Giants fans flood AT&T Park for annual Fan Fest

AT&T Park opened its gates Saturday to waves of Black and Orange fanatics hungry for another season of baseball.

Decked out all flavors of Giants gear, and touting signs honoring their favorite San Francisco players, thousands of supporters flocked to the free Fan Fest held each year as the official pre-beginning to the baseball season.

Fans lining up circled around the block at both the 2nd and 3rd Street entrances to the ballpark, with many excited to get back to the place they enjoy as their second home to meet the 2017 Giants squad.

Thousands of fans attended the Giants Fan Fest at AT&T Park on Feb. 11, 2017.

The free annual event — with $10 charged for parking — allows Giants fans access they normally could only dream of. Fans get the chance to meet and get autographs from their favorite players, walk entirely around the stadium, participate in games, walk or play catch on the field. Fans are even allowed to enter some of the ballpark’s more sacred areas, like the dugout, clubhouse and press box.

Giants legend and steroid-era superstar Barry Bonds signs autographs outside of the Giants Fan Fest at AT&T Park on Feb. 11, 2017.

Fans could also visit areas they might have known existed, like fresh fruits and vegetables growing in “The Garden”  right behind the center field wall.

Many Giants players were in attendance for Fan Fest, while notable absences included Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto. Cueto is getting ready to represent his home country, the Dominican Republic, in the World Baseball Classic beginning March 9 in Miami.

Fan Fest gives fans like Adam Grounds, 33, the opportunity to create lasting memories with their families. Grounds, a first-time Fan Fest attendee and Monterey resident, has been a fan of Giants fan since he was a kid. Grounds brought his family and his two-year-old son to share the Giants experience:

“This is my first year … We been trying to plan it last three years it just never happened since we had a baby but this year he could handle it, so we drove down to share the experience. We had a good time.”

With so many fans turning out, long lines were the theme of the day. Autograph lines stretched all the way around the Promenade level, and signs told fans how long the wait was from that point.

The long lines for players might deterred some, but five-time veteran attendee Judy Morales of Santa Rosa came with a game plan: Leave at 3 a.m. so they can be in line at 5 a.m. Morales’ plan was successful — she was able to meet and get a picture with Hunter Pence:

“We are huge fan of the Giants and the organization we love coming here … I was so happy to meet Hunter Pence he is awesome I ran up to him and got a picture so it was worth leaving early.”

Fans willing to wait to tour the clubhouse scored a rare opportunity to visit where the team prepares for battle. Linda Pereira, 66, from Fresno was among those willing to wait:

“It was great, I loved it but it was a huge line … But It was a one in a lifetime experience.”

A highlight of the afternoon came when first baseman Brandon Belt, second base Joe Panik, and shortstop Brandon Crawford  took KNBR broadcast stage.

A fan draped in Dodger blue walked down the stadium aisle towards the stage and was greeted with loud boos, prompting Brandon Crawford to say “he did that on purpose.”

Fans willing to keep the Black and Orange wave going can look forward to the Giants starting Spring Training in Scottsdale, Ariz., beginning Friday, Feb. 24.