San Francisco Giants fans turn out in droves to meet their heroes 

If Saturday was any indication of where Giants fever stands three months after the team won the World Series for the first time since moving to The City in 1958, doctors better be on standby.

More than 40,000 fans clad in orange and black blanketed AT&T Park for the 18th annual FanFest, with thousands more denied the chance to get shoulder to shoulder with their favorite players and snap
photos and get autographs.

Despite the huge number of fans who attended the free event, things remained relatively calm inside, thanks in large part to the playing surface being open to fans.

“I like being on the field, on the grass, it’s nice,” 26-year-old Joseph Palecek of Concord said. “All the people are just laying down and relaxing — people-watching.”

On the stadium walkways, the atmosphere was a bit more hectic, with people jockeying for position to see the World Series trophy and line up for autographs.

The team has enjoyed a rock star lifestyle since winning the World Series in November. Players have shown up on the late-night talk-show circuit, and several players recently helped re-create the World Series parade for an upcoming commercial.

The Giants have even struck a deal with Showtime for a show that will document the team as it defends the championship during the 2011 season.

Some would call it all a distraction, but fans at the ballpark Saturday didn’t seem to mind.

“This is a fun-loving team and I think they’ll kind of feed off this,” 25-year-old A.J. McCullough from Martinez said.

McCullough’s 24-year-old friend Mark Menjivar, also of Martinez, said the team will have to make changes in order to have a chance of repeating in 2011.

“Now that the spotlight’s on us, [other teams] know what we’re capable of, so they’re going to plan accordingly,” Menjivar said. “Our pitching will be solid like usual, but in terms of offense, that’s where we need to beef up.”

Other fans just soaked in the whole experience. Brothers David and Jim Bouteile, who were born and raised in Oakland, said they have been waiting for a World Series championship since they started rooting for the Giants in the early 1960s.

“It was kind of unbelievable — like a dream come true,” 57-year-old David said from his seat in the bleachers.

“Finally, their time has come, and fate — if you want to put fate into it — fate was good to them,” added 58-year-old Jim.

Giants players have been quick to give the love back to their fans, who they say were a key part to their success last season.

“We weren’t the only ones who won a world championship,” bearded closer Brian Wilson said to fans over the loudspeakers from the booth at home plate. “You guys did, too.”

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