Saturday, July 5, 2014

Day 3 Part 2. San Jose Giants: Failing to pay the Troll Toll, Cramming into the Mayflower, and Watching Comcast Explode

A few disclaimers before we really dive into the San Jose Giants review.  We are not judging this place and this team fairly.  We arrived a little cranky from a rushed exit from San Rafael, wrestled with the lack of transparency regarding how rental cars pay tolls on the Golden Gate, made a detour back to the airport to get Pat insured on said rental car, and had to pay more for parking than we expected.  Furthermore, it was a holiday, so the park was absolutely jam packed, leading to more lines and a generally claustrophobic atmosphere.  Suffice it to say, certain stars just weren’t aligned for this game and us.  We will never (really) criticize someone for how they want to enjoy a baseball game, nor can we really argue with a business model that operates at capacity and apparently keeps people happy the way that San Jose did.

This was our view for most of the game.  Do you see a game?

All that having been said, though, the Scrappy Journeymen have been to full ballparks before.  We have driven multiple hours to get to games before.  We have gone to 20 games over 21 days.  We have endured weather delays and cancellations, and nearly been killed at least three times.  And the San Jose Giants may have been the least entertaining experience that I (Ben) have had on these trips.

Here’s the thing.  When you go to a ballgame, one hopes that the ballgame is the main attraction.  We love attractions and goofy not-necessarily-baseball gimmickry, but that should serve to either enhance the central focus (the game) or provide a pleasant distraction for those too young or disinterested to entertain themselves on the side.  As we walked in through the wall of people, there were numerous bouncy castles and carnival games lining the asphalt.  We chose a direction to walk and eventually came to a couple of sit down restaurant/bars.  The field was barely visible over the table umbrellas and it took us a couple of moments to recognize which direction the field was oriented.  When we finally reached our seats in bleachers along the right field line, it was already 1-0 and nobody in our very densely packed section had any idea how the first run had been scored.  The announcer couldn’t be heard, the Stockton players names were not put up on the Tron, and there was essentially no way to follow the games progress.  A later lap confirmed that the sit down places have music instead of radio broadcasts, the field is invisible from anywhere but the seats, the announcer is inaudible anywhere but the grandstand.  The game was secondary, another attraction in the 4th of July festival held at Municipal Stadium in San Jose.

Anyway, on to ...


1.  The concrete walls were decorated with insignias of teams b oth Major and Minor,  both still existing and now defunct.  Ben certainly didn't expect to see another Norfolk Tides logo out here.  Nobody was expecting to ever see a Greenville Braves or Miami Orioles logo.  Amusing quotes and anecdotes painted on the walls of the concourse as well.
Been there, been there, Ben there.  

Awesome timeline.  See how many people are looking at it?

2.  Beer Batters were designated at the start of the game.  They are visiting hitters and if they strike out, then something regarding half-priced beer happens. He became the Apple Juice Batter after the 7th inning. Another neat idea that was diminished in its execution.

3.  San Jose wore very Red White and Blue uniforms.  Nice touch.

4.  Fireworks as the "bombs burst in air" during the anthem.  Also several other shows began slightly before ours, so we got to see some distant fireworks on all directions during the last couple of innings.

5.  Impressive food variety and quality.  Fried pickles, Lagunitas, Turkey Mike's, Gordon Biersch, amongst others.

6.  Those places had understandably long lines, but there were frequent PayPal lanes where you could download an app to order and pay without the hassle of the line.  Thank you Silicon Valley.

7.  Some interesting games and promotions.  Giants pitchers got to throw baseballs of destruction at a busted up truck to earn money for a charity. Several gambling-esque activities like Bingo, Raffles, and choose a tennis ball to throw at the field.

8.  Kids competed  to see who could make the best animal sound.  Cute idea with some very amusing potential, but utterly ruined by backroom dealings.  While the first three kids gave good honest efforts to mimic their respective fauna, the last girl, imitating a wolf, gave a clearly fed "Wooo America" at which point the crowd went wild and she won the prize.  Cue Zach rant on how we paid admission, but were not adequately represented in the competition decision, as it had clearly been decided before we even entered the park.  Didn't we revolt against this already?

9.  Oh, yes!  The game!  17-6 drubbing with several home runs and a handful of misplays and errors. Entertaining game to watch when we could see it.

10.  I'm a little embarrassed to put this as a highlight, but it feels necessary.  The grandstand seats were actually pretty good, with good sight lines, clear loudspeaker, and comfortable enough benches.  Again, we really hope that our negative impression of the place was a product of minor design flaws compounded by the crowd of July 4th.

11.  Our real seats, though, were so bad that the crowd started Take Me Out To The Ballgame a full 3 lines late.

12.  They played Sweet Caroline.  What is this, Fenway Park?  At least that's one song that actually gets more entertaining when you can't hear it.

13.  Real restrooms (see below) but a slew of porta-johns around.  They all had hand sanitizer dispensers.  None of them had hand sanitizer.

14.  Fireworks were a solid show, though no comparison to Oakland's last night.  However, they were sponsored by Comcast.  They projected Comcast on the Tron as the image of the fireworks burst around it.  We like to think Comcast was exploding.

CRAPPY Metrics

1.  Beer:  We'll give credit where we can and work off the Beer Batter price potential.  Therefore $3.50 for Regular, $4.25 for Premium.  Bonus for price differential.  6.5 points

2.  Most Caloric Concession Item:  The Heater.  A specialty of Turkey Mike's which included Bread, Sriracha, 1/3 pound Hotlink, 1/2 pound of Pork. Barbecue sauce and Jalepenos on top.  6 points.

The worst part is that he finished his beer in the time it took to wait in line for this.

3.  Crowd:  This is tricky.  A LOT of people, but more interested in socializing than watching the game.  Again, we don't want to tell people how to enjoy yourselves, but if you need an usher to show you to your seat in the top of the 7th (really happened), I'm sure there are cheaper non-baseball places that could have served your need.  We'd normally give credit for everyone staying to the end of an 11 run game, but they were all there for fireworks anyway, so no bonus.  They would root for their team when something good happened, but in a "look! squirrel!" type of way.  4/10 points.

4.  Funniest Name:  Chuckie Jones.  Sounds like a Chuck Jones character.  2 points.

5.  Mens Room:  10 urinals.  Zero Points.  BOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

6.  Promotion:  Fireworks are a given on 4th of July.  Uniforms were a nice touch, but any bonus for that is negated by the inclusion of God Bless America.  4 points.

7.  Biggest Celebrity:  None that we saw.  Mascot was dressed like Uncle Sam?  1 point

8.  California Bingo:  Tie Dye, Surfer (though sans board).  No Google Glass, though.  We were sure San Jose would be our spot for that.  4 points.

Bonus Points:  +1 for Beer/Apple Juice Batter, +5 for antiquated Minor League Logos throughout, +3 for amusing quotes throughout,  +1 for gambling activities, +4 for headlight shattering promotion, +1 for PayPal lanes, -1 for Sweet Caroline, -1 for rigged Animal Sounds game. -1 for fireworks being sponsored by Comcast

Total:  41.5 points.  We will give some grace here for extenuating circumstances and some generous bonus points, particularly for the cool Minor League history stuff around.  However, that stuff really highlights all the more how difficult it is to watch and follow a baseball game here.  Once the Scrappy Journeymen JV team decides to form itself, we'll send them on another day to scope it out again and see if better experiences are to be found.

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