SAN FRANCISCO -- The center field door opened. Out stepped Bruce Bochy, the Giants' manager. He was carrying the World Series trophy. Again. Over the past six months, Bochy has been pictured holding the gorgeous piece of hardware so often, he is getting embarrassed.
"To be honest, I tried to pawn it off today," Bochy said. "I offered money — to anybody. I feel like I'm ball-hogging it right now."
Ball hogging was allowed Friday afternoon at AT&T Park. So was flag-waving. Not to mention silver-streamer shooting.
I'm not certain when Opening Day ceremonies turned into such a spectacle, a cross between Cirque du Soleil and the Cooperstown community pageant. However, that's what sports fans seem to expect these days. Who are the Giants to argue? On Friday, they ordered up a fire department boat and the cast of "Jersey Boys." Apparently, the Blue Man Group was booked.
However, the men in Giants' uniforms, the ones at the heart of it all, were thinking mostly about the commemorative banner that was soon going to fly above right field, the one that said: "2012 World Series Champions."
Yes, a game was eventually played Friday. The Giants beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 1-0. But since this was the first time the Giants had officially played in the Bay Area since clinching the 2012 World Series title in Detroit, the commemoration was also in order. And enjoyed.
"They will remember this day the rest of their lives," Bochy said. "We all had chills, goose bumps. Some of the guys cried."
"A few guys had tears out there," confirmed third baseman Pablo Sandoval. "I'm not going to say who."
All right, so it will remain a mystery. There was another one, as well. The usual pregame jet flyover was nixed because of federal government sequestration cuts. Which was too bad, because I figured Brian Wilson, the bearded relief pitcher whose contract has expired and has not yet signed with any other team, might decide to parachute out of one jet into center field as a special surprise.
Instead, Wilson -- who raised the 2010 World Series banner two years ago -- apparently chose not to attend, although the Giants said he was invited. He missed Jon Miller, the Giants' radio announcer, serving as emcee when Bochy entered center field with the 2012 trophy and carried it to a podium near second base, where another podium already stood with the 2010 championship trophy.
The Giants' players were then individually introduced to great applause. They, trotted out the same outfield gate and through the gap between the two trophy podiums at second base before queuing up along the third base foul line. The National Anthem was warbled by the aforementioned Jersey Boys, followed by the ceremonial first pitch -- dual first pitches, actually, by Giants' postseason heroes Sandoval and Marco Scutaro.
A few minutes later, the Fire Department boat chugged from the Bay into McCovey Cove, displaying the championship banner across the bow. Of course, following harbor speed limits, the boat wasn't exactly zipping across the water so the crowd waited ... and waited ... and waited ... and waited for the boat to dock.
This had the effect of silencing the crowd. But finally, the ship reached the portwalk and a group of hand-picked loyal fans carried the banner through the right field arches into center field. Bochy and six other Giants — Angel Pagan, Sergio Romo, Hunter Pence, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong — took the banner. They walked up some temporary steps into the center field stands, through rows of fans, toward the flagpole.
"There were lots of high fives, lost of grabbing, lots of cheering and yelling," Romo said. "You know, they wanted to be a part of it. But I was really happy to be asked to do that. I felt like a little kid again. It was pretty sweet."
Once atop the concourse, the players' delegation clipped the flag to the flagpole halyard and took turns pulling the ropes to raise the banner. Romo, as the closer, took care of the last few feet. Apparently, the idea was to spread the celebration among as many players as possible, which is why Scutaro and Sandoval threw the first pitches and others took care of the banner. Buster Posey did neither, although he will be honored with more specific hoo-hah Saturday when he's presented his National League MVP award.
Posey does not strike me as a real hoo-hah kind of guy. But he seems cool with this weekend's folderol.
"I think you try to enjoy it as much as you can," Posey said, "because you don't know how many times you are ever going to experience something like that. I mean, in San Francisco we've seen a lot of great players come through here and not win a World Series."
Once the banner was flying, though, the day's best moment finally arrived. Pageantry is fine and all. But the best show at the ballpark is still a baseball hanging in the air with no one sure what to expect next. At 1:36 p.m., Giants pitcher Barry Zito took the mound. Cardinals' leadoff hitter Jon Jay stepped into the batters' box. And baseball happened. Bochy was happy to see that, too. The elaborate ceremonies had forced him to walk back and forth across the outfield twice on his bum wheels.
"I've got to go ice my knee," Bochy joked.
He's got a full year to rehab for another trophy stroll.