The voices of Bay Area rock band Journey echo throughout Oracle Park as lead singer Steve Perry sings “Lights” during the eighth inning stretch. Among the singing crowd is math teacher Scott Friedland, decked out in San Francisco Giants’ merch from head to toe.
Friedland’s classroom also reflects his love of the Giants. A plethora of Giants posters cover the walls and his computer is covered in a bright orange case.
It was 1987 when Friedland first discovered baseball and the Giants. Growing up in Fresno, he said Giants games were rarely on television because they were announced on the radio, so he remembers his surprise when he turned on the television to see the Giants game on.
“I saw this guy hit a triple –– one of the most exciting plays of baseball –– and he rolls into third, he’s pumping his fist, and he was so intense and fiery, and it felt incredibly relatable to me,” Friedland said. “I found out afterwards that it was Will Clark, and he instantly became my favorite player. I really related to how he was just so committed to winning and really relishing the moment, and so I started listening to every game on the radio.”
From that moment on, Friedland said he was hooked. The following year, he listened to all 162 games on the radio because he enjoyed the suspense the game created.
“I like the pace of it,” Friedland said. “Some people view the pace as kind of a bug and not as a feature, but I actually like the slow and intense pace of baseball.”
Eleven years later, Friedland graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara. As a graduation gift, his father gave him tickets to the last 40 home games the Giants ever played at Candlestick Park.
“I got to be there for the final season at Candlestick, which was amazing,” Friedland said.
In fact, he said he enjoyed being at Candlestick so much that he has bought season tickets for every subsequent year.
He said he tries to attend every regular and postseason Giants game, and this year, he attended 76 of 81 home regular-season games and every home game during the National League Division Series versus the Los Angeles Dodgers. He said a particularly defining aspect of this year’s season for him was watching the growth of veteran players, especially his favorite: Brandon Crawford.
“He’s incredible,” Friedland said. “Being that athletic at 34 years old seems impossible because I remember being 34, and I did not feel like that.”
Friedland’s favorite pitcher is Logan Webb, a leader of the Giants’ pitching rotation.
“The development of Webb at such a young age and being such a dominant force –– that’s just so much fun,” Friedland said. “It reminds me of those (Tim Lincecum) and (Madison Bumgarner) teams where these guys are so young, and they have to become playoff performers right away, and that’s always really cool.”
As a statistics teacher, Friedland said he loves to look at how accurate the win projections are at the start of the season. This year, he was particularly amazed by how far off most predictions were. Statisticians predicted the Giants to win 70 and 74 games and they ended up winning 107.
“To miss by that much is just an incredible miss, so clearly we really undervalued what this team had,” Friedland said. “I never really thought I’d see a team that impressed me more than the 1993 team that won 103 games, because that team always felt like a well-oiled machine. This (year’s) team was really remarkable because it really was a different hero every night, which was really cool.”
Despite the unfortunate end to the Giants’ season, Friedland continues to view the game through a positive lens. He said a five-game series is always subject to natural variation, so learning to enjoy the sport game by game is essential.
After a year of games with no in-person fan attendance, Friedland said he is happy to watch games in person at Oracle Park again because it acts as a momentary escape from his day-to-day life.
“It’s one of those rare activities where I can really turn off the other elements of my life,” Friedland said. “It really is an escape for me. I can immerse myself in what’s going on right there, so from a mental health perspective, it’s been really helpful.”