SAN FRANCISCO - The scene of Game 99 of the San Francisco Giants' 2017 season was something out of an inspirational sports movie. Sunshine cascaded off McCovey Cove and bounced onto Levi's Landing, scorching fans with that sweet summertime feeling-- baseball, popcorn, and Ghirardelli sundaes.
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AT&T Park may be the perfect place to spend an 80-degree afternoon. You'll never run out of laughter, food, or interesting characters to talk to before the first pitch-- characters like Steve and Kathy, who donned their battle-worn Giants gear spanning decades, armor that got them through wonderful wins and devastating defeats. Kathy has always been die-hard for the Orange and Black, while Steve grew up a New York Mets fan.
"I don't know what's happening," Kathy said, sitting down at one of the picnic tables behind right field. "But I love my Giants."
Her ball cap, protecting her face from the beating San Francisco sun, was covered in pins from eras past, showing her passion and her commitment to the boys from the Bay. One stood out from the rest-- a simple LA Dodgers logo with a thick red line through it, representing the rivalry between the two California teams.
Kathy said she doesn't really hate the Dodgers, "But it's part of the game. You just don't like LA. It's tradition."
On this particular Saturday, the San Diego Padres came to town-- another SoCal team that Giants fans aren't too fond of, not now anyway. Coming off a rough loss that went into extra innings Friday night, not many of the Giants starters took the field.
Fans missed shortstop Brandon Crawford and catcher Buster Posey, who came off the bench in the later innings. But everyone's favorite loveable goofball, Hunter Pence, took his post in right field and everything was okay again.
One explanation for this move could be that Manager Bruce Bochy wanted to give some of the young guys some playing time, some at bats, some experience. Another explanation is the marathon game that lasted well past 10 p.m. the night before.
One fan, wearing a Tim "The Freak" Lincecum jersey, took this as a sign of the times and groaned, "Eh, Boch knows they've got no shot."
Does this mean the season's over?
Some fans seemed to think so, as they took a long walk off the short ramp down to the ferry after 5 innings. A Padres rally leading to four runs in the fourth inning made the third-inning RBI, courtesy of Joe Panik, seem like a 2.0 earthquake.
But when Hunter Pence makes a thrilling, run-like-you're-being-chased-by-a-zombie catch, the crowd became electric again. Giants fans have the game in their hearts and sunburn on their arms, and they like it that way.
Baseball has reminded us time and time again, one run, one pitch, one error, one hit-- one play can change it all.
Slathered in sunscreen, thousands of the Orange and Black faithful wear baseball caps and still hold out hope, not for a World Series title, but for more sun-soaked days in a beautiful city watching their favorite team.
Of course, a free bobblehead never hurts. Oh and by the way, the Giants got a win too.
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