3/15/2013 11:25 P.M. ET
San Francisco prepping for World Baseball Classic
AT&T Park set to make additional history by hosting semifinals, championship
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Over the years since it opened in 2000, the bayside ballpark now known as AT&T Park has always expanded its horizons, hosting everything from college football and international soccer to monster trucks and rock concerts.
But this is a baseball venue, first and foremost, one that has been blessed with three World Series appearances by the Giants as well as the 2007 All-Star Game, all marquee events.
This weekend, AT&T Park will host another marquee baseball event, this time expanding the venue's horizons around the globe, as the World Baseball Classic semifinals and final come to the place that has seen so much already in its relatively short lifespan along McCovey Cove.
And the Giants are ready for the world to come to San Francisco, making final preparations on Friday as Japan and the Kingdom of Netherlands are due in Saturday for workouts in advance of the first semifinal on Sunday.
"There's something really special, obviously, about having a tournament like this that's kind of the ultimate celebration of baseball, which is what we built the park for," Giants senior vice president for facilities Alfonso Felder said. "We built it in the middle of the most international of cities, so this is something we're excited to be able to do."
Two-time defending Classic champion Japan and the Kingdom of the Netherlands already qualified for the final foursome that will play at AT&T Park. They are awaiting the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, a 4-3 victor over Team USA in Friday's Group 2 elimination game, for what will be three days of international competition in one of America's most cosmopolitan cities. Once the undefeated Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico settle Group 2 seeding with a game on Saturday afternoon in Miami, the matchups will be set.
Play will begin on Sunday at 6 p.m. PT with Japan playing in the first semifinal against the runner-up from Group 2, followed on Monday at 6 p.m. PT by Netherlands taking on the winner of Group 2. The winners will meet in the final on Tuesday at 5 p.m. PT. Tickets are still available for all three games.
When international baseball makes its mark on AT&T Park's storied history, it will be right at home in a place that was meant to host just this sort of event.
"I think it was always our goal from the beginning to have a venue that was well-suited to host international events, whether it be a baseball game or any other kind of event that you'd want to put in a showcase facility," Felder said. "We've been fortunate to be able to do that, through the great performance of our team going to the World Series three times."
Preparing to host a four-team tournament is a little different then preparing to be the home park for the defending World Series champions, and AT&T Park is definitely taking on an altered appearance from what was last seen for Game 2 of the World Series, the final home game during the Giants' sweep of the Tigers.
The outfield wall, usually green, is a brilliant blue with the four-color World Baseball Classic logo dotted across the wall. The logo is on the field, "World Baseball Classic" is painted in a semi-circle behind home plate, and the bunting that goes along with a big baseball event is the rainbow colors of the tournament. Workers were scrubbing down the seating area while flags of the nations in the tournament were placed around the outfield in preparation for pregame ceremonies.
The idea of having the event in San Francisco, which started with the Giants hosting first-round games at Scottsdale Stadium in 2006, is within hours of coming to fruition.
Already, a history that goes beyond Giants games has been established with football games such as the annual Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl and the 2011 home schedule of the Cal Bears. There has been the Icer Air ski-jumping show, concerts featuring the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Green Day and Paul McCartney, and performances by the San Francisco Opera.
And, of course, there have been the World Series games, the All-Star Game and hundreds of Giants regular-season contests.
"We've had the good fortune of being able to do all these great events here and really put the venue on the map, and very quickly give it a history and establish a real soul to the place," Felder said.
And now this, a worldwide spectacle of the sport called the World Baseball Classic, making itself at home at AT&T Park and adding to the history of what truly has become a versatile venue in an international city.
"Once you have that history, you want to make sure and build upon it, and I think that's what this event will do," Felder said. "The more history you have, the more you want to build history."
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.