August 2008

Preparing for a game

A great game against the Rockies yesterday. Timmy pitched
unbelievable — he’d get my vote for Cy Young, that’s for sure. And it was
great when I returned to the dugout after my home run only to see Pablo
Sandoval hit one out on the very next pitch.

This kid is the real deal. I love this guy. He wants to win games, and
that’s what I’m about. And he wants to learn. He’s always asking me
questions about what to do in different situations, and he listens. I talk to
him not just about playing baseball but about being an adult. Be humble. Be
polite. Be a human being first, a Major League ballplayer second. But he
really doesn’t need that advice because he’s already a really nice kid.

It was tough to lose the two games to the Rockies after winning five in
a row. Jamie, my girlfriend, thinks I take the losses too hard. I lay in bed at
night and recreate the game a dozen times, going over and over what we
could have done differently, how we could do better tomorrow.

She’s always trying to take my mind off the game, which I appreciate
because you can drive yourself crazy. So we play these marathon sessions of
Boggle. I think I tied her once in about 250 games. She gets 30 or 35 points
in a game, and I get about 7. But every new game, I think I’m going to win.
Maybe that’s why I made it to the Majors — I always believe I’m going to
win. We also walk from our house in the Marina to Crissy Field with our
dog, Chico. I love throwing the ball to him and watching him run around.
Jamie and my two daughters took Chico to the ballpark for Dog Days of
Summer and sat in the bleachers with him. Everybody, including Chico, had
a great time.

Now that school has started, I see my daughters only on the weekends
when we’re in San Francisco. Otherwise, they’re in Yuma. If there is one
downside to baseball, it’s being away from your family. It’s something you
never get used to.

Somebody asked me about my pregame preparation. So I’ll take you
through what I do before the first game of a series. That’s when there is the
most work because we’re refreshing our memories about the players we
have already faced during the season and learning about the new players we
haven’t seen. (The subsequent games in the series don’t require quite as
much homework.)

If it’s a 7:15 p.m. game, I usually arrive to the ballpark around 2. I go
into the hot tub for about 10 minutes to warm my body. Then I go to the
trainer for treatment on whatever body part is sore — there is always
something, and usually more than one thing. I’ve been taking a pounding on
my glove hand from foul tips. My hands look like they belong to two
different men. The fingers on my glove hand are about one-and-a-half times
as thick as the ones on my throwing hand, and they’re a different color —
more red than brown. The knuckles look like misshapen knots on a tree. I’m
guessing I have at least two fractures, but they’ll have to wait until the end
of the season to heal – not that there is really much to be done anyway. They
just have to left alone.

As you might imagine, I have bruises all over my body from pitches
and foul tips that didn’t make it into my glove. One constant sore spot is the
tendinitis in my right heel. Every day before games, the trainer treats it —
and other problem spots — with ultrasound to get more blood circulating to
the area.

After the training room, I go the video room, which has monitors for
all the players and coaches to use. Danny Martin on the Giants staff does a
great job of putting together clips of every hitter and pitcher on the opposing
team. I can look at all the recent at-bats of every player on their team. I can
watch them just against righties or just against lefties. I can watch what they
have done on certain pitch counts. It’s amazing the information that is
available to us.

I follow this up by studying the thick packet of charts and statistics
that breaks down the tendencies of each batter — the paper version of what I
had just been watching on video. I can see which pitches most often get a
particular batter out on particular counts. And I can see which pitches they
tee off on in different situations.

Then I check my mail, listen to my phone messages and maybe
watch a little TV before going to a meeting for the pitchers and catchers
at 3:30. With Rags, Bochy, Gardner and the other coaches, we go over all
the hitters. Then I eat — maybe a grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich and a
Diet Coke — then get dressed for stretching and batting practice. After that,
I’ll have another meeting with the starting pitcher. We’ll go over the
opposing team’s starting lineup. A half-hour before the game, I’ll run a
little and throw the ball around to keep loose.

