"Doing it in Florida in '97, it wasn't the same as here," Nen said Thursday, moments before throwing out the first pitch for Game 5 of the National League Championship Series between the Giants and Cardinals at AT&T Park.
"Here, it was electric. The fans were into it, the city was into it. I still think about it all the time ... what it meant to me. It was unbelievable."
During the 2002 postseason, Nen saved seven games as the Giants first topped the Braves in five games in the NL Division Series and then the Cardinals during a five-game NLCS.
In the World Series against the Angels -- a series the Halos won in seven games -- Nen got saves in Games 1 and 4, but he was charged with a blown save in Game 6, a 6-5 loss in which the Angels scored all six runs over the last two innings.
Before throwing out the first pitch, the Giants blared "Smoke on the Water," Nen's entrance music, over the stadium speakers. The sold-out crowd cheered as he delivered a pitch to reliever Sergio Romo.
Nen earned 314 saves over a 10-year big league career with the Giants, Marlins and Rangers. He spent the final five years of his career (1998-2002) with the Giants.
Nen never pitched after the '02 season, as rotator cuff and labrum issues led to three surgeries. And despite several comeback attempts, he announced his retirement in 2005.
"When these guys won it all [World Series] in 2010, I think it sort of took a load off my mind," Nen said when he was asked about reconciling the premature ending to his career. "It took a while to adjust to it all, but I've made the transition from player to fan."
Nen wasn't the only athlete with Bay Area ties on the field before Thursday's game. Former 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Joe Montana led the crowd in a pregame cheer and posed for a photo with the umpire crew and the two managers.
The national anthem was performed by Nicki Bluhm and her husband, Tim. Nicki Bluhm, who makes her home in San Francisco, performs with her band, the Gramblers. She also performs with her husband.
Singer Chris Isaak and his drummer, Kenney Dale Johnson, were scheduled to perform "God Bless America" at the ballpark. Isaak, who originally is from Stockton, Calif., has performed the national anthem at AT&T Park several times.