Champions Tour: Fans flock for shot with Giants trophies

02/12/2013 12:32 AM

02/12/2013 11:24 AM

Frank Espinosa was the first person to arrive at the Merced County Fairgrounds on Monday morning.

The 55-year-old ceramic tile contractor wasn't going to take any chances of missing his opportunity to see the San Francisco Giants World Series trophies, arriving at the parking lot at 8:30 a.m.

Espinosa had no problem waiting nine hours.

"I've been a lifelong Giants fan," Espinosa said. "I remember watching Willie Mays and Willie McCovey. My kids got to see the trophy in Monterey two years ago. When I saw that it was coming to Merced, I knew I had to go."

It wasn't long before Espinosa had company. He soon was joined by other die-hard fans.

There was John Koehn, who requested the day off from his job at Costco two months ago when he found out the trophies were coming to Merced.

Renee Davenport brought her orange Giants cushions.

"I'm really excited, but I'm really here for my great-grandson (Tyler Silva)," Davenport said. "I want to make sure he gets in so I'm saving him a spot."

At 5:30 p.m., there were more than 200 people in line as fans were let in to view and take pictures with the World Series hardware collected by the Giants in 2010 and 2012.

A parade of people wearing orange and black made their way through the line in the Pavilion as highlights from the 2012 season played on a big screen television in the background.

"I missed it in 2011 when (the trophy) came to Modesto and Fresno," Koehn said. "When I saw it was coming to Atwater, Merced and Los Banos, that's right in my back yard. That's perfect."

Merced was the latest stop of the World Series Trophy Tour.

The trophies will be in Los Banos today from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Los Banos Community Center.

The trophies will come to Modesto Centre Plaza on Feb. 19 (5 to 8 p.m.) and return to Merced County at the Atwater Community Center on Feb. 20 (6 to 8 p.m.).

The trophy tour helps raise money for the Junior Giants Baseball organization. The fans who came out weren't disappointed.

"It's awesome," said Sarah Bell, who graduated from Buhach Colony High School in 2011. "It's so exciting to see the trophies up close."

There were fans young and old. There were groups of friends, families of five, and fans who came solo. They didn't mind the wait to get their pictures taken with the trophies.

Merced's Max Buettgenbach remembers watching the Giants all the way back in 1930, when they were the New York Giants.

When asked if he was excited to see the trophy, Buettgenbach smiled.

"It doesn't take much to get me excited at 92," he said.

Cruz Munoz Jr. brought his family of five and knows exactly where his picture is going. "It's going right in the living room," he said.

Jack and Carol Anne Adam made the trip from Clovis. They were fortunate the trophy was nearby on one of their trips to California. They split their time between Clovis and Kansas City.

With many St. Louis Cardinals fans living in Kansas City, it made it interesting during the playoffs.

"We would hear it from the Cardinals fans," Jack Adam said. "They kept asking if we were ready to go home or if we were ready to quit during the playoffs. We told them the fans in Cincinnati were saying the same thing."

Joe Alexander III only recently became a Giants fan after getting hooked during the 2010 run to the title. Now his mother gets upset that he has Giants games on TV rather than "NCIS."

"I wasn't really into sports, but watching the Giants in 2010, I really got into the games and became a big Giants fan," Alexander said. "I just loved the passion for the game and Buster Posey, definitely Posey."

Nine hours later, Espinosa had his picture and a smile.

"It was great," he said. "The first time, I wasn't able to see after the 2010 World Series. I had a chance this time and I got to see two trophies. It was worth the wait."

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