By Jessica Mendoza
Photos by Gabriella Gamboa
It’s a cloudy morning in San Francisco. Crowds of people gather towards China Basin. The World Champs, San Francisco Giants, have come back to AT&T ballpark.
The blue, red, and white Major League Baseball banners, annually displayed on every Opening Day, line the entrance to the ballpark. The smell of garlic fries and hot dogs cooking intoxicate the ballpark air. Enthusiastic Giants fans prepare themselves as they wait outside for the gates to open.
Out the four main gates, a couple of Giants fans anxiously wait outside of the Marina gate. The Miranda family, Marc, Jeanne and their son Marc Jr. along with fellow “Bleacher Bums” Alex Patino and Easley Wong, stand in line as they wait for the gates to open. Marc opens his bag and takes his glove out. Easley, also known as Eaz, already has his on. The security guards open the gates.
Marc Jr. and Eaz dash to the bleachers. They’re on a mission to catch as many fly balls as possible during batting practice. Marc stands on top of the bleachers and Eaz is close by.
While they’re trying to catch fly balls, the ballpark ushers greet them. They’re laughing and high-fiving each other like they’re friends.
Marc Jr. and Eaz, along with Marc Jr. parents, Jeanne and Marc Sr., and Alex are all part of an infamous group known as the Bleacher Bums. The Bleacher Bums are a group of twenty Giants fans that live and breathe black and orange all day.
They’re not your typical Giants fans. They’re loud and heckle the visiting team.They have their own Facebook page. On the page, their motto is “FUCK THE DODGERS AND EVERY OTHER TEAM EXCEPT THE GIANTS! LET’SS GOOOO”. Their religious views are bleachers. Their occupation is catching homerun baseballs. They shared some camera time on television when they catch home-run balls. But underneath the black and orange, the Bleacher Bums has grown as a family throughout the years at the ballpark.
From the Stick to China Basin
Before they formed the Bleacher Bums and took over section 139 at AT&T Park, they supported the Giants during the good old days back at Candlestick Park (referred to by locals as “The Stick”).
“I’ll be freezing my butt off at the Stick,” says Eaz describing what it was like sitting at the Stick. The old park is known as a wind tunnel. Before the game, most of them would bundle up with layers of jackets to keep themselves warm during the games.
When Marc Jr. was a child, his parents, Marc and Jeanne would take him to games at the Stick. They weren’t season ticket holders at the time.
“You don’t need season tickets at the Stick!” jokes Marc about attending games over there, commenting on how low ticket prices used to be.
They didn’t know each other until the Giants made the move to China Basin in 2000. The group began to form over at AT&T Park.
“Some of us met at the ballpark,” says Marc Jr. “As the season went on we gradually met and sat around each other in the bleachers.”
They sat in section 138 and 139 located in the left field. After getting to know each other and bonding together over their shared love for the two-time World Champs, they decided to come together and agreed to call themselves the Bleacher Bums.
“We all came up with the name,” say Marc Jr. about coming up with the game for the group.
They go to almost every game in the season. Some of the members, Marc Jr. has even skip school to go to the ballpark.
They travel from other parts of the Bay Area, like the East Bay, to come see the Giants games.
High up in the air and it is…GONE!!!
The sun is out and the clouds drifts away to make a clear blue sky. The Giants are done with batting practice, so it the visiting team comes out on to the field to practice. Marc Sr. stands on the bleachers as he looks up for any fly balls coming towards his direction. He raises his arm and covers his eye from the glare of the sunlight. He’s wearing sunglasses. Someone from the crowd yells “Here it comes” a group of people looks up at the sky. They hurdle into a pile. Marc jumps in the crowd. He stares up and lifts up his glove in the air. SMACK! The ball lands inside in his glove. The crowd cheers and gives him high-fives for his astonishing catch.
Before the game, the pre-game ritual is trying to catch baseballs during batting practice. The Bleacher Bums love to catch the fly balls during batting practice. In way it’s like a game, where they stand in the bleachers and their goal is to catch as many authentic baseballs. They usually stand up on top of the bleachers waiting for a fly ball to come toward them. As they wait for a ball to come to their direction, some of them socialize with each other and other Giants fans. Marc talks to random people and shakes hands with one the ballpark employees. They don’t like to talk much during the batting practice as they focus all their attention is on grabbing a souvenir.
“Its competition with other fans.” say Marc Jr. about the batting practice.
The Bleacher Bums main competition is the Giants fans in section 138. However, they don’t see it as competition.
Fellow Bleacher Bum Jeanne is the only female with baseball glove during the batting practice. She says they other fans in section 138 try to make it in contest but it’s all for fun.
When it comes to catching fly ball, some like Marc Jr and Eaz, use baseball gloves to get hold of a baseball.
“My glove is my contraption,” says Eaz when it comes to catching fly balls.
However, some, like Alex, are creative ways seize a baseball. Alex create “ball catchers”, instead of using the traditional glove. Alex made his with a helmet-shaped medal with orange jump straps. He has a glove but he uses his ball catcher to grasp balls lying on the “warning track”. He chases after a fly ball outside their bleacher, in section 140. He dashes to the area where a ball crashed. Sadly, he didn’t get a hold of it. It’s a trill activity, but a dangerous one.
“I got hit on the mouth with a ball,” says Jeanne. She has a small scar on her upper lip. She still participates, despite being smacked by the ball. She had to get thirty stitches on her mouth.
Batting practice isn’t the only time the Bleacher Bums go after fly balls. They also collect home-run baseballs. When someone hits one out of the ballpark, the balls either fly over the right field and hit the water, or go to the left field toward the bleachers, where they can be caught.
