Many local baseball fans have caught a bad case of Giants fever, but these five people have extra-special memories of their favorite ballclub.
Joseph Wood, 48: An All-Star experience
Many fans would have done anything to get into the All-Star festivities at AT&T Park when the Giants hosted the Midsummer Classic in 2007. Tickets were scarce and very expensive. But Joseph Wood didn't have to pay a dime to get into the stadium on Home Run Derby Monday.
Wood was one of the thousands who offered to volunteer at AT&T for the All-Star break, and after a months-long process, he was one of the select few chosen to help out. Even though he didn't get to attend the game, he did serve as a production assistant for a pre-Derby concert by Counting Crows.
"Seeing the thousands of people who turned out (to volunteer)," Wood said, "to actually have made it through, was kind of impressive."
And although he didn't get to stay for the Derby, throughout the day he rubbed shoulders with such Major League stars as Derek Jeter, Vladimir Guerrero, David Ortiz and Albert Pujols.
"These guys who you see on posters, on the (big) screen — to actually see them there in flesh and blood is an awesome experience," Wood said.
Wood has also been to some historic games. He was in the park for a few of Barry Bonds' biggest milestones, including the slugger's 600th career home run. But nothing will compare with his stint as a production assistant for the All-star Game.
"Any time being out on that field, on that playing surface — it's magical," Wood said. "It's just absolutely magical."
Woods' favorite Giant: Willie McCovey
World Series prediction: Giants in six games
Russ Lake, 49: Leaving an old wound open
Think of the most painful sports memory you have. How would you like to be reminded of it every day? In fact, how about every single time you walk to your car?
That's what Russ Lake does on a daily basis. He's been a Giants fan for 25 years, and the most excruciating of those years came in 2002. That was the last time the Giants were in the World Series, facing the Anaheim Angels. (Squeamish fans may need to skip the next few sentences). In Game 6, San Francisco had a five-run lead with eight outs to go and appeared less than three innings away from a championship. No team in World Series history had ever overcome a five-run deficit in an elimination game.
Until the Angels proceeded to score six unanswered runs and win the game, then ultimately the series.
It is that damning game that Lake refers to with his vanity license plates, which read: H8D GAM 6 (Hated Game 6). Although the Giants could have redeemed themselves in Game 7, Lake believes Game 6 ended the Giants' chances to win a world championship.
"After Game 6, I think myself and a lot of other Giants fans just felt like that was it: The window has closed," Lake said.
Lake and his family remain enormous Giants fans, including his 11-year-old daughter, Kendall. She takes games much more seriously than the rest of the family, Lake said, and the losses stay with her.
"You don't talk to her during a game," Lake said. "She watches every single pitch."
Mercifully, she wasn't even in grade school when the Giants suffered their historic collapse.
The Lake family also has many happier Giants memories. Earlier this decade, Lake and his wife, Susan, won a contest and got to go through batting practice and catch fly balls in a very new Pacific Bell Park, although Lake sheepishly admits that his wife hit better than he did.
"I was very nervous," he said.
But it's that fateful Game 6 that looks Lake in the face every day. If the Giants prevail over the Rangers, Lake said he will finally be able to let go of his daily reminder.
"I'll still hate Game 6, but if they win a World Series, I can retire the plate," Lake said.
Giants fans surely hope he'll get the chance.
Lake's favorite Giant: Andres Torres
World Series prediction: Giants in six games.
Mike Reese, 57: A bumpy trip down memory lane
Mike Reese has been a lifelong Giants fan, a trait that he shares with his whole family. His late father, David, attended the 1962 World Series, and his ashes are interred at Cherokee Memorial Park in niche No. 24, in honor of Willie Mays' jersey number.
"The Reese family is a Giants family," he said.
He took his eldest daughter, Elizabeth, 23, to her first Giants playoff game when she was just 5 months old, and she's been a fan ever since. So imagine her dismay when she met a co-worker whose name was Orlando Cepeda (same as a Hall of Fame Giant), and discovered he was a Los Angeles Dodgers fan.
"If I had the last name Cepeda, I'd probably name my son Orlando, too," Reese said. Having only girls, Reese didn't get the chance to name them after any of his favorite Giants. "Willie Mays Reese didn't sound right for a girl," he said.
Reese has been attending Giants games since the days of windy Candlestick Park, which is the site of one of his most memorable fan moments. He was there for Game 3 of the 1989 World Series on Oct. 17, the day of the infamous Loma Prieta earthquake that delayed the Series for 10 days — and was a very jarring experience for Reese.
