Statistically, Barry Lamar Bonds is indisputably the greatest baseball player of all time. You could maybe argue Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, or Willie Mays, but then I would argue Barry Bonds and then I would win the argument. On Monday, we saw a game at AT&T, but yesterday we set aside an entire morning to return to the House that Barry Built to admire his insane accomplishments. We did this because we had time to kill and because Barry Bonds did these things.
While references to Bonds and his career are present inside the stadium, they are sparse and not easy to find. They sell his shirsey in the team store, but it’s not displayed prominently at all. There’s a sign celebrating his 756th homer, but very few other mentions of Bonds can be seen throughout the park. In fact, I don’t think I saw a picture of him once during the seven hours we spent at AT&T. The area directly outside the park is where you’ll find Bonds. On the promenade between the stadium and the water, there are numerous plaques commemorating his various asinine achievements. Plaques for home run #756, home run #71, and his 40-40 season are all out there, embedded into the concrete as lasting—but almost painfully understated—monuments. The physical representation of his legacy—present, yet elusive within the stadium, and minimized outside the park—mirrors his current position within the larger baseball establishment.
The other Bonds-ish attraction outside AT&T is Barry Bonds Junior Giants Field, a youth baseball field located directly across McCovey Cove. Calling it a youth baseball field might be under-emphasizing the sheer tininess of the field. The base paths were maybe 40 feet long and the fence was probably around 100 feet to dead center from home plate. While you might think the field was built for little kids, Barry Bonds Junior Giants Field was actually intended to make regular, unathletic losers like us feel like Barry Lamar Bonds. Like Barry, we dominated, and like Barry we had an awesome time.
Even us, two of the biggest Bonds supporters you could ever meet, would admit that Bonds’ legacy is immensely complicated and blemished in some way. But the question of Bonds’ place in MLB today should be debated and discussed, not ignored by pretending like everything he did never happened. His controversial, but undeniably monumental impact on baseball in San Francisco and across America, deserves recognition of some sort. Unfortunately, such a day does not appear to be on the horizon. While public scorn over Bonds and the steroid era seems to be declining, the entire subject is too taboo within Major League Baseball for anything substantial to occur in the near future.
We believe that eventually a day will come when a statue of the Greatest Player of All Time™ will grace the grounds of AT&T Park. A giant bronze Barry Bonds, hands thrust skyward in complete and utter elation, gazing proudly over the empire he helped create. Go ahead, put a plaque with a damn asterisk on it. Talk about the steroids. Note his abrasive demeanor. Whatever. Just let the story be told. Until that day comes, you can take your Willie McCovey coves, your Willie Mays plazas, and your Will Clark shirseys, we’ll be paying homage and jacking dingers over at Barry Bonds Junior Giant Park. —Jake Mintz
That seal didn’t have a .609 OBP in 2004.
Game Notes: Sonoma Stompers vs. Pittsburg Mettle
As you probably already know, Sam Miller and Ben Lindbergh are spending their summer as co-Directors of Baseball Operations for the Sonoma Stompers. The Stompers are members of the Pacific Association, an independent league that consists of four teams in the northern Bay Area. As huge fans of Effectively Wild and uncommon professional baseball experiences, we made it a point to go see a Stompers game as a fitting finale to our four-day stay in the Bay Area. We were not disappointed.
- Naturally, the first thing you do when you walk into a new stadium, whether it be major league, minor league, independent league, or college, is survey your surroundings. One of the best things about baseball is the unlimited variety of types of parks you’ll visit, due to a myriad of factors: the basic dimensions of the field, the orientation and location of the seats where the bullpens are, etc. Arnold Field, the Stompers’ home ballpark, located on the north end of Sonoma, has its fair share of quirks that we came to love almost instantly.
- The first thing you’ll notice when you enter the park is that there is a football goalpost in right-center field. Just chillin’ there, right in front of the fence, completely in play. The goalpost’s presence isn’t just some crazy indy ball strategy that Sam and Ben came up with. It’s there because Arnold Field was (is??!) also a football field at one point. The other goalpost is in foul territory down the left field line, but is similar to the right-center field goalpost in that it’s a goalpost and we have no idea why it’s still there. As a result of the field’s gridiron past, the field is one big square, and the dimensions are a bit wonky: 331 to left-center, 345 to right-center, and 435 to straight-away center field. Think Shibe Park, with less Eddie Collins and more Gered Mochizuki.
- Another awesome thing about Arnold Field is the location of the visiting team’s bullpen. It’s not uncommon to see bullpens right alongside the stands, or in a fenced-off area down the lines. Arnold Field’s visiting bullpen was down the left field line behind the beer garden, and had no barrier of any sort between it and the general walkway. When a pitcher was warming up, you could stand right there and watch. When a pitcher wasn’t warming up, nearly a dozen kids were swarming the bullpen for other activities that did not involve warming up to enter a professional baseball game.
- Speaking of the bullpen, Pittsburg did manage to go to a few relievers early in the game despite their designated warm-up area being crowded by fans. For whatever reason, two of the three relievers that Pittsburg brought in were wearing completely different jerseys from the rest of the team. The two relievers’ uniforms were grey with a “P” on the left, while everyone else was wearing black with “Pittsburg” across the chest. No one batted an eye. —Jordan Shusterman
-Meals at In-N-Out: 3
-Mexican Food Meals: 9
-Dr. Peppers consumed: Jake – 20/Jordan – 20
-Times we listened to Evergreen by Westlife: 70
Day 14 of this journey will be the first and only day without a game for us to see, as we need to spend all day driving from northern California up to Portland, where we are staying with good friend and secret third member of the Cespedes Family Barbecue, Kendall Guillemette. Kendall has a house. Tomorrow, we do laundry.
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