In its 13-year history, AT&T Park has already played host to three World Series, an All-Star Game, an annual college bowl game and countless concerts and events. Starting today, the park some think is the best in the business will add another event to its résumé when the World Baseball Classic comes to the shores of McCovey Cove.
The Giants’ organization is not taking its experience for granted, however, as the WBC will carry a unique feel with it to The City.
“These are going to be baseball games that have never been experienced here in San Francisco,” said Staci Slaughter, senior vice president of communications for the Giants. “It’s a totally different experience. It’s almost like the Olympics meets soccer meets baseball. And it has a much more international, national pride feel to it than just a normal game here at the ballpark.”
The third installment of the WBC has already been played in 11 cities around the world, but it is San Francisco that will host the final round of the tournament. Teams from 28 countries — 12 more than the previous installment, in 2009 — have been whittled down to four. Tim Brosnan, Major League Baseball’s executive vice president of business, said giving 12 more teams an opportunity to compete is key to the goals of the WBC.
“It would be impossible to buy the kind of interest, publicity and recognition for the sport that success in this kind of competition can generate,” he said. “It is the promise of the ability to compete as a nation with the best around the world that is key to our success.”
As to the measurement of its success, Brosnan said the event aims to increase interest in baseball worldwide while showcasing some of the game’s top talent.
The international flavor of San Francisco’s culture would seem to make The City a natural destination for the final round, and Brosnan said he expects fans of all teams to make their voices heard at AT&T Park.
“When national pride is on the line, a new level of passion is stirred by both the players and fans,” he said. “We’ve seen the passion and excitement from San Francisco fans during the World Series two out of the last three years and we’re anticipating the ballpark to have the same electric atmosphere during the World Baseball Classic.”
He said the Giants made “an aggressive, creative and thoughtful bid” to hold the event, and with a handful of Giants participating in the final, the games will have a hometown flavor to them.
Just don’t look for the Giants to do their own players any special favors, including hitting coach Hensley Muelens, who is manager of the Netherlands, and Santiago Casilla on the Dominican Republic.
“We won’t show favorites,” Slaughter said. “I don’t think we’ll need to do anything special. This is also going to be the first time that our players, should they advance here, will be playing before the San Francisco crowd since winning the World Series.”