be cool at a day game as well
- If those seats are expensive you can look at the outfield (ie beyond sections 308 and 324) or in the bleachers section (136 to 142)
- There are standing room only seats available as well. Standing for 3 hours may not be for everyone
- The second deck is called the Club Level (seats in section 2xx from 207 to 225 in the infield as well as seats in the outfield The Club level has better seats, an enclosed area with table seating, better choices of food, less crowds and the chance to see the Giants Museum.
- As you go lower and sit in Section 1xx, the infield prices get higher and the Field Club level which is in the 1xx section has the best and closest view of the players, access to both the Field Club private dining area and the Club level Museum and the indoor dining area.
(Above View from the First level Right Field under the overhang. Great on a Sunny day)
(Below Same view as the sun sets and the lights come on, Note the fan in Orange. The SF Giants colors are Orange and Black)
Which games should we go for? Day or Night Game? Which is the best game in a 3 game series?
- If visitors are in town for 3-4 days, it may make more sense to see a night game as one has the day to see the City.
- With young kids, perhaps a day game would be easier on them
- Typically, Friday, Saturday and Sunday games are even more packed and tickets are more expensive than a weekday or a weeknight game
- It should not matter to the casual observer which game of a 3 game series one goes to.
When should visitors purchase tickets ?
- There is no easy answer. What we know based on the past 3 or more years is that almost 41,000 fans pack each game and the games have been "soldout". One should not just walk up to the ticket counter for the same day's game and hope to get good tickets. One should not purchase from a scalper. The SF Giants have introduced Demand Pricing. When the demand goes up, the prices go up. As the season progresses and the regular season games get more meaningful, the prices will go higher. It may then be easier to purchase tickets on Stubhub
- It is best to monitor ticket prices for the season and purchase tickets perhaps 1-3 weeks prior to the game Check both the Giants website and stubhub and compare proces. At times, ticket prices may go up, so one is gambing if one waits for the last minute. Other times, one may see prices for the bleachers fall but again, no risk, no reward !!
- if it is a family of 4 or more, it makes more sense to purchase early (at least 2-3 weeks or more) if one wants to be seated together. It is easier to get even number tickets in general.
- The SF Bay Area also is home to the Oakland Athletics Baseball team. If the Giants are not in town, the A's may be a great alternative for visitors.
What should we wear ?
- The San Francisco Giants colors are Orange and Black so wearing a combination of those colors would be nice. Casual visitors do not have to feel obliged to dress in those colors or spend a lot of money purchasing Giants gear. If one is interested, SF Giants gear is sold through out the park. Kids typically bring baseball gloves in the hopes of catching a foul ball.
- Friday are normally Orange Fridays.
- There is a team in Los Angeles whose name starts with D and ends with S (they shall go unamed) and they are the Giants' biggest rivals. One will hear chants of BEATLA during their games. It is best to not wear Blue on those game days unless one is a LAD fan.
- San Francisco Weather is rarely hot. Most day games may have temperatures in the 60s F and as the day progresses, it may get cooler if the Fog rolls in during Summer. Please bring Sunscreen It is best to dress in layers. If one sits in the Third Tier (View Reserve Section) it will be sunny and windy
- Night Games are guaranteed to be cool to cold and windy. Temperatures are in the 50s on most nights but it is the wind that makes it colder. Caps, hooded jackets are a must. If one sits in the View Reserve seats, be prepared for very windy, very cold conditions.
- If that happens one can walk around the ballpark and watch the game on TV monitors. grab a hot cocoa or coffee.
- If one sits in the Club Level Section, there is an indoor area to view the game. One can see the game in progress in the ballpark from behind the glass as well as on TV Monitors. The Field Club Level section has TV monitors.
It's Gameday. What should we do ?
- Check the forecast especially for night games. It WILL be cold. During the day it may be warm or it may get cool. Sunscreen is a must or you will be red and the fans around you will be orange. It is best to go dressed in layers. There are rules on what can be brought into the ballpark. No cans are allowed, unopened plastic water or non-alcoholic bottles are allowed. A small backpack is allowed. No hard coolers please
- if you have the time, go there up to 2 hours before game time to check out the ballpark Kids can play on the Coke slide or stand in line to get an autograph, or play a baseball video game. It also gives visitors a chance to go to the View reserve section and admire views before the ballpark is packed
- One can also scope out the beer and food counters around the ballpark
- Between innings, there are usually some 'activities" such as the "kiss cam' . The 7th inning has the 7th Inning stretch which includes the singing of "TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME" The words are displayed on the Jumbotron. The middle of the 8th inning has a song played by the group Journey.
- When the game is over and if the Giants have won, there is a special song that is played.
(Above Go early and you can see the Giants warm up and play catch and get pretty close. Kids line up for autographs in left field)
What should we eat?
- Ballparks are synomyous with peanuts and crackerjacks and ballpark hotdogs
- Burgers, Garlic Fries, Sushi, Tacos and Burritos, Caribbean Burrito Bowl, Crab sandwich, Fried Calamari
- The Club and Field Club level have hot cooked to order burger stations, Chinese food, pastas etc
- Beer and other beverages are available throughout the ballpark
- Ice Cream Sundaes
- Prices are not cheap but this is a once in a lifetime event for many visitors. So splurge and support your San Francisco Giants!!!
What if the SF Giants are not playing ? What special things can I do to celebrate at the game?
- Check the schedule to see if the Oakland A's are playing. A great team playing across the SF Bay
- Take a tour of ATT park. Fun tours and a great way to go behind the scenes. Info is here
Where : O.co Coliseum in Oakland.
When: Check the schedule for home games at the Coliseum. Pay special attention to any asterix * as they signify promotions. The more popular promotions include:
- Fireworks after the game (watch from your seat or from the baseball field itself)
- Giveaways (e.g. free caps, shirts, bobbleheads, etc)
- BART $2 tickets for Wednesday games
- Friday X-Finity 4-pack ($50 gets you 4 tickets and 4 meals/drinks)
- Chevy Free Parking Tuesdays
Getting there: It's very easy to get to the game from Union Square or downtown San Francisco. Just hop on BART to the Coliseum/Oakland Airport station (about 25 minutes) and mosey across the BART pedestrian walkway to the game. For disabled guests, there are attendents with wheelchairs waiting at the BART elevator to whisk you to your seat. If you do decide to drive, parking is $17-$20 -- except on many Tuesdays when parking is free.
Tickets: There are many different ways to obtain tickets:
- Official Oakland A's ticket site or phone (877) 493-BALL (2255). Pricing is set by the club and can vary based on demand and supply. A surcharge/service fee is added to all online or phone purchases. You choose the category of seats you want and the computer will choose the best seats in that category. You can review the seat assignments before you confirm your purchase. Tickets can be downloaded -- a convenience for out-of-town guests.
- Official Fan to Fan Ticket Marketplace of MLB.com (aka Stubhub). Stubhub is currently the officially sanctioned reseller for MLB (i.e. they guarantee the tickets are authentic). You can select the actual seats for sale. Stubhub will add a surcharge/service fee to all purchases and many of the tickets can be downloaded. Pricing of seats can vary greatly as they are set by the individual seller so they can be below or way above what's available on the official ticket site. Tickets on Stubhub are sold up till 2 hours before the game starts.
- In person at the box office. The advantage of purchasing in person is the ability to talk to a live person and avoid service fees or surcharges. The disadvantage is having to show up in person and stand in line at the Coliseum box office. Fortunately, the Oakland A's do not sell out very often (about 10% of the time) so there usually will be tickets available at the box office on the day of a non-playoff game. There are automated machines at the box office (with no service fees and much shorter lines) if you do not need to talk to a person.
- Unofficial ticket resellers -- some more unofficial than others. Cavaet emptor.
Ticket prices and availability will depend on the teams playing (Giants, Cubs, Yankees, Red Sox are more popular) and the situation (opening day, fireworks, free gifts, playoffs implication games). Unsold group tickets are released typically 2 weeks before the game so there might be additional tickets that come on-line then. Of course, if you do not want to miss the game or if you have a large group that need to sit together, purchase your tickets early.
