SAN FRANCISCO — In contrast to the new food offerings or the improved Wi-Fi network, one off-season upgrade was installed without fanfare at Oracle Park. It will likely go unnoticed by fans, but especially on a dark and damp home opener, it wasn’t overlooked by relievers in either bullpen.
“It’s so cold out there,” said reliever John Brebbia.
“Usually you’re down there with your coat and hat,” added left-hander Scott Alexander.
“I’m hearing rumors of a heated couch,” submariner Tyler Rogers said. “That would be nice, very nice.”
Rejoice, enlighteners: Rogers heard right.
A pair of 12-foot heated benches made their debut Friday in the outfield bullpens. Made by the same company that installed the sideline seating at Levi’s Stadium and more than 20 other NFL venues, freezing relievers at both clubs can now plop down and warm up. While many ballparks affected by weather conditions have climate-controlled rooms in their bullpens, Oracle Park is the first in MLB to have heated benches.
Powered by 110-volt electricity and clean-burning natural gas, the benches are painted white, while the one in the Giants’ bullpen is accented with black-and-orange stripes and the team logo. While it benefits both the Giants and their opponents, there is one advantage in the home bullpen: the relievers have a view of the field, while those in the visitor pen are stuck looking at the back of the outfield wall.
“I can’t wait,” Brebbia said. “That’s lifesaving.”
“The heated benches will be very welcome,” said Brant Whiting, who has spent more time outside than most since 2019 as the Giants’ bullpen catcher. “Anything to keep warm.”
Any fan who can proudly wear a “Croix de Candlestick” pin understands that summer baseball in San Francisco isn’t always a blissful experience. Their newer waterfront ballpark is a little better at protecting the conditions, but there’s no escaping the frequent wind, fog, and moisture that pass through the Golden Gate most days of the season.
Due to the orientation of the ballpark, those behind home plate and in the dugout are somewhat protected. But in midfield?
“We don’t have too much coverage down there,” Whiting said. “It gets pretty cold, especially at night with the wind.”
“Technically, we have heaters there,” Brebbia said. “But unless you touch the metal where the heat is coming from, you don’t feel it. Then of course you burn if you touch the metal. Not a happy medium.”
“Last year I started wearing two socks,” Rogers said. “That changed my world.”
No one in the bullpen is clamoring to return to their original locations, on foul ground in left and right field. But the bullpen residents could at least spend most of the game in the dugout, rather than exposed to the conditions.
It’s not just comfort: Relievers should be able to prepare faster and worry less about injuries if they’re warm throughout the match.
“We all warm up and do our pre-game prep work, but you end up being out there for a few hours,” said Alexander.
“I think it will be very helpful for the guys,” said Whiting. “Anything to get them a little bit warmer before they come into play is going to be huge.”
If you’ve come this far, you might be wondering, what about me? Why can the players stay warm while the fans are left to fend for themselves? Well, you’re not alone.
“I’m sure the fans feel our pain too,” said Whiting. “Perhaps have heated benches in the stands.”
“I can’t control a team’s budgets,” he said, “but I like to think that if I were, I’d stock up on some.”
Once more …
“Of course I’m going to complain that it gets too hot at some point,” Brebbia said. ‘Because I’m a miserable person, they should have air conditioned couches too! I can always find a problem if you need it.