Giants Among Us

El Nuevo Frutilandia located on 3077 24th street is often frequented by Giants Players

El Nuevo Frutilandia located on 3077 24th street is often frequented by Giants Players

En Español

The city celebrated the World Series champions on Wednesday, but come this weekend, some of the players will be on 24th Street in the Mission District to shop and eat at their favorite haunts, including Casa Lucas, El Nuevo Frutilandia and La Palma.

“Players come and go, but the new ones keep coming to our place,” said Rudy Balbueno, who has owned Frutilandia with his wife Ines for the last 25 years.

“Lots of players come here, I don’t know who is and who isn’t,” said Inés Balbueno, adding that she often doesn’t realize who the players are until she sees them on television.

Among the Giants who frequent Frutilandia are Pablo Sandoval, known as the Panda, from Venezuela, and Javier López, Jonathan Sánchez and Andrés Torres, all from Puerto Rico.

Their favorite dish? The fried pork chops, for $10.95.

“I love how they are not pretentious — they could afford a much fancier place,” said Ines Balbueno, looking around at her restaurant, which seats fewer than 20.

A couple of blocks away, Consuelo Guzmán, a cashier at the Latin grocery store Casa Lucas, will be waiting for one player in particular: relief pitcher Santiago Casilla.

Although Casilla didn’t get much game time, the entire staff supported him and the team. “We are the most important fans for the team,” Guzmán said.

“He always comes with his wife, mother and children. He is a great client and a very generous one,” added Casa Lucas manager María De Jesús Félix.

The pitcher arrives with his entire family every other Saturday at around noon to fill an entire shopping cart with purchases like Malta, a Dominican drink, and green bananas.

“His family is adorable,” Felix said.

La Palma Mexicatessen, on 24th Street near Florida, is another of Casilla’s haunts. Theresa Pasión, wearing a Giants jersey and hat the day of the final game, knows Casilla comes to the Mexican fast-food restaurant, but she has never seen him in person. The place is too busy, she said.

Still, she said, La Palma’s staff is honored to have him as a customer. “Ninety-five percent of the employees here are Giants fans.”

Giants players mix well with people in the Mission, and often go unrecognized, the owners and restaurant workers said.

“They are just like us,” said Rudy Balbueno from Frutilandia.

There is only one player he and his wife have regrets about — their frequent and beloved customer Bengie Molina, who was traded to the Texas Rangers earlier this year. “I am happy for the Giants, but it’s a little bit sad Bengie’s team lost,” said Inés Balbueno.

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