Giants 2018 FanFest brings new faces, renewed hopes

Thousands of fans packed the field — yes, the field — of San Francisco’s AT&T Park Saturday.

The smells of garlic fries, popcorn and anticipation permeated the air inside the stadium as the Giants held their annual FanFest to celebrate the beginning of a new season. A fresh start.

Every returning player and fan certainly looking forward to the 2018 season, coming off a very disappointing 2017. On this warm, February day, everything from playoffs to a fourth Giants World Series title this decade seemed possible.

This excitement is due in large part to the fact that the Giants traded for 2013 National League MVP, outfielder Andrew McCutchen, and three-time American League All Star, third baseman Evan Longoria, this offseason.

Giants second baseman Joe Panik, heading into his fourth major league season, was still dazzled by the atmosphere. He talked about how he never went to a FanFest growing up in New York, but emphasized how those events were nothing like the spectacle of this one.

This FanFest is certainly an amazing event for Giants fans, offering them a unique opportunity to meet and receive autographs from their favorite players.

Giants outfielder Hunter Pence was just as ready to begin the season as any player looking to move on from the 98 loss 2017 campaign. He spoke of the additions to the team:

“It’s not just because we signed such a great person (in McCutchen) but you can feel (the anticipation), it’s just in (the air).”

Fans often place the brunt of the blame of bad campaigns on the team’s head coach or manager. Manager Bruce Bochy was hit with the questions about the disappointment last season right out of the gate.

His responds was directly to the point:

“We were a little ticked off after last season. We have some work to do in spring training … but we’re excited to start getting ready for this season.”

Like many odd-number years this decade, 2017 was a season marred by injuries. Key players, including ace Madison Bumgarner and first baseman Brandon Belt, spent time on the 60-Day Disabled List.

However, even-number years have been a different story for the Giants. Three of them ended in World Series parades down Market Street, and the fourth ended with a trip to the National League Division series, where the Giants fell just short to the eventual champion Chicago Cubs.

Rather than launch into a rebuild, San Francisco pulled the trigger on trading young, high-level prospects for the stars Longoria and McCutchen with a retooling mindset.

On a day with nearly as much fervor filling AT&T Park as opening day, not one person seemed to feel anything but optimism regarding the Giants’ offseason moves and resulting 2018 title odds.