Huff Throws Off Bonds of AT&T Park
"It's the only choice I had," the Giants' cleanup hitter said. "It was mid-January and I had no other offers, so I took it. I didn't have a choice, but I'm glad it happened. I'm having a great time here."
And, perhaps most improbably, he's hitting home runs. Huff hit two homers on Sunday, giving him 10 for the season, and eight so far this year at AT&T Park. That may not seem like much, until you consider the park's history.
In the 10-plus seasons the Giants have played at their picturesque waterfront ballpark, the only left-handed hitter to ever hit more than 10 homers in a season at AT&T Park has been Barry Bonds. J.T. Snow hit 10 in 2000, the park's inaugural season, and switch-hitter Pablo Sandoval hit nine from the left side at home last year.
Otherwise, it's been one long string of lefties flailing away and settling for doubles, or worse, like 400-foot flyouts into the right-center-field gap.
Giants left-handed hitters have hit 323 homers at AT&T Park and 408 on the road. If you subtract Bonds from that equation, the other Giants lefties have 163 homers at home and 251 on the road. Opposing lefties have hit 202 homers at AT&T Park and 311 against the Giants at other parks.
The ballpark, originally known as Pac Bell Park, has been so tough on left-handed power hitters that it pushed at least one of them to seek therapy. Armando Rios told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2002, after he'd been traded to the Pirates, that the ballpark was deeply in his head.
"I go to any park and I feel 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds and I can fly," Rios said at the time. "When I'm home I feel 5-feet-2 and everyone's on top of me. I feel there are 50 guys on the field. I've tried every different stance, everything I can to get a hit. I don't know. It's just a ballpark.
"I feel like I can't get a hit there. I've talked to the guys and joked that I've got to make a pact with Pac Bell. I've got to come and walk around and talk to the park. I don't know what else I'm going to do."
Huff said he was starting to get those same feelings in his first month in San Francisco. He said he tried to swing early to pull the ball down the line, which is just 309 feet. He said he got in bad habits trying to alter his swing to fit the ballpark.
"I just gave up," he said. "I said 'I'm going to try and hit .300 this year. I don't care if I hit five homers. I'm going to try to drive in some runs.' And that's when it started happening. Go figure."
Huff didn't hit a ball over the fence at AT&T Park until April 27. (He had one inside-the-park homer on April 14.) Since then, he's hit six more. His two homers on Sunday afternoon were both towering shots to the deepest part of the park in right-center, a spot that only Bonds has reached consistently.
Huff now has his average up to .303, and he's joined in the 10-homer club by Juan Uribe. The Giants have also gotten a boost lately from Freddy Sanchez (.333 since coming off the DL May 19), Buster Posey (.368 since coming up from the minors two weeks ago) and Pat Burrell (.375 since the Giants plucked him from the scrap heap two weeks ago). Put them together and the Giants' mostly-inept offense is looking passable.
"It's like three trades without having to do anything," Huff said. "Those three guys have really turned around the offense."
What's more, Huff is sending a message to other free agents who might have shied away from AT&T Park because of its reputation.
"If you don't want to come here and play and hit for this pitching staff we have," he said, "then you don't want to win."