Slumber party attracts veterans, rookies

Slumber party attracts veterans, rookies

SAN FRANCISCO -- For Giants fan John Castillo, there was no better way to spend his birthday than traveling all the way from Los Angeles to sleep outdoors in the chilly and damp San Francisco night air.

He wasn't camped out on the hard concrete of Market Street, though; he was happily set up with wife Jasmine and their three children in left-center field at SBC Park, not far from where Moises Alou had been making catches just a few hours earlier.

The Castillo family joined more than 200 other Giants fans at the third annual SBC Giants Slumber Party on Thursday night, getting the chance to erect a tent on the field and enjoy a night of movies, food, games, goodies and fun.

"It's my birthday [Friday], and this is kind of my little birthday treat for everybody, all the way from LA," said Castillo, the self-proclaimed "biggest Giants fan in LA."

In fact, it was Castillo's first time visiting SBC Park, having not seen the Giants play in San Francisco since the final game at Candlestick Park in 1999. The family's slumber party admission included tickets to the Giants' Thursday game vs. the Diamondbacks, and they also planned to attend the Bay Bridge Series game in Oakland on Friday night.

"I'm excited, and the kids are excited," said Jasmine Castillo, as the family posed for pictures with Lou Seal while waiting for the field to open postgame. "I can't wait to pitch that tent and freeze our butts off tonight."

Indeed, the weather was typically San Francisco -- mid-50s, with moisture in the air at the bayside ballpark.

Two years ago, at the first slumber party, fans were treated to an extraordinarily warm night, with the temperature registering 77 degrees at midnight.

Fan Chris Finn fondly remembered playing Frisbee in swimming trunks that night, but even after last year's more normal chill, the Santa Cruz resident was back for his third overnight sleepover at the ballpark.

"The first two times were awesome," said Finn, who again brought son Matthew with him. "I never really got the experience [before this] of being that close to Major League Baseball, standing on the field, seeing how large it is, how flat it is, how clean it is."

While this year's slumber party featured many more tents than previous campouts, including one gargantuan four-room, 11-person number the size of a large SUV, several fans got to spend the night in high style. McRoskey Mattress Company gave away three mattresses via a raffle from among those who could toss their official slumber party Frisbee onto a designated mattress. The winners -- including a lucky Finn -- had the option to spend the night on their new mattresses.

New for this year's slumber party: an SBC FreedomLink Wi-Fi tent, offering campers the chance to check e-mail and surf the Web via the ballpark's high-speed wireless network. One young fan eagerly composed an e-mail to friends about how he got to sit in the Giants dugout and that the first movie to be shown on the Astrovision screen would be "The Incredibles."

While many fans enjoyed the movies -- the midnight feature was "Little Big League" -- and gorged on Amici's pizza, popcorn, peanuts, licorice, ice cream, soda, hot chocolate and coffee, plenty enjoyed the numerous games set up along the warning track, including air hockey, a batting cage and a PlayStation terminal.

Many others were perfectly content just to play catch well into the night in the same area where the likes of Jason Ellison and Todd Linden roam during games. Some, like Castillo, got a particular kick out of being able to use the players' bathrooms in the dugouts.

The Giants also gave away perhaps their best collection of "party favors" yet, a drawstring camping bag crammed with such items as a blanket, toothbrush, flashlight, water bottle, disposable camera, eye mask and earplugs.

Celebrity attendees included three-year slumber party veteran and Giants flagship station KNBR host Ralph Barbieri and his son, and former Giant F.P. Santangelo.

Campers could look forward to a hearty breakfast buffet after awaking to sunrise over the East Bay hills, one of Finn's favorite parts of the yearly event.

"It's kind of neat to wake up in the morning and see people stirring from their tents," said Finn. "The people are fantastic, the help was fantastic, the whole program was fantastic. I'm completely hooked, and I'll be here every year."

Chris Shuttlesworth is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.