Champion Giants ready begin the games that count

In many ways, Brian Sabean would rather his World Series

champion San Francisco Giants opened the season at home. That way

the fanfare and frenzy could end right away and the club could turn

all its focus to baseball and pick up where it left off last

fall.

”But you’ve got to embrace it,” Sabean said Tuesday.

Sabean soaked in the scene as more than 1,600 fans and members

of the Junior Giants program attended San Francisco’s ”Play Ball”

kickoff luncheon Tuesday at Pier 48, across McCovey Cove from the

team’s waterfront ballpark. The Giants start the season Thursday at

Los Angeles against the rival Dodgers and don’t play their first

home game at AT&T Park until April 8 against the St. Louis

Cardinals.

San Francisco’s players will receive their championship rings in

a ceremony before their second home game next Saturday.

Tuesday’s luncheon attracted some 400 more people than ever

before, raising $450,000 for the organization’s community service

arm that supports a variety of causes.

”This is the day for us to celebrate the remarkable World

Series championship,” managing general partner Bill Neukom said.

”They intend to show us all last year was no accident.”

One surprise came from a Tampa, Fla.-based painter named John

Prince. He visited San Francisco and Napa Valley last summer with

his wife and fell in love with the Bay Area. The Giants were on the

road, but Prince decided to paint ace Tim Lincecum in action.

Prince met the pitcher Monday night and had him sign the

life-size piece, which the artist donated to the team for

auction.