LIVERMORE -- Proudly sporting his San Francisco Giants' gear, lifelong fan Giovanni Vidal couldn't miss the chance to have his sons' pictures taken with their favorite team's World Series trophies.
He arrived at the Robert Livermore Community Center before 5 a.m. Saturday, ensuring he was first in line for the Giants' Trophy Tour stop in his hometown.
"It's for these guys, so they have something down the road," Vidal said. "It's just part of being a Giants' fan. It's a tradition that comes once in a lifetime."
Vidal was one of an estimated 1,500 diehard East Bay fans who took advantage of a rare opportunity to see and be seen with the 2010 and 2012 Major League Baseball Commissioner's trophies. A long line of Giants' faithful, most of them decked out in orange-and-black jerseys, caps and jackets, waited for hours to be photographed with the hardware.
Patty Stowers of Livermore, who had stood in line since before dawn, was among the tour's first group. After finally seeing the polished Tiffany and Co.-crafted trophies up close, she found them well worth the wait.
"They're beautiful," she said. "It was like a lifelong dream; finally it just really happened. My heart's beating a little bit faster now... I don't want to leave."
The Livermore visit was the last East Bay stop on the tour which will hit 35 cities and communities by opening day. While most attendees were locals, others who had missed previous stops made the drive out. Jacqueline Matagulay from Sunnyvale visited with her sister, and was thrilled to have her picture taken with not one, but two trophies.
"I didn't go to the last tour so that's why we were excited this year," she said. "As soon as my sister said they were coming, I said we'll be there."
Although San Ramon resident Sarina Aliquo works at AT&T Park, the Giants' home, she couldn't resist getting up bright and early to show her support on Saturday.
"I'd seen the 2010 (trophy) but I hadn't seen the 2012 one," she said. "It's an amazing experience and I wouldn't have missed it for the world."
Besides being a way for the Giants to thank their fans, the tour served to promote the Junior Giants, a free baseball program for underprivileged children. Cities with Junior Giants leagues, including Livermore, were eligible for a stop. Junior Giants' coordinator Nicole Zongus said. In addition to teaching baseball, the program focuses on character development and enrichment in education, health, and violence prevention.
"We use baseball as the hook to teach these life lessons and build self-esteem," Zongus said. "(The tour) has been great because it brings awareness of the Junior Giants program and it ties in the trophies as a bigger team effort."
Though viewing the trophies was free, organizers took donations for the Junior Giants, to go toward equipment and field maintenance. Livermore Junior Giants commissioner Vicki Wiedenfeld said attendees were "generous," and that the event generated awareness from parents and children who didn't know Livermore offered the program.
To fit in as many fans in as possible, the trophies remained an extra hour beyond the scheduled 1 p.m. end time. Livermore Area Recreation and Parks Department's recreation division manager Jim Carlson said crowds exceeded expectations, bringing the center and the LARPD some much-needed exposure.
"Its good to see the fanbase is that strong in the East Bay and people really want to come out and see the Giants," he said. "It means a lot to the Junior Giants program and the recreation and parks department in that we got to reach out to the community."
Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.
For a list of remaining trophy tour stops. visit: http://atmlb.com/W0o3he
JOIN THE JUNIOR GIANTS
The San Francisco Giants and the Livermore Area Recreation and Parks Department partner to offer the Junior Giants league, a program allowing less fortunate children to play baseball for free. Signups are in May, and the eight-week season runs from June to August. Besides funding for field maintenance and equipment, the league is in need of volunteers. For details, contact Vicki Wiedenfeld at 925-373-5709 or email@example.com. Players may also sign up online at jrgiants.org.
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