The balls are being marked, City Hall is festooned in orange (see photo) and every move Barry Bonds makes is being chronicled throughout the world. Baseball fans, souvenir hunters and those who just want to be around baseball history will flock to San Francisco next week hoping to see Barry Bonds hit the big one.
The Giants slugger is only two more homers away from tying Hank Aaron's career mark of 755, perhaps the most well-known record in the world of sports. Thereâ€™s a very good chance that he could break the record during a seven-game homestand starting Monday against the Atlanta Braves, Aaron's former team, and the jockeying for position to catch the home run ball at AT&T Park has already started.
The games next week against the Braves and the Florida Marlins are within a few hundred seats of being sold out, leaving fans with a hankering for history little choice but to wade into the online resale market or deal with scalpers on the street.
I hope Bonds breaks the record in San Francisco. Not because Iâ€™m, enamored with the guy, but because I believe it will be better for baseball. If he hits it in another city, it could be a very embarrassing situation. The fans will likely boo and it could get ugly. Bonds is a god in SF, but heâ€™s not particularly liked by fans anywhere else in the country.
People are clamoring for these tickets for some simple reason â€“ to see Bonds make baseball history. That has to be the one and only reason. After all, the Giants are in last place in the NL West.
"This is the hottest ticket sales have been since the All-Star Game," said Jennifer Swanson, spokeswoman for TicketsNow, which resells tickets to the public from licensed brokers. "It's reaching a fever pitch."
Seats in the arcade section behind the right field wall -- a common location for Bonds homers to land -- usually go for between $29 and $33, but they were being peddled online Friday for as much as $500.
The Giants still have standing-room-only seats available for some games for $10, team spokeswoman Staci Slaughter said, but those too are expected to turn into gold as soon as the Giants head home from their series this weekend in Milwaukee.
Tickets for games next week are selling for an average of about $80 at the various online sites, including the Giants' own Double Play Ticket Window, which allows season ticket holders to squeeze the ticketless masses for all they are worth.
Home run fever officially started Thursday when Bonds whacked two dingers into the ferocious winds at Wrigley Field during the Giants' 9-8 loss to the Chicago Cubs.
The blasts were his first in 16 days, and they awakened the slumbering national media.
"We definitely noticed an uptick in ticket sales after he hit the home runs," Slaughter said. "Everything kind of calmed down after the All-Star Game, and then he hit the two home runs, and my phone has been ringing off the hook."
Sean Pate, spokesman for StubHub, which charges a 10 percent fee to buy and a 15 percent fee to sell tickets on its Web site, said prime seats for next week's games are selling for upward of $300. He figures that's just the beginning.
"It's going to be very crazy," he said. "People are going to want to be there for the tying or record-breaking home run. When he's on 754, each game is going to be a premium game."
The Giants, San Francisco police and the Coast Guard are preparing for the craziness by beefing up security in and around AT&T Park.
The Giants normally sell several hundred standing-room-only tickets for big games, and many of those ticket-holders congregate in the arcade section. That's going to be harder to do this homestand, Slaughter said.
"We will be checking tickets for people with seats in that area and allowing in a limited number of standing-room tickets," Slaughter said.
All the baseballs pitched to Bonds now are stamped with a special logo for authentication. The fan who emerges from the inevitable scramble for the record-setting ball will be hustled away by security guards, Slaughter said.
"We want to make sure they are in a safe spot," she said. "If they want to watch the rest of the game, we will put the ball in a safe for them. It's really up to the person who catches the ball to determine what he wants to do with it. We usually meet with them and try to figure out if there is anything they would be interested in to trade for the ball, but this is going to be a pretty valuable ball."
Outside the park, people will be able to watch the game through the right field knothole fence for three innings at a time, the usual limit at big games.
The Coast Guard will keep an eye on the regatta of rafts, canoes, kayaks and other watercraft expected to congregate in McCovey Cove in case the record-breaking tater is a "Splash Hit." Bonds has hit 34 of those in his career.
There is no plan to have boaters preregister or to limit their numbers, as was done during the All-Star Game, said Lt. Anya Hunter, the spokeswoman for Coast Guard San Francisco.
Hunter said the Coast Guard's primary concern is the barge outside AT&T Park loaded with fireworks for the moment when Bonds hits No. 756. She said boats will be kept 1,000 feet from the barge.
"The problem with this event is we don't know when it is going to happen," Hunter said. "All of our crews out there are on alert, and everyone knows that this is pending, but they can't sit out and wait for days at a time. As soon we know that the fireworks show is going off or if there is a safety concern because of a large number of boats, then we will respond."
The record-setting home run will be a spectacular conundrum for a nation in which many people view Bonds as a cheater whose home run power is tainted by the use of performance-enhancing drugs, something the Giants slugger has denied doing knowingly.
Aaron isn't planning to show up for any of the games or, it seems, even acknowledge the record. But it still amounts to big business in the city by the bay.
"Just like the stock market, these games are hot, so people are going to start asking higher prices," Pate said. "It is going to be pretty busy around here for the next week or 10 days."
(Thanks to www.sfgate.com for some of the quotes in this article.)
Copyright © 2010 Ed Attanasio
San Francisco is Going Bonkers for Bonds
Copyright © 2010 Ed Attanasio
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