A Giant passion | TahoeDailyTribune.com

A Giant passion

After spending 10 years working for the San Francisco Giants, South Lake Tahoe resident Pat Oliveira may be hanging up her professional ball glove title permanently but not her love and spirit for the team she grew up with.

The 29-year South Shore resident spent the past decade as a member of the San Francisco Giants coveted Guest Services Department, where it was her job to make sure that baseball fans would have a memorable time at the ballgame.

Oliveira got the job by pure chance, she’ll tell you. But to know Oliveira is to understand why a chance meeting with a San Francisco Giants’ director led to a job that many only dream of having.

You see, Oliveira is passionate about the San Francisco Giants. She knows every player, every statistic, every memorable home run, base hit, division clincher — having just added Saturday’s wild-card clincher — and every questionable umpire call.

That passion is what impressed the director, whom Oliveira explained had called her into her office after a brief meeting and offered her a job with Guest Services.

“I was completely surprised because I had not gone in looking for a job. I just wanted to talk about the Giants with someone from Guest Services,” she recalls. The director said, ‘This is what I’d like you to do,’ and I said ‘Fantastic! When do I start?'”

Oliveira would start in the 1992 season. She described her job as trouble-shooting and problem-solving. It was doing everything from helping parents find lost children, to helping children find lost jackets, to supervising entire areas of both Candlestick and Pacific Bell parks.

“It was an extremely satisfying job because it was my responsibility to see to it that everyone there had a good time,” she said. “And the thing I will always remember most is to see the faces of people, especially kids, light up as they come into the ballpark. It’s as though when they walk into the ballpark, they are walking into another world.”

In a sense, Oliveira picked up a legacy handed down to her from her grandfather.

As a lifelong Giants’ fan, her grandfather took her to the first baseball game played at Candlestick Park on April 12, 1960.

“We visited the Giants’ clubhouse and locker room before that first-ever game,” she said. “I touched Willie Mays’ glove, sat on the dugout bench and then taking my imaginary home run swing, I began a trot around those bases,” she said of that cool San Francisco day at the new ball field. “I have always known that I was the very first person to ever circle the bases at Candlestick Park.”

Ironically, Oliveira was the last person to run around the bases at Candlestick Park.

On Sept. 30, 1999, some 39 years after attending the first game at Candlestick — after all the fans had left for home — the grounds crew asked if she wanted to make a last run around the bases.

To explain: the last game was emotional and there was a sense that the last day was indeed historic. So Oliveira, who was always eager to help in anyway should could, walked down to the field after everyone had left and the only people remaining were groundskeepers.

Right before they started pulling out bases, a groundskeeper told Pat to go ahead and take the very last run around the bases.

“I can’t really describe the feeling because it was so awesome,” she said. “It was an incredible thrill, even now, each time I recall both the first and last experiences.”

In her 10 seasons with the team, Oliveira would travel between South Lake Tahoe and San Francisco, staying at her parents’ home. She has compiled a list of things she’s experienced along the way.

For example, Oliveira has gone through two new cars, 19 pairs of walking shoes, and, “to my husband’s disbelief” is on a first-name basis with many store clerks at roadside gas stations and restaurants between South Lake Tahoe and the Bay Area.

“I know every clean bathroom traveling in both directions between Tahoe and San Francisco,” she said.

While Oliveira has taken many memories with her, she also has a piece of Giants’ memorabilia that literally keeps on living and growing.

As a member of the staff, she was one of the first to tour Pac Bell Ballpark in early 2000 before it was opened to the public. One day, she found herself at the center of the new field, where groundskeepers were installing a specially grown hybrid grass that would become the playing field.

A piece of the rolled up sod plot was offered to her, so long as she could lug it to her SUV.

“It was raining that day and the sod was really heavy. It was soaking wet, but I managed to get that and four bricks, out of the 630,000 bricks used to build the park, into my (SUV),” she said.

Knowing that it was raining in San Francisco meant that it was snowing on the South Shore. She drove home, and told her husband, Carol, that she had a 2-foot-wide piece of sod in the SUV and wanted to plant it in their back yard before the couple was to leave for their annual six-week spring vacation in Hawaii.

“It was late February and there was 5 feet of snow on the ground,” she said. “The two of us got out there with our shovels and were digging a big hole in our yard. We finally hit grass but it was like concrete. We worked hard, and managed to cut out a patch where we laid the sod in.”

When the couple returned from Hawaii, with much of the snow in their yard melted, they noticed the Pac Bell sod had not only taken root, but it was the greenest part of the lawn.

“Here we were surrounded by patches of snow, with the rest of the lawn starting to green up some, and we have a piece of Pac Bell sod, greener than the rest of the lawn,” she said.

Today, the piece of sod endures and still remains greener than other parts of their lawn.

“Word got out of what I did, and the head groundskeeper, who was in charge of the grass planted there, came up to me, shook his head and said, ‘I never thought that it would endure snow.'”

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