SAN FRANCISCO The Giants' home opener, a comfortable 5-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on a gorgeous Friday afternoon, was a wistful experience.
The sun-drenched setting and upbeat ambience were everything that is right in pro sports and everything that is lacking in Sacramento.
Our community Friday was demeaned by the owners of the Kings as they tanked the deal to build a downtown arena. This despicable move was the culmination of years of neglect by team ownership, which has slowly soiled a beloved franchise.
It was a much different story here, the polar opposite of Sacramento's misfortune of being stuck with the insufferable Maloof brothers.
Before the game, the Giants saluted legendary players from the 1962 World Series team, and brought a lump to everyone's throat by honoring Bryan Stow, the Giants fan nearly killed in a brutal attack at Dodger Stadium last year.
With Stow's 13-year-old son Tyler on the mound to toss out the ceremonial first pitch, the Giants surprised everyone by cutting to a live video of Stow on the park's big screen. The convalescing paramedic from Santa Cruz was at home, joined by his mom, and it was an overwhelming sight.
A hush fell over the crowd as Stow said, "Good luck, son," while young Tyler was flanked by nearly all the Giants. When the young lad threw the ball across home plate with authority, tears and goodwill enveloped this lovely space.
It was life-affirming. It was classy. And it showed a painstaking commitment by Giants management to the people who pay to get in this place.
The Giants are oriented to making them happy every day.
It's no secret why Matt Cain, a homegrown Giants star, was in a position to pitch a complete-game, one-hit shutout.
It's not by accident that Buster Posey, also a homegrown Giant, emphatically drove in the first run of the game in the first inning to the wild applause of fans. Or that Nate Schierholtz, another homegrown Giant, singled home a run in the sixth. Or that Brandon Crawford, another homegrown Giant, was breathtaking in turning difficult plays into effortless ones at shortstop.
Add three RBIs by first baseman Aubrey Huff a first-inning single and a two-run homer in the eighth inning and you had a spectacular afternoon where every Giants fan went home happy.
Giants closer Brian Wilson, another homegrown talent, was unavailable to pitch. No problem. Cain confounded the Pirates with a breaking ball the young players from Pittsburgh could not decipher. It was Cain's fifth career shutout and his third one-hitter.
He pitched a perfect game but for a single in the sixth inning by opposing pitcher James McDonald.
On the heels of a series win over the Colorado Rockies, Friday's triumph restored a sense of order for a franchise aiming for the World Series. Still, the Giants are 3-4 after being swept in three games to open the season by the rival Arizona Diamondbacks.
Before an announced crowd of 41,138, another sellout, the opener at AT&T Park was a picture of success. But any successful enterprise comes down to successful, committed individuals.
The Giants' ownership group is made up of civic-minded people who don't need to be seen or photographed. Two of the past managing partners Peter Magowan and Bill Neukom were driving forces in such major corporations as Safeway and Microsoft.
Larry Baer, who now leads the Giants' ownership group, was the one who convinced Magowan to keep the team in San Francisco because the ownership loved San Francisco.
The Giants are a for-profit business, but that love has informed the care with which the Giants have built a winner after nearly relocating to Florida in 1992.
Sacramento has been cursed with the Maloofs.
They've lost control of the Palms casino, and they sold the beer distributorship that built their family fortune.
They took credit for the Kings' success, though the general manager, coach and players responsible for that success were already on the team when they took over in 1999.
When those players grew old and injured, the whole thing fell apart. Everything the Maloofs have touched has fallen apart since.
They won't sell the team, won't make an arena deal, owe money to everybody, only seem good for self-aggrandizing photo ops.
That's why Friday was a sad day for Sacramento and a happy day here.
It's all about ownership.