Baseball From the Bay

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Doug Pensinger / Getty Images

With two World Series titles in the last three years and this month’s World Baseball Classic, San Francisco has undeniably become a baseball town. And whether you scored tickets to the game or not, AT&T Park has likewise blossomed into a tourist attraction all by itself. Located on an industrial waterfront area known as China Basin, the 13-year-old stadium offers scenic views – on both sides of its walls.

If you want to experience the thrills of the park while also taking in the natural wonders of the “city by the bay,” then consider renting a kayak and paddling into McCovey Cove, conveniently named after Hall of Fame first baseman (and NorCal legend) Willie McCovey.

The narrow waterway runs parallel to a promenade lining AT&T’s right-field wall. When balls inside the stadium are blasted over it, they land right in the water, earning the title “splash hit” from broadcasters and color commentators around the country. Paddlers of all kinds, some even armed with nets, compete for those rare prizes (there have been 62 to date), which are coveted by locals and collectors on the national scene alike.

Taking in games by kayak has become such a part of Giants lore that two members of the 2012 World Series roster, Brandon Belt and Madison Bumgarner, took out rentals to check out the experience firsthand. Bumgarner liked it so much that he returned the day before the World Series parade with his wife’s family. As for Belt, it seems only natural the slugger would want to survey the cove – he’s hit three balls into it to date. Only two other Giants have more: Pablo Sandoval (6) and all-time home run record holder Barry Bonds (35).

To get out on the water, rent a kayak, paddle, and life jacket from City Kayak, which is located on Pier 40 at South Beach Harbor. From the drop-in point, it’s about a 10-minute paddle south to McCovey, where you can relax, make new friends, and listen to the game on a boom box or headset. “I would recommend a loud radio, actually” says City Kayak owner Ted Choi. “Otherwise, you won’t be able to hear the plays over the roar of the crowd.”

Due to its lake-like conditions, McCovey is beginner-friendly, but inexperienced paddlers may want to opt for one of Choi’s guided tours, which come with hands-on instruction. For those looking to experience something more than just a ballgame, Choi recommends heading north for picturesque views of downtown. But greenhorns take note: Nighttime excursions require a guide: “It’s a big bay,” says Choi, “so you can just disappear.”

More information: Packages including a lesson, kayak rental, dry jacket, splash pants, dry bag, life jacket, paddle, and light stick start at $37.50.

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