Wheelchair accessible seating can be purchased over the phone or online. Children 2 and under can enter free but everyone else needs a ticket.
Discount Tickets: There are several ways to get discounted tickets:
What to bring: Large backpacks, firearms, weapons, cans and coolers are just some of the prohibited items that are not allowed in the Coliseum. Be sure to bring a jacket for night games and sunscreen / hat for day games. Bring rain-gear if the forecast calls for rain.
Ground Rules: Watch out for foul balls as people have been hit by baseballs while in the stands. Do not reach over the railing to try to catch fly balls or interfere with balls in play. Be careful as people have fallen from the upper deck. Do not smoke. If you should experience any problems while at the game, contact one of the many ushers or security personnel or text
Batting Practice: The A's do not normally open the gates early. However, gates for very select games will open early for guests to watch batting practice.
Where should visitors sit?
There are three main levels (see seating chart):
- Field (Sections 101-133) and Bleachers (134-150)
- Plaza (Sections 200-234)
- Value Deck (Sections 316-318)
The most expensive (and best) seats are in the field boxes right behind home plate (Section 111-123). Note that the seats close up are in the sun (if you're going to a day game).
Most seats are out in the open. If you do not want to be exposed, choose a seat in the back rows of the Field or Plaza sections where the overhang provides shade.
The lowest priced seats will be in the outfield across from home plate and the value deck section. The value deck tickets come with food and the bathrooms on the top floor are often the cleanest and least busy. All seats are reserved except for the bleacher seats which are first come first served and have a life and fun culture of its own.
Be careful of seats in Row 1-3 on the Plaza level: Your view will be interrupted by people walking back and forth and you might find the railing in the way.
If you have kids, you can sit near the Stomper Fun Zone in Sections 218/219.
Some traditions are the same across all ball-parks and some are unique to Oakland:
- Dot racing. The big screen will show a race between 3 dots. Not quite racing presidents or sausages. But cheer wildly for your dot without spilling your drink.
- Three-cap monte. A baseball is hidden under a cap and caps are moved around. Choose the cap you think the ball is under.
- Song Choice. Cheer wildly for any song by Oakland native and former A's batboy MC Hammer.
- 7th inning stretch. Before the bottom of the 7th inning, everyone stands up and sings "Take me Out to the Ballgame". Memorize the lyrics so you can sing along. Just substitute "A's" instead of "home team".
- Dances. Popular dance songs are played during the later innings. Two recent dances you should learn: "Call Me Maybe" , "Bernie Lean" or "Gangnam Style".
- Ragefest. Swing your head and arms madly to the music when Grant Balfour (the Oakland A's All-Star Aussie reliever) comes into the game.
- Stay for the pie! Whenever Oakland wins a game with a "walk-off", the hero gets a pie in the face.
- For fireworks games, line up in the 9th inning to stake out a spot in the outfield grass.
In the Coliseum: Dining options include the standard nachos, hot dogs, beer, soda and hamburgers. They also include:
Outside the Coliseum:
- Specialty Sausages at Saag's Sausages (Section 118), BBQ Ribs (Section 104) and Diamond Dog (Section 223)
- Vegetarian options at Vegetarian Dog (Section 123/219), Veggie Burger (Section 211) and Fruits & Vegetables (Section 121)
- Sit-down service in the Bar & Grill (Section 212-216)
- Round-Table Pizza (Section 114)
- Philly Cheese Steaks (Section 117)
Unlike AT&T Park, O.co Coliseum is not located in an area suitable for visitors to explore or walk around. Good dining options are sparse. If you want to avoid paying ball-park prices for food, there are some options nearby:
- Licensed vendors at the Coliseum BART station serve snacks, hot dogs and sodas
- Unlicensed street vendors on the BART pedestrain walkway serve hot sausages and cold churros
- In-N-Out burger 4 minutes drive away