It was an emotional night for us. Barry has been apart of our family for years. I’ve only known the Giants with Barry. I don’t know what its like to be a Giants fan without him.
I attended my very first Giants game in August 1993 versus the Florida Marlins at Candlestick Park. I thought it was cool to go to a game, but I didn’t know much about baseball or the Giants. And at that time, I really didn’t care.
The following Spring, in ’94, my cousins Shari, Jeff and I, began going to Spring Training in Scottsdale, Arizona. They are born and raised Bay Area kids and have always been Giants fans. I was still going to school in Utah and since BYU doesn’t have Spring Break, I made Spring Training “my” Spring Break. I still had no interest in baseball. I went for the sunshine, the Phoenix Suns (we always went to a game – ask me about Muhammad Ali sometime) and the free rooms at the Hyatt Scottsdale Resort. So from 1994 to 1998, my Spring Training consisted of lying in the lawn at Scottsdale Stadium, taking photos of the big name players like Griffey and A-Rod (then Mariners) then begging to leave in the 4th inning so I could shop at Fashion Place Mall (across the street from the stadium). I don’t think I even knew who Barry Bonds. The only name I remember Shari saying was “Glen Allen Hill” because I thought that was a funny name.
Then I moved to San Francisco in 1998. I was working at Decker and became friends with my coworker, Janice Kaprosch – the biggest Giants fan I’ve ever met. Michael Jordan retired and I had lost interest in the NBA - I had an opening for a new favorite team. It just so happened that my boss Fred was a Giants season ticket holder. The second Giants game I ever went to was a September 1998 night game versus the Braves. Fred gave Janice and me his tickets (which he still does today). I distinctly remember how cold and windy it was and we had to walk against the wind to get to our seats. Then when we sat down, our food blew away. I had spent 6 winters in Utah and had never been as cold as I was that night. It was that night that my transformation into a Giants fan began.
PacBell Park only made Shari and I even bigger fans of Barry and our Giants. The 2001 season, the year of the single season homerun record, was so memorable. For the obvious, but also because of the family matters that happened that summer. I said it was memorable – good memories and difficult memories. My Uncle Jerry (Shari and Jeff’s Dad), recovered from a stroke, but lost a battle to kidney cancer in the early Fall. Every day during his struggle that summer, he would ask us if Barry had hit another homerun. That summer was so challenging and difficult but I think Barry’s pursuit of that record bonded us (no pun intended) and continued to do so with every monumental record he reached.
The 2002 season was probably our most memorable season. Shari and I were going to so many games. We got a brick at the park with our names on it – “Shari and Naomi – Giants Fans Forever.” Around July I created a CD of “Giants Music” – their at-bat songs – Kenny Lofton’s “Hot in Herre”, Jeff Kent’s “Back in Black”, Barry’s “The Next Episode”, as well as other songs and sound-bits – like Russ Hodges’ call of the “Shot Heard Around the World.”
At random times, Shari and I both found ourselves muttering, “The Giants win the pennant, the Giants win the pennant” even though it was so unlikely. By then, it was August and the Giants were a significant number of games behind Arizona and LA. We found ourselves hoping the baseball players would go on strike so that we wouldn’t have to see Arizona win the division and move on to the playoffs.
But then September rolled around and it seemed as if the Giants could not lose. They all climbed on Barry’s shoulders and he carried them to the playoffs and through the playoffs to the World Series. Shari and I were in our ultimate glory, putting every dollar we had towards playoffs tickets. Thanks to a number of things, including Eric Gorshen showing up with champagne the night of Game 6, the Giants didn’t win, but Barry was unforgettable.
The 2003 season Barry’s dad battled kidney cancer, like my Uncle Jerry. He went through the same surgeries, performed by the same doctors, as the same hospitals and ultimately, was given the same fate as Uncle Jerry. That bonded us even closer to him. I will never forget the late August home series versus the Braves. It was 2 nights in a row that Barry hit walk off homers, then rushed out of the park to be with his Dad during his dying days. I will also never forget being in Boston during the last week of August for the Red Sox/Yankees series and seeing Barry’s first game back after his Dad had died. Randy Johnson was pitching and those idiotic Arizona fans booed him. The guy’s dad had just lost a very public battle to cancer and they booed him. I will never forget that and will never respect Diamondback fans for that. If I recall, I think he hit another homerun in that game. Amazing.
Barry’s been accused of a lot. There are a lot of debatable topics surrounding him. I don’t care what people say. I know what he’s meant to me and what he’s meant to my family. We love him – for the same reasons that people hate him. I like that he has attitude. I like that he doesn’t care what other people say or think. I love that he hates the media and the stupid questions they ask him over and over again. They say he’s rude to fans but I’ve sat in the Lower Box on the Left Field side for 7 years now and watched the subtle interactions he has with the fans in that area. I’ve stood on Second and King many times and have seen him smile and wave to us as he exits the park. If you can prove to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that no one else has done what he is accused of then maybe I’ll reconsider the allegations against him, but until then, can it. Heck if what they say about Troy Glaus is true, then brand a damn asterisk on the Rally Monkey that’s in Cooperstown (there really is one, I’ve seen it).
So Barry, thank you for the homeruns, the walk off homeruns, the stolen bases, the wins. Thank you for the memories, for your perseverance and most of all, thank you for making Giants baseball fun. We love you, we miss you and we’ll be Barry fans forever!
PS These sentiments that I’ve written are shared with Shari Okumura – another Barry Fan Forever.