"That stadium was built to move around a little bit, and it really did," he said.
He got to return on Oct. 27 for the second attempt at Game 3, but the Giants lost 13-7 en route to losing the Series to the rival Oakland Athletics in a sweep.
The Reese family has been watching this Series dutifully, including Reese's two older brothers who now live in Michigan. They've been staying up late, Reese said, which isn't so easy these days.
"It's hard to stay up late when you're an old guy like me," Reese said.
Reese's favorite Giant: Tie. Willie Mays and Orlando Cepeda.
World Series prediction: Giants in five games.
Mark Leal, 55: Surprise autograph session
Mark Leal had his biggest Giants moment decades ago, when he was just a fourth-grader. A childhood friend, Alex, invited him on a bus trip for Japanese-Americans to attend a Giants game at Candlestick Park in 1965. Leal gladly accepted and wasn't assuming much when Alex told him to bring a baseball along.
By the end of the day, that ball would have numerous autographs on it, including the signature of Hall of Famer Willie Mays.
"I didn't know this, I was just a kid, but (Alex's) dad worked for the Giants," Leal said. "I had no idea. I just thought I was going to a baseball game."
Everyone else who rode the bus up to the game just went to their seats, but Leal said he and Alex got to sit in the dugout during pre-game warm-ups and later walked around the clubhouse. There they saw the likes of Tito Fuentes, Juan Marichal and the legendary Mays.
"It was something I'll never forget," Leal said.
Now the principal at Mary Tsukamoto Elementary School in Elk Grove, Leal said he still makes sure to show off his Giants fanhood. In honor of the Giants' first pennant in eight years, Leal wore a bright orange tuxedo jacket he borrowed from his brother-in-law to school Monday. The students responded with a different color — tickled pink by their principal's public display.
The school's custodian, Mike, wasn't amused — because he's a fan of the hated rival Los Angeles Dodgers, Leal said.
"(He) just about cried," Leal said with a laugh.
Perhaps he's just green with envy.
Leal's favorite Giant: All-time — Willie Mays. Current Giant — Buster Posey
World Series prediction: Giants in four games.
Kome Masuda, 33: An honored cancer survivor
For most cancer survivors, just winning the battle against the dreaded disease is rewarding enough. But for Kome Masuda, who beat breast cancer in 2008, there was an extra little gift in store.
The former Galt resident, who now lives in San Francisco, entered Major League Baseball's Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer writing contest in 2009. The contest asks breast cancer survivors to submit their stories for the chance to be a bat boy or girl for their favorite team on Mother's Day.
Masuda shared the experience of telling her parents she had cancer, which she did at their Galt home during a Giants game against the Cincinnati Reds. She said the game ended up being a welcome distraction during a very tough moment.
"It kind of calmed things down," she said. "It helped the situation to be able to watch baseball."
Masuda's story was selected as a winner, but since the Giants were on the road for Mother's Day, the team instead let her serve as a "ball dudette" for a home game against the New York Mets a few days after the holiday. Despite being nervous, Masuda said she enjoyed the opportunity.
"It's really cool just to be down there," Masuda said. "Everyone's screaming and yelling at you to give them a ball, and you want to make sure you don't do anything wrong. It was a lot of fun, though."
Masuda was invited to serve as a ball dudette again this season, and she was recently informed that if the Giants return to San Francisco for a Game 6 in the World Series, she will get to suit up and patrol the foul line for that game. That leaves Masuda in an interesting situation: If she does get the chance to be a ball dudette again, it will mean the Giants have lost at least two of three games in Texas.
"It's kind of a double-edged sword," she said. "It's cool that I get that chance, but it would not be good for the Giants."
Either way, Masuda has already gotten to experience the thrill of a Fall Classic in AT&T Park: She and her fiance, Deric, attended Game 2 on Thursday night.
Aside from getting to witness a 9-0 Giants romp, Masuda said another highlight was in the eighth inning, when the entire stadium sang along to the Journey song "Lights" (which is about the city by the Bay). A video of the sing-along has become a viral sensation, and has already been written about on Huffington Post and Yahoo! Sports.
"They didn't even need to play the music, because everyone knew the words," she said. "It was awesome."
And did Masuda join in the singing?
"Yeah, of course!"
Favorite Giant: Barry Bonds
World Series prediction: Giants in five games.