SAN FRANCISCO -- Monday is Opening Day at home for the Giants. Spring has sprung and the Boys of Summer have stepped into their uniforms, tightened up their batting gloves and taken their places on well-manicured fields across the country.
For the Giants, that field sits a few blocks south of the Bay Bridge. AT&T Park is merely one of the most beautiful cathedrals in all of baseball. Come for the game, stay for the peripheral attractions, especially on a sunny day.
Inside, there is more to do than simply cheer the Barry Bonds-less home team. You can tour the ballpark when a day game isn't scheduled (going into the dugouts, clubhouse and press box).
During games, enjoy a stop at the giant Coca-Cola bottle behind the left-field bleachers where you can "slide into home," run the bases and get souvenir autograph rubbings.
If settling into a seat to watch nine innings of "batter up!" doesn't hit a home run with you, visit the park for the history, the architecture and the atmosphere. You don't even have to step inside.
Pick a game day, don't buy a ticket, pack a lunch and catch the ferry from Alameda or Oakland's Jack London Square. The ferry docks behind center field at AT&T Park, at Seals Plaza, the waterfront entrance.
Once you leave the ferry, don't follow those flocks of Giants fans into the game. Instead, take a leisurely walk around the perimeter of this field of dreams.
Enjoy the "throwback" architecture, the two 122-foot clock towers, the statues of Juan Marichal, the minor league San Francisco Seals and pay tribute to Willie Mays at the main entrance to the park.
At Willie Mays Plaza, 24 tall palm trees symbolize Mays' jersey number, and a nine-foot statue pays tribute to the Hall of Famer. Around the park, Lefty O'Doul Bridge crosses McCovey Cove to the parking lots.
Doubtless, you will work up an appetite, so what about lunch?
Head across O'Doul Bridge over McCovey Cove to China Basin Park where a grassy esplanade is a great place to spread out your picnic.
The park also features a waterfront promenade with a 1,500-foot seat wall that is dotted with markers noting some past Giants teams and anchoring the northeast corner of the park is a 14-foot statue of McCovey, another Giant treasure.
Visiting AT&T, plus an afternoon walk around the park's perimeter, remembering baseballs greats, and enjoying a picnic complete with the not-so distant sound of a cheering crowd and all without the price of admission.
Let's hear it for baseball; it's one, the stroll ... two, the ferry ... and three, the fun at the old ballpark!
WHERE: AT&T Park, 24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco; Oakland/Alameda Ferry, Jack London Square, Oakland
WHEN: Tours of AT&T Park are conducted daily at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. when a day game is scheduled. They depart from the Giants Dugout Store, near the Willie Mays statue.
The Oakland / Alameda ferry runs to AT&T Park for weekday night games and all weekend day games. The Ferry leaves from Alameda and then Oakland's Jack London Square at 6:30 p.m. and for weekend day games at 11:30 a.m.
The ferry returns to the East Bay 20 minutes after the game ends (but no later than 11:30 p.m. for night games).
COST: AT&T Park tours, adults $10; seniors (55 and older) $8; children (12 and under) $6; and children under 2 free.
Ferry rides: One-way, adults $7; juniors (5-12) $4.25; seniors (65 and older) $4.75; children under 5 free.
GETTING TO AT&T PARK: From the Altamont Pass (Interstate 580) west of Tracy, continue toward Oakland. Take I-580 to the Bay Bridge. Cross the bridge into San Francisco and move into the left lane. Take the first left exit (Harrison Street), make the hairpin turn back under the bridge and go right at the stop sign (Harrison) to the Embarcadero. Turn right on Embarcadero and go to Third Street (Embarcadero becomes King Street as you approach the ballpark). Go left on Third and cross the Lefty O'Doul Bridge to the parking lots.
GETTING TO OAKLAND FERRY TERMINAL: From the Altamont Pass (Interstate 580) west of Tracy, continue toward Oakland on I-580 to Castro Valley. Stay left onto I-238/I-880. Proceed north on 880 (Nimitz Freeway) toward Oakland. Take Broadway exit toward downtown. Take the ramp toward Jack London Square, turn left onto Broadway and continue to the waterfront.
DRIVE TIME: Ballpark: 1 hour 33 minutes; Oakland Ferry Terminal: 1 hour 25 minutes (Mapquest)
MORE INFORMATION: AT&T Park tours: 415-972-2400 and http://san francisco.giants.mlb.com/sf/ballpark/tours.jsp
Oakland Alameda Ferry, 510-749- 5972 or www.eastbayferry.com
Bee assistant librarian Karen Aiello can be reached at kaiello@ modbee. com or 578-2392.