Outside in the light drizzle, before they went on stage, the Giants players threw their arms around each other like brothers at a reunion. Many hadn’t seen each other since the 2009 season ended in October. Now they were together on Thursday night at the Delancey Street Theater in San Francisco for the first-ever “town hall meeting” for about 400 season-ticket holders who had won the chance to attend.
The guys caught up on each other’s news. Alex Hinshaw and Matt Cain married their longtime sweethearts. John Bowker got a “puggle,” half pug and half beagle, named Scout. Brian Wilson went to Australia with Brad Penny. Brandon Medders had Halloween and New Year’s Eve gigs with his band in Tuscaloosa. Alabama. Manny Burriss, rehabbing from his foot injury, spent time going to hockey and basketball games with his five-year-old son, Jamari. Kevin Frandsen, after playing winter ball, served as a groomsman at Hinshaw’s December wedding in Oregon.
Inside the theater, when the players had filed in and filled the first two rows of seats, Mike Krukow got everyone standing – fans and players alike – for a rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
“Nice goin’!” he said after the final note. “It’s officially baseball season!”
Krukow and Duane Kuiper hosted the event, calling the players up to the stage in small groups by position. It was a rare opportunity to see and hear the players off the field and thus get a sense of who they are as men. General manager Brian Sabean watched from the back of the theater, among the standing-room-only crowd. He had planned to stay for just a few minutes. But, as he told his players at a team meeting the following morning at AT&T Park, the event “was so compelling I stayed for the whole thing.”
“I was very impressed with last night,” he told them. “In listening to everything you had to say, three themes emerged: You are humble. You are respectful. And you have passion. This team is in a great frame of mind going into the season.”
The two-hour event will air on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area on Feb. 16 at 6:30 p.m. Here are some snippets:
? Jeremy Affeldt emerged, as he always does in these things, as a natural entertainer. He got everyone laughing with pointed barbs at manager Bruce Bochy for making him pitch to a guy “who hit about .900” off him. When, a few minutes later, Kuiper asked the relievers to name their all-time favorite player, Affeldt deadpanned, “Bruce Bochy.” (The next morning at the team meeting, Bochy said he was ready to name his Opening Day pitcher: Jeremy Affeldt.)
? Asked what position he would play if he got to choose, Pablo Sandoval didn’t hesitate. “Hitting!”
? Sergio Romo showed off the T-shirt he had bought earlier in the day. It was pure Sergio who, besides Pablo, is the most playful guy on the team. The design on the front of the shirt lit up whenever he talked, which meant – as his teammates will tell you – it blazed all night.
? Dan Runzler, who played at every minor-league level last year before making it to San Francisco in September, was asked what it was like to pitch to players he had only seen on TV. “I was in more shock going into the locker room (of the Giants),” he said. “I had never been to a major-league spring training, so I was completely star-struck.”
? When the pitchers were asked when they knew they wanted to be pitchers, Runzler said, ”I knew I wanted to be a pitcher when they took the bat out of my hands and told me to pitch.”
? New second baseman Mark DeRosa made an impression with his down-to-earth style. “To me,” he said, “it’s all about trying to win championships. When you have a starting rotation like we have, and a bullpen and closer like we have, we’ve got a great chance.”
? Tim Lincecum, the one player to prompt a standing ovation, was asked what he could do to top his accomplishment of winning two Cy Young Awards in two years: “Hit a home run for the first time in my life.”
? Barry Zito was asked what musician he’d like to jam with. Because he’s been into drums lately, he said, he would choose drummer Carter Beauford of the Dave Matthews Band.
See you tomorrow at FanFest!
Shots from the Town Hall Meeting:
Brandon Medders and Tim Lincecum
Players calling lucky Season Ticketholders today from the front office at AT&T Park: