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Field of realists

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The earth has nearly circumvented the sun since the day Brian “The Beard” Wilson scaled the fence, strode through the bleachers, and raised the world championship banner at the Giants’ China Basin ballpark. That was Opening Day, April 8, 2011. The 42,048 fanatics in the stands screamed in delirious delight. The Giants won in extra innings that day, and it was a marvelous start to the 2011 season.

In the 12th inning of a game against the Marlins on May 25, Scott Cousins stepped out of his way to barrel into Giants’ catcher Buster Posey, mangling Posey’s ankle. The man who hit, caught and led the Giants to the mountaintop of a championship was gone for the season, and the Giants’ hopes for 2011 could have been extinguished when they brought out the stretcher for Posey that night.

But the Giants fought on, clinging near the top of the division for almost two months, then fading through the summer and fall into a silent October.

Here we are in 2012. Every team is tied at 0–0. Spring training is upon us. I ventured down to China Basin, to the Giants’ Fan Fest, where fans wait in dysfunctionally long lines for autographs, vendors hawk orange foam fingers, and you can buy tickets to the upcoming games. Fan Fest is a wonderful baseball experience for two reasons not usually associated with Major League Baseball: one, you get to walk on the field; and two, it’s free.

Standing on the sunny field, enjoying the aromas of trimmed grass and garlic fries, the sound system blasting interviews of excited ballplayers on a stage at home plate, I asked Fan Fest attendees one and only one question: What are your expectations for the upcoming season?

“Hopefully, playoffs. I don’t care if it’s a wild card.” – Carol Gonzalez, Salinas

“I think they’ll do good.” – Nicholas Gonzalez, Salinas

“Magic.” – Maxine Trahan, San Jose

“I think we’ll make the postseason. Hopefully we’ll play the Yankees and beat the Yankees [to win the World Series].” – Brad Trahan

“I can’t tell the future, because I haven’t seen them play yet this year.” – Luke Osborn (9 years old), Sausalito

“These owners are so wealthy. … No offer for Beltran. … That is lame.” – Jesse Block, the Marina

“I expect at least to win the division. Hopefully at the trade deadline they make a move for a bat.” – Carlos Mesa, Oakland

“Win the N.L. West.” – Arturo Galano, Sunnyvale

“Good pitching. Hopefully good hitting … hopefully average hitting. That gets us in the playoffs.” – Stuart Osaki, Salinas

“If they can get some run support, they’ll be in good shape.” – Scott Kurland, the Sunset

“Win the division. 85–90 wins.” – Eric Kahn, Sacramento

“We got our good guys back. As long as they stay healthy again. We’ll see if we get the same Ryan Vogelsong this year as last year.” – Christina Kahn, Sacramento

“We kept Lincecum and our pitching staff. When we lost Posey, that dampened the spirit and lost energy on our pitching staff.” – Riley Hughes, Rockland

“Gonna be a mainy year.” – Bradon Stoval (refusing to explain “mainy”), Belmont

“Playoffs. If they expand it [the playoff format], we’ve got a better chance.” – Sean Crooks

“I expect Posey to play all of the games.” – Matt Sage, Concord

“I was sad to see Cody Ross and Andres Torres go.” – Joanna Ortiz, Walnut Creek

“They now have more speed than they’ve had in five or six years. Would’ve been nice if the Giants had signed Lincecum for four years instead of two. They need batting to pick up.” – Kevin T., Menlo Park

“Good.” – Ansel Hermanos (5 years old), Sausalito

“These owners sold every seat in the stadium last year. What’s that, 3.2 million tickets? And they can’t afford a Prince Fielder or an Albert Puhols or a serious outfield bat? It’s almost like they want to finish second.” – Jake Beckford, San Mateo

“I’m hoping for at least a trip to the World Series. We have higher expectations now. I hope they keep on moving forward.” – Jim Brucati, San Carlos

“I expect for them to do very well and give Timmy Lincecum more support.” – Laval Shivers (lemonade vendor), San Francisco

“They’re gonna win the World Series, because they’re good.” – Owen Troy (11 years old), Menlo Park

Batter up!

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