Aubrey Huff

Who says Giants fans are soft?

They say fans at AT&T aren’t real fans. Too casual. Too rich. Too interested in their smartphones, Cha Cha Bowls, Build-A-Bears and kiss-cams. And sometimes that’s true, as anybody who’s sat in the lower boxes and been asked to, “Sit down so we can see the game too,” can attest.

Then there are moments when you can’t question the devotion, volume and downright craziness of San Francisco Giants fans. Last weekend’s series at Petco was one of those times. Forgive me for getting all pragmatic and stuff, but in this economy, when all of us know at least a dozen people who are looking for work to no avail, how much sense does it make to drop hundreds of dollars to travel 500 miles or so via plane, train or automobile (well, plane or car, anyway, until that high-speed rail pipe dream comes to pass) to spend money on food, Padres/Giants tickets, hotel rooms and alcohol (not necessarily in that order)? For irrational, passionate Giants fans, it made a ton of sense, and it gave the Giants a home-away-from-home advantage they won’t soon forget.

The Giants aren’t that good at attracting free agents, but they’re good at keeping their own. Nobody wants to leave the franchise once they finally resign themselves to playing in harsh, non-tropical temperatures from time to time, and while that’s in large part due to the decent paychecks and cushy front office gigs Larry Baer and co. have been handing out over the years, it’s also because the hardcore fans who populated Candlestick still exist, and they’ve taught their children well.

How else to explain the revolution that occurred in San Diego? Those weren’t a bunch of doctors and lawyers with money and time to kill who made the trek. Those were college kids and entry-level working stiffs, mostly. Otherwise the cheers for Buster Posey’s homer yesterday wouldn’t have been nearly as loud. And if I could feel the energy through my television as a vocal majority of Giants supporters rocked Petco, how do you think the Giants themselves felt? I’m no psychologist, but that dugout was, in northern California parlance, STOKED. The Giants’ fans had already made their presence felt all weekend to the point where Heath Bell was openly wondering whether Padres fans give a crap, and all the arms raised after Posey’s shot off the Padres’ resident villain, Mat Latos, proved that the Padres are just a diversion for their fans. For the fans who spent all that money and time, rooting for the Giants is a lifestyle.

Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell aren’t talking about joining the Yankees or the Braves next season, I can assure you.

It helps when the Freaky Franchise pitches more like the second part of his name than a bastardized version of the first — if that makes sense. The only thing “Freaky” about Lincecum two weeks ago was how all those sweaty strands of hair stuck to his face. Now he’s placing his fastball, which makes his breaking pitches look unhittable again.

It goes both ways. If the Giants didn’t show the fight they have this season, most fans would be content to confine their live baseball watching to bobblehead days and nights at AT&T. But the team’s fighting ways wouldn’t exist without two things: the right mix of players, and a fanbase that pushes the action during the game like human greenies. Outfielders HATE coming to AT&T due to the rudeness displayed by bleacher patrons. Latos almost lost it yesterday, and that was surely in part to the heckling he heard at his own home park. I’m sure at least a couple fans wearing black and orange yelled lines about that baseball he hurled out of the stadium and into the sunroof of Dave Flemming’s Honda Civic, and Latos is just the type of guy who’d lose focus after hearing those types of unfriendly phrases. At least I’d like to think he is, anyway.

So to the fans who made the trip, much respect. If this area wants to become a player in the pro sports world again, apathy from the people paying for tickets, souvenirs and garlic fries isn’t going to do it. Sitting back and waiting for good things to happen is what losers (and fans of losers) do. Spurring the Giants on with your dollars and your vocal cords on enemy turf (as much as San Diego could be considered as such) was in large part why they’re in a virtual tie for first place tonight. Maybe the Giants will repay their fans and let everyone get a bobble-head next year.

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