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April Baseball: Life In The Club Section, and Matt Cain Lives For Another Day, by Chuck Strom

For those who like to attend professional sports, the world has become increasingly segregated, with stadiums featuring luxury boxes and exclusive club sections with comforts and amenities above what is normally available to the average fan. Fortunately, at least at AT&T Park in San Francisco, it is possible occasionally to crash the party at an affordable price if you keep an eye for online ticket bargain resales, especially if you’re willing to go to a night game during the week. This past Wednesday, I sat in Club Section 220 with a view straight up the first base line for less than what I’ve often paid for an upper deck seat on a weekend, and it was well worth the price. Club seat holders, when they get hungry or want a temporary break from the elements, can get up and go inside an enclosed club area that extends for the whole length of the main section of the ballpark, with varied concessions, exhibits from San Francisco Giants history such as Matt Cain’s 2012 perfect game, and floor-to-ceiling plate glass windows that allow fans not to miss any action on the field.

I wondered if I would encounter a different type of fan in the club section, envisioning well-heeled season ticket holders deeply sophisticated in their knowledge of all things Giant, perhaps all acquainted with each other from years of sitting together for up to eighty-two games a season plus playoffs. The couple next to me, with whom I enjoyed chatting, fit this description, but they told me that many of the other seats around them were owned by companies who doled them out to their employees. From what I observed, the corporate denizens seemed much more interested in the liquid refreshments available inside than what was happening on the field, despite the starting price of $11.50 per beer, demonstrating in their boisterous way that money and privilege don’t always go to the deserving.

The game turned out to be enjoyable, though it didn’t begin that way. One of the main heroes of both the 2010 and 2012 World Series Championships, Matt Cain, started for the Giants and came dangerously close to not making it through the first inning, with the first batter hitting a triple and the next two reaching base as well. Cain, who likely would not have been in the rotation were it not for his $20-plus million salary provided by the contract he signed in 2012, somehow limited the damage to one run and, to the surprise of most of us in attendance, managed to shut out the Arizona Diamondbacks for the next four innings and earn his first April victory since 2012, his last truly good season. I was surprised to learn after the game that if Cain had failed his start, the Giants may have sent him down or even released him. Undoubtedly, his spot in the rotation will remain precarious for a while, especially given that his once-dominant fastball now rarely breaks 90 mph on the gun. It may turn out, perhaps, that I will have seen his last good game. I don’t know if I deserved the privilege, should it turn out as such, but I will certainly appreciate it.

Chuck Strom

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