- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 25, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The World Series trophy has traveled from San Francisco to California’s Central Valley and on to the Giants’ Polo Grounds roots in New York. Stops also are planned in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon as the hardware makes its way East again to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

There’s a book coming out reliving the 2010 championship season and a television series in the works tracking the Giants’ upcoming year, featuring many of the same castoffs and misfits who pulled off an improbable title run last fall. Season ticket sales are so far ahead of schedule that comparisons are being made to 2000 when the club opened its sparkling new waterfront ballpark.

A public appearance by someone in the Giants family has taken place nearly every day since the season ended, too. The team is soaking up all the attention, determined to create an even bigger national name for itself in the process.

“It’s been nonstop,” team president Larry Baer said. “We’re getting lots of early momentum.”

Baer expects a large number of the 81 home games to sell out this season at AT&T Park _ so, his advice is don’t lollygag and get tickets now.

San Francisco’s first championship since moving West in 1958, and the franchise’s first since 1954 in New York, has made for quite the wild winter. Baer has been so busy fielding requests from fans wanting to celebrate the Giants' World Series victory over the Texas Rangers that the 2011 season is suddenly fast approaching. Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Feb. 14.

“We have one month less to do it and we were glad to accommodate the compressed schedule,” Baer said. “It’s been an absolute whirlwind here. In addition to getting everything ready for 2011 we’ve had such a huge demand for people to relive 2010. Largely we’ve accommodated that with the trophy. There are many vehicles for people to tap into 2010. People still want to tap into that.”

Another chance comes when the team hosts its annual FanFest on Feb. 5, with more than 40,000 people projected to pack the ballpark. That’s also the first day individual game tickets go on sale, both online and on site.

Season tickets sold for the full schedule as of Tuesday were at about 22,000, around 1,000 more than where the team finished last year. That means season tickets _ with an average price increase for 2011 of 5 or 6 percent _ could return to the levels back in the early 2000s when the club drew 3 million fans for eight straight years before that streak ended in 2008. After falling just short of the 3 million mark again in ‘09, the Giants topped it this past season.

“The momentum is strong to get to the mid-20 (thousands) and beyond. Demand is at levels that the only comparison we’ve seen is when we opened the ballpark in 2000,” Baer said. “What’s really gratifying is that folks don’t want to be shut out. They want to be part of the experience that was memorable and etched in their family or individual psyches from September and October of last year and the whole season in some respects.”

The NL West champion Giants have kept their 2010 roster nearly intact, with the key losses of World Series MVP Edgar Renteria _ now with the Reds _ and utility infielder Juan Uribe having departed for the rival Los Angeles Dodgers.

Still, people can relate to the familiar faces they saw during the playoffs: Two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, Rookie of the Year catcher Buster Posey, bearded closer Brian Wilson, sure-handed second baseman Freddy Sanchez, eccentric first baseman Aubrey Huff and Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval.

San Francisco is counting on that core group of returners to keep the team moving forward.

“I think it’s a pretty rare thing in professional sports to keep a big, big part of a franchise together year after year,” Baer said. “It’s powerful and it’s great for the continuity of the clubhouse and continuity for the fans.”

There has been interest from around the country and the world about the Giants players and their vast array of personalities.

“Any sports franchise doesn’t want to create boundaries for itself,” Baer said. “Our core mission is to serve the people in our community but there are additional layers we’d like to put on that core mission, for lots of reasons. Players might want to come play for us if they feel that and the team is viewed as a winner and viewed as a strong franchise. We only have 41,000 seats for 81 regular-season games but can we offer people other parts of the Giants?”

Like Willie Mays, for example. The Hall of Famer visited with elementary school children at the Polo Grounds in New York last week _ an effort by San Francisco executives to get the franchise’s longtime fans to convert the next generation into Giants followers, even in big-market New York.

The Giants certainly are going to ride this wave of success for as long as they can.