When Dave Edlund took early retirement from Hewlett-Packard at the age of 45, he shared his plans with co-workers, "I'm gonna go get a home run ball in the bay."
He's been a McCovey Cove regular ever since, and scooped up Ryan Klesko's Splash Hit on May 21, 2007.
“Once I saw the ball coming over and saw where it was headed, I was paddling as hard as I could,” says Edlund. “I was about two feet in front of my buddy and I veered my boat a little to the left and I grabbed it with my right hand.” Basically, he cut him off. “I would expect him to do the same thing to me. We all love the Giants and these guys are my buddies, but when a ball’s hit over, it’s every man for himself.”
The configuration of AT&T Park has created this unique new tradition: kayakers bob in San Francisco Bay just beyond the right-field wall and await home run balls or Splash Hits.
McCovey Cove, named for former Giant slugger Willie McCovey and within site of his statue across the inlet, has drawn a regular crowd of kayakers since the park opened and a traffic-jam of vessels for big games. There have been dudes on surf boards, guys leaping into the chilly waters from the Portwalk, and others dipping nets into the water from the edge. The kayakers and others had to compete with motor boats the first couple of seasons before somebody finally realized that was an amputation waiting to happen. Motorized craft are no longer allowed in the Cove.
The Cove regulars are actually a tightly knit group, Edlund says, and are happy whenever one of them gets a Splash Hit. They listen to the game on the radio, watch replays on the park jumbotron, or on a tablet PC one of the kayakers sometimes brings (he connects to the park wireless network); they often share meals out there. Occasionally, they’ll order a pizza and have it delivered to the Cove.
Edlund wears a wet suit but still gets cold after putting in a five to six hour shift, which often includes batting practice. “Day games it’s harder to pick up the ball, but at night they’re arcing up there in the lights and it really lights up the ball,” he says. “We’re kind of like little boys out there … and we have the ultimate cheap seats.”
If you’re looking to experience McCovey Cove from the water rather than the water’s edge, City Kayak will rent you a vessel for $15-20/hour, and they have a location near AT&T Park. Baseball glove is optional.