I vividly remember the extensive herds of people outside AT&T Park on the dark, cold night of October 8th, 2010. Even at eight years old, I could sense something different about the atmosphere.
My mom and I had gone to countless ball games the prior years, including the last two Opening Days, but none of them compared to what it felt like making the seemingly endless trek up the spiraling foot ramp to the upper deck.
The San Francisco Giants had been bad. Since their last playoff run in 2003, they had lost more games then they won in four of the last six seasons and failed to reach the postseason in every one of those years.
Things slowly began to turn around when manager Felipe Alou, fan-favorite former outfielder for the Giants, had been fired in 2006. His replacement was Bruce Bochy, an incredibly sharp, yet slow-speaking former catcher whose knees looked like they could collapse under him at any moment.
The team slowly improved, moving away from the toxic locker room culture that was created by the Barry Bonds era. Unlikely stars like Juan Uribe, Freddy Sanchez, Andres Torres and most of all Tim Lincecum began springing up everywhere.
Another previously unheard of hero from the 2010 team, Jonathan Sanchez, had thrown a no-hitter the year prior, a game I attended. Watching all of these players who were quickly dismissed in their early years was unique for me and many other young Giants fans.
While supporters of the Yankees or Cardinals grew up with their team spending massive amounts of money on big-name free agents and winning championship after championship, we grew up watching home-grown nobodies.
2010 is proof that anybody can make something out of nothing. Dubbed “a band of misfits”, they did not dominate their competition. They won many close games centered around pitching and manufacturing runs through sacrifice flies, bunts and situational hitting.
After sneaking into the playoffs by punching their ticket on the final day of the season, the Giants were set to face the Atlanta Braves in the League Division Series.
My mom and I had purchased tickets to game two. I had always assumed we would win and everything would turn out fine just like the Pixar movies I idolized at the time.
Things were looking up when we took a 4-1 lead into the eighth inning. However, Atlanta came back to tie the game and send it into extra innings. In the top of the 11th, Rick Ankiel stepped up and hit a line-drive over the bricks in right field.
Stunned silence overcame the crowd. I remember watching that glowing white baseball just clear the fence. I shared a feeling of helplessness with 40,000 other people. Little did I know at the time, they had gone through moments like these almost every instance the Giants made the playoffs.
In 2002, when they were just one win away from winning it all, the Angles broke their hearts. Or in 1989 the Oakland Athletics swept them away in the World Series. They felt this pain again in 1997 when the Marlins dominated their way to a sweep in the NLDS.
Giants fans had almost seen it all, from the ugly, 100-loss teams to the heart-wrenching playoff defeats, all while they sold out almost every home game. They had not seen a World Series title since the team moved to the city in 1958. My mom followed them all those years.
San Francisco went on to lose the game against the Braves 5-4. It brought my expectations back to reality, and I learned that sports operate cruelly. They do not discriminate or favor one team. It is not like the movies where the good team always beats the bad guys. With that in mind, I could appreciate what came next more then I would have if they won game two.
The Giants beat Atlanta two more times to go to the National League Championship Series. There, they were again expected to fail against the powerhouse Phillies. San Francisco beat them in six games to head to the World Series.
I do not remember those final games against the Rangers as well. It did not matter as I had learned all I could from that team. We won in five games.
Through all the triumph and victory in that season, the game I had learned the most from was the loss.