SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Coveh Solaimani was watching from his couch in Virginia last Thursday when his idol, Barry Bonds, homered twice against the Chicago Cubs.
The following day, the 32-year-old marketing manager booked a weeklong stay in San Francisco for a chance to be there if Bonds breaks the most hallowed record in all of sports.
“Just being part of the atmosphere, each at-bat is so exciting,” said Solaimani, standing on the right-field arcade in the Giants’ waterfront ballpark.
With Bonds two homers shy of Hank Aaron’s record of 755, Solaimani and hundreds of other fans braved the icy McCovey Cove winds to jockey for position inside the right-field foul pole for a chance to catch a piece of history – and perhaps cash in on it.
The hype around the chase further intensified Tuesday when baseball commissioner Bud Selig arrived in San Francisco to recognize the moment’s importance in baseball history.
The ballpark is a shrine-in-waiting. Banners remained furled on either side of the huge center-field scoreboard, ready to flop down after Bonds hits his record breaker.
Camera crews and reporters snaked through the crowded arcade – more than 400 reporters from all over the world have applied for credentials for this home stretch – up from about 70 for a regular game, a team spokeswoman said.
While the excitement of the moment drew bodies to the ballpark on a cold weekday night to watch a team out of contention, any discussion of Bonds’ achievement was also a talk about cold hard cash.
Wearing a glove, Bonds’ jersey and full Giants regalia, 12-year-old Andrew Maleck made no bones about his desire to catch – and immediately sell – number 756. He even enlisted his 14-year-old sister, Ariana, and their father, Moe, to increase his odds.
As adult men scrummed for batting practice balls hit into the arcade near Andrew, he realized that grabbing – and keeping – the valuable ball would be a challenge.
“If someone takes the ball away from me, I would probably sue them,” he said with a chuckle.
Moe bought his kids standing-room only tickets for the entire series with the Atlanta Braves this week so they would have a shot at the ball. And if Bonds doesn’t break the record this series?
“We’ll go to the Florida series, too,” Moe said.
“It would be nice to see him hit it even if I don’t catch it,” Andrew said.
Even Solaimani, who has a room of Bonds memorabilia in his Chester, Va. home, said he would give up the historic ball.
“I absolutely would sell it to pay for my daughter’s college,” he said.
While competition for the ball may be fierce, the Giants organization said it is ready to protect fans. And they have plenty of experience handling security for record-breaking home runs.
Many of Bonds’ milestone long balls have been hit at home, including number 715 on May 28, 2006, when he passed Babe Ruth for second place.
When Bonds gets one homer closer to the record, security will increase significantly, said Staci Slaughter, a team spokeswoman. She would not discuss specifics.
The U.S. Coast Guard and San Francisco Police Department will keep a tight rein on McCovey Cove, where an armada of kayakers and others will be waiting for a chance at snatching the ball out of the water.
Also, crowds in the right-field arcade where the left-handed slugger is most likely to hit his home run will be tightly controlled. The Giants will issue bracelets for ticket holders in the area, and only those with both bracelets and tickets will be allowed.
The most intense planning may not matter at all when it comes to catching the valuable ball. Andrew Morbitzer was standing in line for a beer and peanuts when Bonds hit 715. The ball ricocheted off a fan’s hands in center field, and rolled up to Morbitzer as he awaited his brew.