Between the fly balls and home-runs, it’s hard for them to keep track on how many baseballs they’ve collected over the years.
“I have a ton of shoe boxes filled with the baseballs,” says Eaz about his collection. Between home-runs balls and fly balls, it’s hard to keep track of how many baseballs that they’ve collected over the years.
There so many they can’t remember the total of baseballs.
No Bandwagon Fans Allowed!!
The Bleacher Bums are welcoming to fellow Giants fans. During the batting practice, they’re friendly and joke around, as long as you’re not a bandwagoner.
According to the Urban dictionary, a bandwagoner is someone “who claims to be a fan of a particular sports team even though they had no prior support/ interest in the team until the team starting winning.” So, if someone who claims to be a Giants fan and they followed them since 2010, they’re a band wagoner.
“I hate bandwagoners,” says Marc Jr. about bandwagoners, he goes on and says you tell who is a bandwagoner by the way they dress and expressions during the game. According to Marc Jr., a perfect example of bandwagoner is the games, like Opening Day and Dodgers, are the only ones.
“They don’t know anything about the Giants,” says Eaz, “They act like Giants fans but they’re not.”
The Bleacher Bums have stuck by the Giants through the ups and downs.
Time to hit the road with the Giants
When the Giants are on the road, the Bleacher Bums will follow them. Last year, the Bleacher Bums travel to the Windy City, Chicago, when the Giants played against the Chicago Cubs in the summer.
“It was great experience, says Marc Jr, “It was a nice stadium.”
They shared a few moments on the television when they’re spotted by the Giants broadcasters.
Besides Chicago, they took a trip to Anaheim when the Giants were up against the other LA team, the Angels.
Most of the time, they travel to southern California when the Giants play against the San Diego Padres and their rivals the Dodgers.
At Petco ballpark, there are more Giants fans than Padres fans as you watch on TV when the Giants are there, the seats are fill with people dress in orange and black. You may spot a group of Giants fans and about three Padres sitting next to each other.
“Petco pack is a poor man’s AT&T ballpark,” says Eaz as he describes the Padres ballpark. When they go to the games in San Diego, they tried to find seats so they can sit together.
The next huge trip for the Bleacher Bums is hitting the Big Apple. In September, they’re planning to go see the Giants as they face against the Mets and the most-anticipation game of the season, the Yankees.
Don’t diss the Home-Run King
Despite being accused of steroid use and battling in the courts, Barry Bonds is still the most beloved player who ever wore the black and orange uniform…to the Bleacher Bums.
“I love Barry Bonds,” says Marc Jr, who still wears his white jersey with the number 25 on the back. Marc Jr. loves the home-run slugger and follows him throughout his career. He has Bonds posses 746 home-run ball.
“I’ve been following him since I was a kid” Marc Jr. goes on about his favorite baseball of all time, “He use to sign autographs for me all the time.”
Despite Barry Bonds setbacks after he broke the record, including Bonds legal woes about the use of steroids, they still believe Bonds is one of the greatest players of all times.
“He’s one of the best players,” expresses Eaz about the home-run king who didn’t voted in this year’s Hall-Of-Fame ballots.
It’s been about five years since Barry Bonds broke the homerun record and was crowned the Home-Run King, Marc and the rest of the group still support the slugger.
Baseball bring people together
Since the Bleacher Bums have occupiedok section 139, it’s no surprise the ballpark employees know them. As the years pass, The Bleacher Bums has developed relationships with a few of the ballpark employees. As they talk to the Bleacher Bums before, during and after the game. The Bleacher Bums and ballpark employees are on a first name basis. During the batting practice, a few ballpark employees have come up to them and chat for while.
One former Giants employee says he meet the Bleacher Bums for a few years. The former employees “I saw them often at games,” says the former usher about meeting the group. He goes on and says, “along with the rest of the Bleacher Bums.”
While, there of the Bleacher Bums get along with the employees, some of the Bleacher Bums have got in trouble in the past. According to some of the Bleacher Bums, Alex was suspended for a few months after an altercation with an usher. But Alex says, in his defense, he kicked out for “being buff.”
What happens during the off season?
Hall-of-Famer Rodgers Hornsby said, “People ask me what I do in the winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”
However for the Bleacher Bums when it comes to the offseason, they stare at the TV and watch ESPN or MLB Network.
During thelong winter season, they keep track of what happen to their beloved Giants.
“We’ll post stuff on Facebook and talk about it,” say Eaz about the Giants made a huge trades or signs from a popular free agent.
As for the other teams, including the Dodgers, they could care less about “those bums” (referring to the Dodgers money making deals during the offseason) .
When baseball season ends, most of them hang out, but not as often. Most of the members live in different parts of the Bay Area. Sometimes the younger Bleacher Bums, like Marc and Alex go to Forty-Niners and Warriors games. Sometimes they play basketball together.
Some like Jeanne and Marc Sr. stay busy with their jobs during the off season. They work in a real estate business in the Bay Area.
Since the Giants open the new stadium in 2000, the Bleacher Bums have become more than a group, they become more like fun. Their love baseball and Giants has brought them together. They poke fun of each other.
The Bleacher Bums aren’t like other Giants fans. They’re passion for the Giants runs deep in their core. They take games serious like the Giants do. They stand by and support the Giants.
“We’ve been there so long as a group we just became great friends I think that’s what seperates us from other fans were a group of true fans” explains Marc Jr.
As times has change, players come and go, but the Bleacher Bums are here to stay.