Even I think it’s odd that this non-athletic gal would be the least bit interested in doing a behind-the-scenes tour of a baseball stadium. But when I travel, I believe in immersing myself in the culture and the ways of the country I’m visiting, and baseball games are something I associate with America.
While staying at the Virgin Hotel San Francisco I booked a tour of Oracle Park, home to the San Francisco Giants. I enjoyed a morning learning about the San Francisco Giants, Oracle Park and some of the behind-the-scenes secrets of the game and park. I can officially declare my knowledge of baseball went from first base to second base thanks to the informative tour. And the best bit – the Oracle Park tour is wheelchair accessible.
The San Francisco Giants privately own Oracle Park and it was built to overcome the difficulties players and fans experienced at Candlestick Park. Strong cold winds, even in summer, kept attendance down at the former home of the Giants.
Despite the location and prized bay views, at the time of building Oracle Park, the area wasn’t the most prized real estate in San Francisco with a reputation for being unsafe. Since Oracle Park was built that has changed.
When I asked our tour guide for his recommendation for the best seats to try and book for a game, he advised anywhere on the right side of the park at club level. Tickets are anywhere between US$70-US$100 per ticket but the position will buy you views of the bay and the perfect spot to watch any splash hits (home runs that land on the fly in the bay). Incidentally, for baseball lovers out there, the longest home run was hit by Barry Bonds at 151 metres (498ft).
The behind-the-scenes tour of Oracle Park involves quite a bit of walking or wheeling as it takes visitors to the many areas players use while in the park. From the hitting practice area where players can get help with any kinks in their game to the player locker rooms, we covered it all.
Facts on individual players decorate the walls.
Although not a baseball super fan I was interested in the logistics of the player’s post and pre-game. The locker rooms are the home away from home for players with each having their own space. The star, or oldest player receives a slightly bigger locker to allow more space for locker room interviews.
Players have big appetites and receive 5-star restaurant quality food with restaurants providing the post- game spread at no charge. If the players like the food, there’s a hope they may dine in their restaurant in their downtime and a share on social media can boost business, given the player’s superstar status. Games last around 3 hours so players come off the field hungry but with post game interviews it can be close to midnight before they eat.
Game coverage is important so the press room filled with media has a birds-eye view of the action. They are so close to the action, that at least 2-3 times a year a foul ball will land on one of the attending media’s laptops!
The story which appealed to me the most was that of the giant four-fingered baseball glove, made of polyurethane foam, which sits beside the scoreboard. It was designed by women, who on its completion, climbed inside and glued their underwear inside. Perhaps this is the new version of burning the bra, but the rebel in me loves this.
The Gotham Club is an exclusive area of Oracle Park. You won’t find Batman lurking behind the big doors but you will find plenty of cool things, like a bowling alley, bar and billiards table.
The name Gotham comes from the origins of the team. The San Francisco Giants were in fact originally named the New York Gothams, but after a reporter referred to them as giants after a game, the name stuck and eventually was changed to what it is today. Membership to the swanky Gotham Club is automatic for any players who’ve been a part of the New York Gothams or San Francisco Giants but for the general public there’s a hefty membership to pay.
If the Gotham Club membership price tag is too steep, baseball fans can purchase a suite but they’re hard to come by. They’re usually sold out, despite the required commitment to purchase it for a whole season.
The San Francisco Giants are the winners of three World Championships and their trophies are on display at Oracle Park. The 24 carat gold symbols of victory contain 30 flags which represents the 30 teams in the baseball league.
One way to get the attention of this non-sporty gal is to talk bling and Tiffanys. The rings presented to players who win a world championship are designed by the team and jewellers at Tiffanys. On their last win the Giants rings were designed to tie in the history of the club and are reportedly worth US$40,000 a ring. Perhaps I see a career in baseball in my sights after all.
FAMILY FUN AT ORACLE PARK
Oracle Park is designed to be fun for all the family. It’s a one-of-a-kind attraction, designed specifically for Oracle Park, baseball fans and the surrounding community to enhance their visit to the ballpark. The giant Coca-Cola bottle which stands at 14 metres high (47Ft) is not merely a decoration – it contains four slides, two 17 metre (56ft) long curving slides (the “Guzzler”) and two 6 metre (20ft) long twisting slides (the “Twist Off”) Children 14 years and younger, and taller than 91cm (36 inches), can enjoy a slide into home plate from one of the four slides. On game days all ticket holders can access the area.
For young children there’s pickup games, player appearances and other special events which all take place at Little Giants Park. The area is a replica of Oracle Park which includes an infield, bases, outfield and ballpark. Kids 106cm (42 inches) or less can hit softballs and run bases.
ORACLE PARK TOUR ACCESSIBILITY
We didn’t have anyone on our tour who required the guides to take an accessible route but our guide did point out the many ways they’ve ensured a wheelchair user can gain access. Lifts and a few variations to avoid the stairs is all that’s needed. Wide, easy to negotiate, hallways make up the majority of the tour.
At the start of the 90 minute tour there is an opportunity to use the bathroom. A unisex stand-alone accessible bathroom is available at this point.
A loan manual wheelchair is also available.
For enquiries regarding access requirements I suggest contacting Oracle Park in advance.
It should be noted the behind-the-scenes tour is popular and advance booking is essential. Tours vary according to what is happening at the park on the day. When I visited a golf tournament was being held so we were unable to go on to the field.
The guides on this tour make sure it’s entertaining and sprinkled with just enough facts and figures to keep visitors entertained throughout. Their willingness to answer questions makes it an interactive experience. I’d suggest children 10 and up would be a good age for the tour as there’s a lot of walking and talking. As for me, a person lacking in any sporting interests, I loved it. I’m as surprised as anyone who knows me would be, but there’s something about being allowed into the inner sanctum and behind-the-scenes that makes this a winner of a tour.
At the conclusion of the tour there’s an opportunity to buy a variety of San Francisco Giants memorabilia. For anyone buying a gift for a child who may not know the San Francisco Giants, there’s some lovely baseball story books. At the time I visited, a discount was offered in the store for anyone who had taken the tour.
My tour was hosted by Oracle Park, but as always my opinions and enthusiasm are based on my experience.