Barber: The Giant of Levi’s Landing
SAN FRANCISCO - Scooter Gennett, the newest San Francisco Giant, has experienced a few things at AT&T/Oracle Park that he’d just as soon forget. Before Monday’s 4-0 loss to the Washington Nationals, Gennett’s home debut here, he talked about losing pop flies in the wind and stumbling over one of the infamous bullpen mounds to mess up another chance at an out.
He had at least one good memory, too: May 16, 2018, when he hit his only home run (so far) at the park at Third and King streets while playing for the Reds.
“And what’s crazy is there’s a gentleman that I met a few days before — I was going to the gas station to get some Gatorade and stuff,” Gennett recalled. “And you know, trench coat, on the street. And he came up to me, and he goes ‘You’re Scooter Gennett.’ I’m like, wow, it was kind of surprising that he knew me.”
The guy told Gennett that he goes to Giants games all the time, and watches through the fence behind Levi’s Landing in right field. Gennett said he’d hit him one. And in the seventh inning of Cincinnati’s 6-3 win a day or two later, the second baseman blasted a towering shot off the Giants’ Cody Gearrin.
“I look on the app and I see the highlight, and I see this guy running and getting the ball,” Gennett said. “And so I get off the bus (at the Reds’ team hotel) and he’s like, ‘I got your ball. You actually hit me a home run ball.’ So that was, you know, a special thing. What are the chances of that? It’s pretty amazing.”
Well, not really, as it turns out.
Less than an hour after speaking to Gennett with other reporters, I wandered out to the concourse along China Basin. I found a video of the 2018 home run on my phone, watched a man with scruffy hair chase down the ricocheting baseball. I approached a guy who was bouncing a baseball off the arcade and who looked roughly similar, showed him the image and asked, “Do you know this man?”
He took one look and said, “Oh, the Scooter Gennett home run.”
Brett Nance remembered the moment as vividly as Gennett did, though he altered some details. The player, he said, was hunting not Gatorade but (hide your eyes, kids) chewing tobacco. Nance hadn’t actually recognized Gennett during that initial encounter; a friend had tipped him off. Gennett had told writers that his ball tracker was known for jumping into McCovey Cove to retrieve balls; Nance said no, the only time he dunked himself was when Rockies slugger Larry Walker broke his game bat while messing around in right field before one game and, ticked off, hurled the entire piece of lumber over the stands and into the water.
Nance went after it. He hammed it up for photo crews, then started freezing and hauled himself out of the water. When he got out, he said, there were weird little worms all over his arms.
Gennett had ended the story by wondering, “Where is this guy keeping all these balls?”
Nance has kept many of them. But of the estimated 3,000 baseballs he has collected at games at Candlestick Park, the Oakland Coliseum and Oracle, he has lost possession of many. Some were stolen. Others he had to sell to stay fed.