It wasn’t until June of 2010 that I’d fall in love with the San Francisco Giants. It didn’t take long for it turn into utter obsession, either. It started with casually catching a few innings here and there or only watching on Timmy days, to watching a game all the way through, to not being able to miss a single game, to needing to drink an Orange Crush and wear my orange Giants tee every single Friday.
I guess that’s where my story begins — with that orange shirt. My parents made the drive from Reno to the city to catch a game when the park was still referred to as Pac Bell. I don’t even remember how old I was; I just remember the shirt they bought for me being way too big. So it just sat at the bottom of a dresser drawer all throughout my youth (along with another way-too-big Alice Cooper shirt they brought home once). Why they thought I’d wear these shirts that fit me like dresses, I don’t know.
I really have no recollection of the ’02 World Series, so the reference to this “rally monkey” I’ve heard so much about doesn’t mean much to me. Yet I do remember every Super Bowl since Denver upset Green Bay after the ’97 season, when I was only 4 years old.
See, before 2010, my main obsession was with the NFL. I don’t mean to brag, but I was kind of a wizard. I knew practically every player from every team since I was 5 and I actually knew what I was doing when I was filling out the parlay cards my dad would bring home every week. With all of the sports books here, Reno is very much a “Football First” town, and it was no different at my house. I grew up in a house where preseason football got priority over pretty meaningful August baseball games. So, really, during the entire Bonds era, I had little to no exposure to Giants baseball. I actually remember having a slight detest for them when I’d be trying to watch Smackdown! and I’d have to wait for the Giants to finish up. (Yes, I liked wrestling. I don’t want to talk about it.)
I have one small memory of the 2003 playoffs when the Giants got eliminated by Florida. I remember I wanted the Marlins to go the distance because, in my mind, that would mean the Giants got bounced by the best team, and that, somehow, would make things better.
Then, I remember having MVP Baseball 2004 (the one with Pujols on the cover). I was still a Giants fan by default, so I’d play as them. That’s where I’d learn all the names from that era: J.T. Snow, Jeff Kent, Jason Schmidt, Rob Nen and, of course, the famous slugging left fielder “Jon Dowd”. Man, I remember not knowing a thing about how the game worked, too. But I remember thinking that if I put Barry Bonds (formerly known as Jon Dowd) fourth in the lineup, it’d be my best chance to hit a grand slam. I didn’t know how bullpens worked either, so every time I needed to put a new pitcher in, I’d just put in Rob Nen because he had the best rating. I’d try to leave him in for a couple innings, but he’d always be out of energy after just one.
So there I am, June of 2010. I had just finished my junior year of high school. Why that’s relevant, I don’t know. My brother and I are flipping through the channels one afternoon and we land on a Giants game. Tim Lincecum is pitching.
“Oh, stop here!” he says to me. “This guy is supposed to be the best. They call him ‘The Freak’ because of his crazy delivery.”
Now, my brother’s story is the same as mine up to this point. He’s five years older, so he might have a slightly more vivid memory of the Bonds era, but that’s it. 2010 is his first season fighting wildfires with a crew out of Incline Village. There’s a couple of diehard fans on the crew with “Beat LA” tattooed across their toes. I’d eventually go to my first game with those goombas.
So my brother gets me to watch a bit of the game. Even with Timmy on the mound, I don’t have a lot of interest. Over the next week or so, though, whenever my brother’s home, he has the game on. Little by little, my interest grows. By July, I’ve fallen in love. Head over heels, painfully in love. With Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson, the only two representing the eventual champions at the All-Star Game that year. With rookie sensation Buster Posey. With Aaron Rowand’s batting stance. With Aubrey Huff and Pat the Bat. With the skipper, Bruce Bochy. With Kruk and Kuip.
I wish someone would’ve warned me about the relationship I was getting into. A relationship where I’m clenching my ass nearly every night as I watch this team tease and touch me in spots I’ve never been touched before, giving a whole new meaning to the word “torture.” In the end, though? Totally worth it. Very few girls have made me come the way the Giants did that season. Hey now. What I really fell in love with is the heart of that club. I’ve never seen a team with more personality. The cast of characters on that team, and every team since, is truly unmatched.
The only thing I had to wear to rep them during that whole run? That goddamn orange shirt, that finally fit me at age 17.
The following year, I got to go to my first game. My first time in San Francisco, period, where I got to meet Ashkon before the game. It was Giants-Dodgers on “Say Hey” Tuesday. Timmy vs Billingsley. Section 302, right behind the splash cam. Wilson would record his first save of the season that night.
Since then, I’ve gone to at least one game a year. I got to see Hunter Pence with Philadelphia and Scutaro with Colorado, then both as Giants in the same year, as they took the pennant in a downpour. I got to see them play at Busch and at Wrigley. I got to see them Beat LA two other times. I got to see Bum hit that first grand slam in 2014.
I fucking love this team, and will continue to love them the rest of my life, but, like many of us, I’ve been accused of hopping on the bandwagon. So fucking what? I was all in on this team before the All-Star break that season. I’m sure there are a lot of us who fell in love with this club during that season, whether it was before the playoff run, during it or after they won the championship. How else is fandom born?
I wish I could say I still had that orange shirt, but I let my high school girlfriend wear it once and I never got it back. I thought it might be a bad omen after we broke up, but the two championships and all of the no-hitters since then say otherwise.
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