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On the Road with Eli(zondo) and San Francisco

The Guide explores Oracle Park in San Francisco.

Adric has had it with the hipsters at Oracle Park. May 21, 2021.
Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

On the Road with Eli(zondo) and Adric at Oracle Park.

So you’ve decided to heed the call to adventure. Good for you. If you need to refer back to what the Guide actually is or who I actually am, please refer to the included links.

(Weak) Garlic Fries in the Lion’s Den


Adric outside Oracle Park. May 21, 2021.
Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

The Guide says the following about Oracle Park:

It is the Lion’s Den. The seagulls hang in the air in exactly the way that bricks don’t. Baseballs hit into the bay tend to be lost, found, lost again, in an ever shifting pattern that seems to perpetuate until one gets bored and leaves.

All homages to the actual Hitchhiker’s Guide aside, apparently nobody but me calls Oracle the Lion’s Den, as far as I know. In fact, for six months in 2018, I literally lived down the road from Oracle.

For six months, I was a 10-minute walk from Oracle
Courtesy of Google Maps

I don’t miss that apartment as my rent was obscene for half of a living room. It overlooked San Francisco Bay, which was not a perk because the sun would reflect off the Bay every morning and wake me up at dawn, whether I wanted to get up or not. (I did not.) So I was chronically late for work because I’d find a way to doze and by terms of the sublease, I was not allowed to install blinds or block the view.

The Willie Mays Gate of Oracle Park. October 9, 2021.
Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

I do remember the first time I ever went to Oracle Park which was AT&T Park at the time because I made a point to go to Vin Scully’s final game on October 2, 2016. A now-infrequent commenter, Scully’s Tie, set up me with a ticket, and that was my first true step in joining the TBLA community. And we had ourselves a ball. The literal first step was literally joining to say f—off to Mat Latos because he got released. Per Eric at the time:

So, if you’re not a fan of my writing here, you can blame Mat Latos, Scully’s Tie, and the Dodgers for going 0-8 on the original #SaveEli trip, because of the idea of cause and effect still applies in the universe.

It was a privilege to be at Scully’s final game.
Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow are certainly no Vin Scully, or even Joe Davis and Orel Hershiser, but it’s more trouble than it’s worth to do anything other than to ignore them while at Oracle Park. With that complaint aside, Kuiper and Krukow did Scully right in his swan song and I am grateful to them and the Giants organization for being genuinely classy. These folks aren’t an issue if you go to the game though.

My family and me. Oracle Park. September 4, 2021.
Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

Oracle poses an interesting challenge to write about for the main reason that I’ve been there so many times I legitimately have lost count without consulting notes. As ballparks go, it’s pretty nice. I take friends, dates, and family there, as you can see. But the problem is that I have gone so often, the novelty is gone, and due to the dynamic pricing, I will have to overpay to return when the Dodgers are in town. With that said, if you have never been, going to Oracle Park for a Dodgers/Giants game is generally worth your time.

My uncle, my aunt, and me. Oracle Park. July 29, 2021.
Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA
My buddy, Louie, Adric, and me. Oracle Park. July 28, 2021.
Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

The Five Questions of the Guide:

1. Is it worth going here?

Oracle Park. May 22, 2021.
Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

Yes, I think so.

Now, it may sound like I am more guarded in my praise of Oracle Park. In some respects I am, but I do acknowledge the inherent value of going to a rivalry game at Oracle Park. Oracle Park is a nice park with distinctive views and characteristics. However, I can understand why a Dodgers fan would not want to go, especially if one is rowdy and obnoxious (so don’t do that). Oracle Park tends to be cold and breezy, especially if one goes at night, so a light jacket and/or layers, is a very sensible precaution regardless of the time of year you decide to go.

I have been to Oracle Park about twenty times, including the playoffs, since I moved north to start law school in 2015. I have seen good games, I have seen bad games. I have had pleasant banter with fans. I have had Giants fans be rude and obnoxious to me, even accusing Adric of being a voodoo doll. But these odd instances aside, going to Oracle Park is a pleasant experience (provided that you prepare logistically).

For first-time visitors, at last check, there is a link for your to print up your own certificate with the date and opponent. As mementos go, admittedly, it’s kind of lame that you have to do it yourself. But in comparison to other ballparks that do nothing (Coors Field jumps to mind), it’s better than nothing.

