- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 29, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - 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.