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Major weekend celebration awaits champs

Major weekend celebration awaits champs

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Major weekend celebration awaits champs
SAN FRANCISCO -- As the championship flag rises in the California sky and each ring finds a victor's finger, Giants players will recall the skill, effort and remarkable feats that made them World Series winners last year.

Brian Wilson will remember walking his dog.

Wilson and his pet were taking a stroll through San Francisco's Marina District in 2009 when a stranger approached him. The man had canceled his Giants season tickets, and felt compelled to share his frustration with Wilson, the Giants' closer.

"He told me how disappointed he was," Wilson related. "That's when I said, 'Sorry you feel that way. You might have just made the biggest mistake of your life -- because we have a nasty team.'"

As usual, Wilson was correct. Everlasting proof of his sound judgment will materialize during the Giants' first home series of the season, beginning on Friday at 1:35 p.m. PT against the St. Louis Cardinals. Win or lose, this will be a weekend like no other for the Giants, because it will celebrate a team like no other -- the first World Series winners of the franchise's 53 seasons in the "City by the Bay."

On Friday afternoon, the banner commemorating the five-game World Series triumph over the Texas Rangers will be hoisted proudly atop a flagpole.

Early Saturday evening, players, coaches and manager Bruce Bochy will receive their coveted World Series rings.

For good measure, catcher Buster Posey will receive his National League Rookie of the Year Award on Sunday.

Each game is sold out, and Giants management is encouraging fans to arrive at AT&T Park well before game time. Club officials have divulged few details about the festivities. Train -- the rock group hailing from San Francisco, whose current hit disc happens to be titled "Save Me San Francisco" -- will sing the national anthem on Friday. Sammy Hagar will perform the anthem on Saturday. And all five of the Giants' previous Rookie of the Year Award winners -- Willie Mays (1951), Orlando Cepeda ('58), Willie McCovey ('59), Gary Matthews ('73) and John Montefusco ('75) -- are expected to be on hand for Posey's ceremony.

Everything else will be a surprise.

"If it's anything like the World Series parade, I think we're in for something special," left-hander Javier Lopez said. "Obviously, the whole city really rallied around us. I think it's going to be more of that going on this weekend."

Opening Day promises to be a highly-emotional reunion for the Giants and their fans. Though the Nov. 3 parade gave an estimated 1 million spectators a chance to shower their appreciation upon the Giants, players and fans alike were mostly denied the shared euphoria of triumph because the club clinched all three postseason rounds on the road. The only chance to celebrate at AT&T Park came in the regular-season finale, when San Francisco clinched the NL West with a 3-0 decision over San Diego.

"Opening Day is for the entire community that came together, as a city that won it together," Wilson said. "There's no way you can win a ballgame without that kind of support -- rally towels, people going nuts."

How will players react as the championship flag is raised?

"Goosebumps," outfielder Aaron Rowand said.

What thoughts will spin through the Giants' heads?

"What a run we went on," Wilson said.

"You'll have 25 diffferent perspectives of the same moment," Lopez said.

"We're the champions," left-hander Jonathan Sanchez said.

As the starting pitcher for the home opener against St. Louis, Sanchez relishes the opportunity to affirm the Giants' status as baseball's kings.

"Everybody's going to be waiting for that flag to go up. It's something we've never seen before," Sanchez said. "I can't wait to pitch that game, because it'll be important for us."

The flag will fly for all to admire. But the rings will be intensely personal to each Giant receiving one.

"We're out there being presented to the world as the last team standing," Wilson said. "It's a moment you play baseball for."

Said Sanchez, "I can't wait for that day. I've been thinking about it since the day we won the World Series."

Made by Tiffany & Co., the rings will provide sparkling affirmation of a gem of a season.

"A lot of us have been asked, 'What was the offseason like, totally different?' And I would say, 'I don't know if I felt a whole lot different, because I don't have that ring,'" left-hander Jeremy Affeldt said. "It hasn't been handed to us yet. That will probably be the seal for us as saying, 'We're world champs,' when we have that ring. There's something tangible there. Just being told you're a champ, it feels good. But I don't think you actually fully grasp it until you have that ring. It's something you can actually look at and hold."

Most players have no idea how the rings look. That just whets their appetite.

"If you don't see it, you want to get it to see what it's like," Sanchez said.

The Giants know that dwelling on last year would be counterproductive to this year's efforts. This weekend could be useful in that respect, since its passage will force players to focus once and for all on the current campaign.

"I think both of those things will bring a little bit of closure of some stuff for us," Affeldt said, referring to the flag and ring ceremonies.

"It'll probably be another reminder of the accomplishment of what we did," Lopez said, summarizing the entire weekend. "A lot of guys, and I'm included, will tell you it's over with, and we've moved on. But when you can step back and see how the crowd's going to respond, and how the city itself is going to rally around it, you can step back and realize that we've done something special. And that's all the more reason to try to do it again."

Rowand, who experienced these festivities as a member of the World Series-winning 2005 Chicago White Sox, fully understands what's about to happen.

"It's the last time in any official capacity that you'll be brought back to last year. From then on, it's moving forward," Rowand said. "But it's neat. It's something special that the fans and everybody will find unique. Those fans are lucky to be witness to it."

As for the fan -- or ex-fan -- who approached Wilson and his dog two years ago, all is not lost. He can even get his season tickets back. But it may take a while. The Giants have created a waiting list for season-ticket requests, necessitated by the huge public demand.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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