SAN FRANCISCO -- Saturday's start against St. Louis will be a meaningful one for Ryan Vogelsong. Then again, each game he pitches at AT&T Park is a labor of love for him.
Since May 8, 2011, when Vogelsong worked 6 1/3 shutout innings against Colorado in his first home start as a Giant, he has drawn inspiration from the enthusiasm and energy of AT&T Park fans.
"I think my appreciation for them and their appreciation for me kind of feeds off each other," said Vogelsong, whose arduous climb from the depths of professional baseball has captured the imagination of legions of people. "There's definitely a connection between me and the crowd in San Francisco."
That bond formed almost instantly. Replacing an injured Barry Zito in San Francisco's rotation, Vogelsong received a noisy ovation upon being relieved from that Colorado game. When he removed his cap and held it aloft to return the fans' salute, the cheering grew even louder.
Vogelsong gets goosebumps even now when he recalls that experience.
"That's still one of the most special moments for me on a baseball field," he said. "It includes going to the World Series, being on the All-Star team, playing in the World Baseball Classic. That day -- it was Mother's Day -- that moment is vividly imprinted in my mind. The feeling and the crowd noise. [Given] the journey I had been on to that point, that was the pinnacle for me, to come off to a standing ovation like that. Obviously the story has gotten a lot better since then, but that tells you how special it was because it's still right in the front of my mind."
Vogelsong's wife, Nicole, felt the same way. She even had a painting done of Vogelsong doffing his cap on that afternoon. The artwork hangs in the family kitchen.
Vogelsong knows that no matter how a game at AT&T Park unfolds, he and his teammates can count on the crowd's support.
"That's one of the things that stands out to me about our fans," Vogelsong said. "Obviously, with good reason, Buster [Posey] gets the loudest cheers. But they cheer for the 25th guy off the bench as much as they do him. It really is about our team."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.