2. How should I get there?

Courtesy of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency

Unlike most cities in the Guide, you have several options on how to get to San Francisco. If you live in California, you can easily drive to San Francisco within a day. However, I would not recommend taking a vehicle to Oracle Park. Parking at the ballpark involves parking in an empty pier building, which was far more expensive than you might think and was far more trouble than it is worth. Imagine everyone trying to leave a building in their cars at once through a maze of side streets and intersections. Generally, I would not recommend parking on the streets of San Francisco due to the rash of property crimes against vehicles.

Oracle Park, on the way to the team parking area. May 21, 2021.
Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

You can also reach San Francisco by airplane, and from there enter San Francisco itself depending on where you play to stay (see below). Amtrak is also an option, but not an ideal one as the nearest stops to San Francisco will require either a bus connection into the city itself, or terminate on the opposite side of the Bay, near Oakland. You can rely on public transportation to get to Oracle Park, as either Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), San Francisco Muni, or Caltrain will get you 80% (BART), 90% (CalTrain), or all the way there (SF Muni). The remaining difference to the ballpark is easily walkable.

3. Where should I stay?

Wait - you live in the Bay Area (as of this article). Can’t I stay with you?

For what it is worth, this section of the Guide is what took the longest by far. Okay, so I have already stated that you should not take your car to Oracle Park. You can park your car elsewhere and generally be fine. Assuming you fly into San Francisco, you have several options as to where you should stay. Normally I do not hedge my recommendations, but the question of where you should stay really focuses on what you are trying to do with your trip, i.e. are you trying to enjoy San Francisco, or are you trying to just do the Dodgers/Giants game - because there actually is a difference in the recommendation.

  • I’ve never been to San Francisco and/or I want to fully experience San Francisco, and I don’t mind being farther away from the ballpark.

Honestly, if you go this route, finding a place to stay is pretty easy - just figure out what you want to do (i.e. are you wanting to hit tourist spots or stay in a particular neighborhood where there is stuff to do / things to eat, etc.) and odds are, you can find a way to take SF Muni or BART to get yourself to the ballpark.

However, there is one thing to know that you cannot forget: do not stay in the neighborhood of the Tenderloin and avoid Civic Center BART station after dark, especially after recent events (paywalled, but a very chilling bit of investigative journalism). San Francisco has a reputation for needles and poop (human or otherwise) and open-air drug markets. That reputation is largely overly blown - however, not so much in the Tenderloin neighborhood. Personally, I’d stay in Chinatown, as you would have plenty of transportation options to get just about anywhere in San Francisco, including back to the airport when the time comes, and you’d have access to one of the most iconic neighborhoods in San Francisco with excellent food, just every way you turn.

You can get to San Francisco by way of BART or Caltrain from San Francisco Airport itself. A rideshare is also an option but with the pandemic, you might have to wait for a considerable while or pay a hefty surcharge, which is entirely up to you. This situation may improve as time goes on, but I have been burned by it to the point that I just park at SFO and bite the bullet with parking when I am heading outbound.

  • I just want to go to the ballpark. If I feel like exploring, I’ll explore around Oracle Park.
I would recommend going to The Alchemist Bar if you go, as this option as it was nice as I recall.
Courtesy of Google Maps

There are literally two hotels within walking distance of Oracle Park. They appear to be in the pricey range as far as hotels go, so you would either have to budget accordingly or stay for shorter than you would like. Personally, I try to budget for at least two games in a given location, as I learned this lesson the hard way from a couple of my trips in the 2021 season.

You can reach the area immediately around Oracle Park by taking BART from San Francisco Airport to Millbrae Station (it will be the first station you get to). From there, you will transfer to CalTrain and ride it north until you reach the final stop of 4th and King St. in San Francisco. If you end up in Burlingame, get off the train and switch directions, because you got on the wrong train.

There are a few restaurants and bars near Oracle Park. The Giants are expanding the neighborhood around Oracle Park, no Fraggles though. COVID slowed down the progress of construction, so basically nothing has been built yet though. Someday though.

Transit Notes for the Completionist.

If for some reason, you stay outside of San Francisco, if you are on the Oakland side of the Bay or closer to Sacramento (think Martinez-BART), take your respective BART until Embarcerdero station - unless you somehow fall asleep, you cannot miss it.

