09/11/2002 4:31 pm ET
Giants fans, players seek healing
By Josh Rawitch / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Early Wednesday morning, the voice of President George W. Bush could be heard on a television in the clubhouse over the background music of Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind" on another nearby set. It was a year ago today that baseball fans learned -- many of them for the first time -- that their favorite players were just as human and probably not quite as heroic as their local firefighters.
"I think it's good that one year later, everything is kind of going full steam ahead, and even though we will stop and think about the victims, I think it says a lot about the country," said third baseman David Bell.
"To be honest with you, I think it's something that people handle in their own way and I don't think anyone can tell someone else how they should handle it or how they should feel. There are some people who will use this time for quiet reflection and some others who may love to come to a baseball game and want to be around 50,000 people."
Among those that fit in the latter group were Fernando Escamilla and Kevin Kelly of nearby Hayward, Calif. The husband and wife, dressed in patriotic gear and carrying with them a blanket featuring the American flag, sat behind home plate for Wednesday's game against the Dodgers.
"At no point did I think not to come but ... I was a little bit hesitant," said Kelly. "But I haven't been willing to not do things I really wanted to do. ... We were here last year in the first game after Sept. 11 and it was so touching. To be with a big group of people that you're all together and feeling the same kind of sorrow, it was really healing for me."
Along with more than 40,000 fans, they stood during a pregame ceremony that began with the music from a bagpipe corps filling the ballpark. As an enormous flag was brought out to cover the entire outfield by local firefighters, police offers and volunteers, players and coaches from both teams emerged from their dugouts and circled outside of the infield. Gathering near the pitcher's mound were many family members of local victims of the terrorist attacks.
The flag was unfurled to the sound of Ray Charles' version of "America the Beautiful" and was followed by a moment of silence in memory of the victims, each of whom is named on a set of memorial banners outside the ballpark. On the opposite side of the park, in McCovey Cove, 10 white carnation wreaths were placed in the Bay by members of the S.F. Fire Department.
The ceremonial first pitch was not thrown, instead being placed on the mound by John Beaven, whose father was killed when one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center collapsed. The national anthem, too, was untraditional, as a pianist played a grand piano behind home plate while the sellout crowd sang along.
"For me, it's kind of mixed emotions," said Giants pitcher Russ Ortiz. "On one side, you can't help but feel grief and sadness for the ones that died and the lost family members. But then there's a sense of joy ... that we're able to be here to remember what went on and celebrate heroes."
Manager Dusty Baker spoke with Yankees skipper Joe Torre before the game and said the mood in New York was understandably sad. While Baker was concerned the overall feeling of grief could make it hard for either team to concentrate on baseball, he pointed out his team has a job to do.
"We're here to play ball," he said. "We're here to entertain and we're here to hopefully help people heal."
Escamilla, the fan, agrees but has his own take.
"I also look at this as an act of defiance," he said. "[We are] showing these people that they can't stop us. They never will."
Josh Rawitch covers the Giants for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.