Where does the time go?
Sorry for the delay in writing a new post. You always think you’ll have time for things other than baseball during the season, but your whole life is on the field and in the clubhouse. I have loved reading all your comments … Arriving new last year to this team, I didn’t know what to expect from the fans. Now there’s no doubt that you are behind me and behind this team. And that’s what it’s all about.
But back to trying to figure out where all the time goes during a baseball day.
I get to the ballpark three or four hours before the first pitch, as most of the guys do. I change out of my street clothes. Go to the trainer’s room for treatment. Take care of business like opening mail, ordering bats or other equipment from Murph, our great clubhouse manager. I talk to reporters if any of them need me for anything. I meet with Dave Righetti, the pitching coach, and Mark Gardner, the bullpen coach, and the pitchers to go over the hitters we’ll be facing. Then I take the field for batting practice.
Then for an hour or so before the game, I like to put on my headphones and listen to my iPod, getting myself focused and ready.
I needed all the focus I could get for that 13-inning game against the Padres last week. People asked me later how my knees and legs felt from squatting for so long, but during the game I don’t feel any soreness or pain. I’m so focused. I’m running on adrenaline. But I felt it later, needless to say, despite my usual 10-minute soak in a cold tub to rejuvenate the muscles.
Let me tell you, it’s no fun sinking into a cold tub after a chilly night game. But it’s the best thing for a battered body, so you do it.
One of the things I loved about that game, other than the fact we won — and that I managed to hit a home run to tie the game, 1-1, in the ninth — was watching Bochy move the chess pieces. A game like that is where the beauty of a manager comes in.
That kind of game is the true test of a manager. He has to make all those moves to keep his team in the game as each inning goes by. He has to make sure everything’s OK, that we’re not caught short on the bench, that we have the right guys in the right places at the right times. He did an unbelievable job.
After a game like that, I can’t sleep. I can’t sleep after a lot of games, actually, even the ones we win. My eyes are open and I’m replaying almost every single pitch in my head. I second-guess myself. Maybe that guy wouldn’t have gotten a hit if I had called something else. Most of the time your mind is going crazy. You know things are going to happen in a game that you have no control over, and you tell yourself that, but I have a tough time letting go. It’s something I should probably work on. Or maybe that intensity off the field is what keeps me so focused on the field.
Boch gave me the day off after the 13-inning game to rest my legs, so I got to watch Steve Holm behind the plate. Steve is 28 years old and in the Major Leagues for the first time. He had never played higher than Double-A and suddenly he found himself making the team out of Spring Training, surprising everyone. Steve is such a great, great guy. I love Steve. He listens. He’s always asking questions. We’re always talking in the dugout about the game, whether he’s catching or I am. Neither of us ever feels like we’re out there by ourselves.
We talked about his play at the plate in the wild 10-9 game Saturday against the Reds. In the seventh inning, Joey Votto slid in around Steve’s glove even though it looked like the throw got there in time. To people who don’t know catching, it might have seemed that Steve “missed” the tag. But Steve did exactly the right thing.
The throw came to the right side of the plate. So Steve had to be looking to the right side — while the runner was barreling toward the plate on his left. The catcher can’t see the runner. We don’t have eyes in the backs of our heads. So what he has to do, as soon as he catches the ball, is wheel around and slap the glove on the ground where the runner is going to slide.
In Steve’s case, he actually swung around so quickly, he got his glove down a split-second before Votto arrived, and so Votto was about to slide around the glove.
A similar thing happened to me in Arizona. Brandon Webb stepped over my glove as I swung around to tag him.
(I hope Steve spent more time after the Reds game thinking about the huge double he hit to keep us battling back rather than the play at the plate.)
I took a second day off on Sunday to refresh my legs, but I’m back in the lineup tonight against Colorado. I miss being on the field when I take a day off. But as I said in my first posting, this is a marathon, not a sprint, and we have to take care of our bodies so they’re as ready to do battle on the last day of the season as on the first.
I remember as a young player, new to the league, I wanted to make my body the strongest it could be. I had seen all the “Rocky” movies and decided to train like him. When I returned to Puerto Rico in the offseason, I worked out by cutting down trees, pulling tractor tires, running in the sand, running the hills. The local people started calling me “caballo loco” 0- crazy horse. I don’t train that way any more, but I know my body has to be in top shape to last through a 162-game season — especially if we have more of those 13-inning nights.
Keep writing! I appreciate every minute you spend reading this and every kind word you send my way.
I’ll try to check back before we go back on the road Thursday.