If you are on the peninsula, say in San Mateo or Burlingame, you would want to catch Giants Millbrae Express, which is an express Caltrain that runs prior to and for an hour after the final out of home Giants’ games. Just take the train until the end of the line at 4th and King St., and then just follow the herd of people, it would be a feat to miss Oracle Park.

4. Where should I sit?

Oracle Park. September 4, 2021.
Oracle Park. September 4, 2021.
Michael Elizondo / True Blue LA

Typically, Dodgers/Giants games are an expensive affair. The Giants know that people are going to come to the ballpark and they know they don’t have to try very hard to get your money. Also, the Giants know this fact is doubly true on a weekend. The rest of the time though, it depends. In 2021, when the Dodgers weren’t in town, the Giants had some issues filling Oracle, resorting to buy 1, get 1 free deal for decent seats costing $20 when the division-leading Brewers were in town. Even at the start of the season, the Giants were trying to entice people to the ballpark with ticket sales. Granted, a Marlins/Giants game is not the most enticing matchup, but if I were a fan, I would not turn my nose up at an opportunity for cheaper tickets at a great ballpark.

Those same seats were about 2.5-3.5 times as expensive the next day when the Dodgers came to town. I hate flexible pricing too, but it is what it is. I’ll tolerate it at Dodger Stadium and at Oracle Park because it’s the (literal) price of admission. It’s far less forgivable at the Big A, but I’m not getting off-topic. Even third-party apps like StubHub and SeatGeek are not a lot of help in keeping costs down, but they do often provide access to tickets in locations that buying directly from the team does not.

The food at Oracle Park is fine, albeit overpriced - especially for a ballpark. I initially ribbed the garlic fries because most Giants fans are absurdly proud of their stadium’s garlic fries. Personally, if it doesn’t burn, you haven’t added enough garlic, but I acknowledge that I have a deep love of garlic that is rivaled by most peoples’ love of bacon. However, my love of garlic does not constitute my entire personality, unlike some folks' love of pork belly, aka bacon. The following are my recommendations for where to sit at Oracle Park:

  • If you’re on a budget:

Honestly, I remember being a broke law student. It was not fun. Back when I went to Scully’s farewell, if you had told me that this gig was where my life was going, I’d have laughed at you. But here we all are. Life’s funny like that. After careful consideration, based on my many games at Oracle Park, I finally realized that I should not overthink the recommendation.

The VB section is the portion in Yellow.
Courtesy of the San Francisco Giants / Illustration by Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

If you are on a budget and you don’t want to sit in the nosebleeds, my recommendation would be to sit in Sections 314VB, 315VB, or 317VB. If you can’t swing or obtain the VB (View Box) seats, if you get as close as you can in these respective sections, you should have a nice view of the game.

Even the non-VB seats are a nice view. May 17, 2017
Louie Ponce (used with permission)

Yes, you are in the upper deck, but if you sit close enough, you get a lovely view of the field and surroundings while not paying a premium price. Also, unlike Dodger Stadium’s Reserve Level, which is a deathtrap to be discussed at a later date (yup, not taking that one back), you have a solid railing, bar with cupholder, and Plexiglas screen, if I recall correctly. Even if I do not, I never had the sense of vertigo that the front row of Dodger Stadium’s reserve section would frequently give me.

Play it right and you can be right by the camera well. April 7, 2018.
Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

Fair warning, this section can get quite windy and chilly as a result. Wear layers if possible. I once sat in this section and it turned quite sunny and unseasonably warm, and having the option to take my light jacket off was a blessing.

  • If you want to sit somewhere fun:

Honestly, you will have the most fun at Oracle Park if you go with a group of Dodgers fans. But the silence that arises when you are the only person around chanting “Let’s Go, Dodgers” in a pivotal moment cannot be understated. That said, when I gave it some thought, I realized I had the most fun in a single section.

Please note that closest/lowest row in Section 143 is Row 5.
Courtesy of the San Francisco Giants / Illustration by Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

If you want to have yourself a fun night at Oracle Park, sit right above the Dodgers bullpen. Ideally, you would sit there with a friend or group of friends.

