Bucket-list ballpark: Oracle Park

After seven years of documenting our travels, we realized we’ve never written anything up about sporting events. While we’re not frequent stadium-goers – and certainly not during the three long years of the pandemic – we do enjoy taking in a game every now and then.

Stephan grew up in a football-loving family, while my upbringing was all about baseball. My brother grew up on all-star teams and went on to captain his high school’s state championship team. My dad absolutely adored the sport, and coached throughout my brother’s childhood. And we were all a bunch of native New Englanders, rooting relentlessly for the Sox under the sinister 86-year Curse of the Bambino.

No matter what sport you love or with what team your fandom lies, it’s always fun to check off a new stadium in a new city. Between the food, the fans and the field, game-day culture can vary wildly between venues.

When my parents came to visit us in Sonoma, we figured my dad could check two more stadiums off his MLB bucket list: Oakland and San Francisco. He’s visited about two dozen ball parks now, with his biggest gap being those along the west coast.

If you’re a baseball fan, Oracle Park is a massively awesome stadium – and this is coming from someone whose ‘home’ field is iconic Fenway Park. Beyond left field, you’ll find a wicked nice view of the Bay Bridge; and just over the right field wall is McCovey Cove. Named for the Giants’ Hall of Fame first baseman Willie McCovey, fans flock to this small inlet in their kayaks and boats hoping for a “splash hit” ball to come their way.

Of the dozen or so stadiums Stephan and I have visited, Oracle Park has got to be at or near the top of the list. Of the two dozen my dad has visited, he similarly awards Oracle Park with some of the highest marks. This one really does check off all the boxes. The facilities are impeccable, the staff is amazingly friendly and helpful, the stadium is full of things to see (both inside and around the park), the food and craft beer options are amazing, the fanbase was devoted, fun, and good-natured. It really seemed like the perfect place to enjoy America’s pastime. A little 70-degree sunshine and a thrilling comeback win for the home team were just icing on the cake when we visited.

Pro tips

  • Take the escalator on the third-base-side of the stadium up to the View Level. You can get a remarkable panorama of the park from the right field corner near the cameraman’s setup.
  • After you snap a photo, head for the Crazy Crab’z kiosk on the same level. Their locally-famous crab sandwich features Dungeness crab piled between Boudin Bakery’s sourdough bread. The local favorite may top the list of best ballpark food ever, and SF Eater suggests the park sells 2,500 of the beloved sandwiches every game day. Bonus: there’s an awesome craft beer stand like 20 feet away.
  • If crab isn’t your jam, head to two other local favorites: The Lumpia Company or Gilroy Garlic Fries. The former serves Shanghai-style dumplings and even offers a vegan option. They also make an ube soft serve. The latter is probably the most famous snack at Oracle Park, and you can smell the garlic before you spot the kiosk. Conveniently, these two are located right next to each other on the Promenade Level along the third-base-side of the park.
  • Arrive early to give yourself plenty of time to walk around the park before game time. We got to the field just over an hour before game time, thinking it was plenty of time. We were having so much fun eating and exploring, it was the first time in his sixty-eight years that my dad ever missed the first pitch of a game.

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