Giants fans in midseason form at FanFest
Baer, Posey, Lincecum and more take part in Q&A session
By Chris Haft / MLB.com | 02/04/12 9:01 PM EST
SAN FRANCISCO -- As an estimated crowd of 36,000 celebrated Saturday's FanFest by collecting autographs, listening to their favorite players and gathering freebies, the best prize for Giants fans might have been Larry Baer's brief but telling reminder.
During a question-and-answer session, the Giants' president and chief executive officer cited the seldom-repeated fact that the Giants will finish paying the debt service on AT&T Park in 2017.
"That should set ourselves up so we have a few resources. That'll be a good thing for the Giants," Baer said.
Baer didn't elaborate. He didn't have to. The promise of a financial windfall might enable the Giants to retain top pitchers Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain and prevent them from leaving as free agents, if they're willing to accept deferred payments or "backloaded" contracts that escalate in value toward the end of the deal.
Moreover, catcher Buster Posey and left-hander Madison Bumgarner will become eligible for free agency after the 2016 season, making the timing of the ballpark payoff especially fortunate for the Giants.
Outside, the sunny afternoon lent a regular-season atmosphere to the event, sponsored by flagship radio station KNBR 680 and presented by Hawaiian Airlines. As they do when Lincecum heads to the bullpen to warm up, fans broke into spontaneous applause when he emerged from a corridor behind home plate and strode toward the KNBR stage for an interview. Much of what Lincecum said was unintelligible over the public-address system, but it barely mattered. When KNBR host Brian Murphy ended a break by intoning, "Tim Lincecum's joining us here," the audience roared.
Among FanFest's most popular attractions was the question-and-answer period featuring Lincecum, Posey, first baseman Aubrey Huff and general manager Brian Sabean.
Spectators proved they were in midseason form. They booed lustily when a fan asked Posey what he thought of Scott Cousins, the Marlins outfielder who caused his extensive left leg injuries last May 25 in a home-plate collision. KNBR's Kate Scott, serving as moderator, skirted controversy by declaring, "Next question."
Later, more boos rang out at the mere mention of Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw, whom Huff named as the most challenging pitcher he has faced.
One fan had the temerity to ask Lincecum what team he'd like to play for if he weren't a Giant. The ensuing reaction bordered on riotous.
Dashes of humor sprinkled the session. Lincecum was asked how he felt after Posey sustained his season-ending injuries. Before Lincecum could respond, Posey stuck out his lower lip in a mock pout and Huff broke in by saying, "There goes the offense."
Asked how he has felt while refraining from drinking beer, Huff, who has redoubled his physical conditioning efforts, paused briefly before saying, "I don't know if I can answer that question, honestly."
Lincecum prompted laughs after being asked whether closer Brian Wilson tends to offer good advice. "He gives me plenty of good advice," Lincecum said. "I just won't share any of it with you guys."
One fan served up a State of the Union-style applause line by preceding a question with, "Mr. Sabean, I want to thank you for assembling this group."
Another fan provided an "awww" moment by asking Posey about his young twins. "They're lots of fun. Thanks for asking," Posey said.
Lincecum contributed to the "ball talk" with a refreshingly frank answer, naming Colorado's Todd Helton as the hitter who nags him most. "I don't think I've ever thrown a pitch past him. Everything's either a walk or a hit," Lincecum said. Indeed, Helton owns a .364 career batting average against Lincecum (12-for-33) with a 1.020 OPS.
And since the day was for the fans, Posey gave them a proper salute. Asked how it felt to be surrounded by adoring throngs, he said, "It's amazing. The intensity you guys bring us on a daily and nightly basis is unparalleled."