Louie and me. July 28, 2021. Oracle Park.
Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

Granted, you will have a middling view of the game as you will be about as far away from the action as you can be at Oracle Park. There are certain places in baseball where you go to hang out with your friends and maybe watch the bullpen goof off - Oracle Park is one such place. If the mood hits you, you can try and practice your Spanish.

Fair warning though, odds you’ll be by the Giant bleacher bums who will object to your cheering and/or will be obnoxious (case in point). I did not say that these seats were perfect, I just said that these seats were fun. You are here to hang out with the Dodger relief core. Sitting by the bullpen is generally why I established the “go-to two games” rule; I firmly believe you cannot fairly judge a place until you have been to it at least twice. And for Oracle Park, you need a fun outing and a view of the bay.

Scenes of the relievers hanging out. This spot would be the fun outing. July 28, 2021.
Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

During this game, at one point, I started a chant of Let’s Go, Dodgers, which irritated the heck out of said bums. I persisted and moreover, the bullpen noticed and tipped their caps to me or nodded when I stopped to have some of my hot chocolate. I mean, would it have killed them to sign a baseball and give it to me? No. But that’s gilding the lily. Trust me - you sit here and you will have a blast. Dress warm though, as you are basically going to be right near the bay.

  • You want the sit somewhere that has the best value for your dollar:

If you can somehow find a seat behind home plate for less than the figurative cost of your arm and a leg, jump on it.

I think I paid a shade over $90 for this seat back on April 29, 2018. The Dodgers still lost 1-2, but it was a nice view.
Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

But again, that advice is not very helpful. Going forward, if I were trying to get the most value that combined fun and view with cost, the following would be my recommendation.

Sit in the corner if you can. It worked wonders for me.
Courtesy of the San Francisco Giants / Illustration by Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

Honestly, a lot of folks tend to overlook sitting in the right-field corner. But you should not overlook the cinematic views you are able to enjoy during the game, provided that you sit close enough to the field. Plus, if you get close enough to the field in Section 101, we’re talking row 1, you get access to a table that makes your life so much easier if you happen to be taking video/photographs of the game. You can also pose for things (see final photograph).

You will also have a prime view of any splash hits that go into the Bay. Moreover, odds are decent that foul balls will be hit in your direction. Just be mindful of that fact, as I have seen several folks get beaned in the head by errant foul balls because they were not paying attention. The sound of a ball smashing against the skull is not one I care to hear (again), but it is an inherent risk of sitting on the field level.

The view from my seat. NLDS, Game 2. October 9, 2021.
Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

Weather is less of a factor in these seats. During sunny day games, you might need to contend with a lack of shade, but unless you are particularly sensitive, you can solve this issue with sunscreen and/or a hat.

5. After your trip, is it worth going back?

In the disclaimer to the Guide, I described the informal range of subjective outcomes after visiting a location. As previously stated, I have been to Oracle Park around twenty times and if I truly wanted to, I could go every game that the Dodgers were in town. But then going to a Dodgers game would feel like work, and going to games should not feel like work unless you’re Eric.

  • That fact said, Hey, that was fun! This trip needs to be a yearly event, if able!*

Based on the history and the atmosphere of the location, combined with the ease of access and the options as to seating, I would be foolishly biased if I did not acknowledge the merits of Oracle Park. My rating is based on a subjective view in a vacuum. If I did not live in the Bay Area, I would think that I would probably make a point to come here annually. But I would acknowledge that there are some definite cost hurdles, which will require careful saving and diligent planning to overcome.

If someone told me that they only wanted to go to Oracle Park every other year, for this reason, I would totally understand. Is Oracle Park the best park in the Major Leagues, I can see the arguments, but I cannot share them. As long as PNC Park exists, that is the king of ballparks that I have been to so far. But top five, maybe even top three? Sure, I think that’s totally fair.

All that said, if you do decide to go to see a rivalry game at Oracle Park, I would hope that you get a good game, and see the Dodgers beat the Giants. If they don’t, such is life, but unless you happen to see Wilmer Font give up a walk-off homer to Andrew McCutchen or see Pedro Baez literally fall off the mound, you’ll live. And generally, you will certainly be glad that you went if you decided to go.

Adric: So long for now! October 9, 2021.
Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

*Personally, I will not be returning to Oracle Park unless joined by friends and family, for reasons that I have previously mentioned. My own hiatus is really a separate issue from the enjoyability of the Oracle Park experience.