Then it’s “Let’s go!”

Showing what were capable of

Wow, what a day at
the park. I hope you got to see it. This was the kind of game that shows what
this team is capable of.

The Padres got a
home run into the bay on the very first pitch of the game – and we fell behind
3-0. Even just a few days ago, that might have been enough to sink us, the way
we were playing. There have been a lot of ups and downs for the team the past
month, as you know. The loss on Tuesday to the Marlins might have been the
roughest. Four errors. Only two hits. I was as down after that game as I can
remember being in a long time. I just sat in front of my locker for the longest
time. I didn’t want to talk with anyone.

It’s one thing to
lose. But to lose the way we did was just embarrassing. I don’t care if we have
no chance to reach the playoffs — we can’t play like that. Ever. We still have
to play 150 percent and try to win every single game. You have to respect the
game and respect your teammates and respect the fans. It means so much to me to
see the fans come out to watch us play and I hate when we don’t play the way we
know we can.

It’s not just
about winning, though that’s why we’re out there. It’s also about setting an
example. You don’t know if a kid is watching to see how he should conduct
himself. You don’t know if you’re a role model to someone out there who is
studying how you go about your business. So you have to play every day, every
inning, with everything you have. The results will take care of themselves.

We’re also setting
examples for each other, here on the field and in the clubhouse. We have to
pick each other up when we’re down. We have to go out there and perform with
such desire that our teammates can never doubt that we’re behind them 100
percent.

We talked about
that among ourselves, some of us using more pointed language than others, about
picking each other up, playing hard, not taking the job for granted.

Then, just like
that, it all turned around.

On Wednesday, the
Marlins tied the game in the ninth then Roberts, Winn and Rowand loaded the
bases in the bottom of the inning. I waited on deck watching Lindstrom walk
Rowand intentionally. I knew he would be going fastball on me. I just wanted to
hit the ball hard to the outfield. Sure enough, I got a 99 mph fastball on the
first pitch and hit it to center field deep enough to score the winning run from
third. 

I don’t know if we
showed ourselves something that day – that if we keep playing hard every single
inning and never give up — that we have the kind of players who can win any game
at any time. The next day, Thursday, Matt Cain had a great outing, even though
he didn’t get the win. Then Timmy came out on Friday and pitched one of the
best games I’ve seen him throw. His location – the key for every pitcher – was
so on.

Then Zito pitched
great on Saturday for our fourth in a row. He’s pitching now the way we always
knew he would pitch. He said it himself on the radio Sunday morning: He’s just
more himself. Before you could tell he was pressing – which is deadly for
pitchers or for hitters. Z was never nervous or scared on the mound – never,
never – but he was putting so much pressure on himself. Now you can see he has
the kind of presence on the mound that he had at his best.

Z’s finishing the
season strong — and that’s what all of us have to do. This should be the time
for every player to show what he can do. As a team, we have to show ourselves
and the fans that we’re better than our record this year. We want to finish
this season having laid the groundwork to be contenders next season. So, not to
sound like a broken record, but we have play hard and keep on playing hard to
the final out.

We did that again
today. 

After falling
behind, 3-0, we got one back in the fourth, two in the fifth and four in the
sixth — three on my homer into the left-field bleachers. When I was rounding
second, all I could think about was Kevin Correia getting the win — only his
second since April. In the clubhouse afterward, I said, “Co, that’s for you.
You deserve it.” He’s been so close so many games and not gotten the win. For
me, that was the most important part of my first five-RBI game of the season.

The Padres scored
a run in the eighth but that was it. We swept the Pads and got our fifth win in
a row.

The truth is, I was
really angry when the game started and I struck out my first at-bat. I already
was ticked off because Bochy sat me on Saturday. I hate sitting, no matter how
tired the manager might think I am. So between that and striking out, I came
back into the dugout after my first at-bat just miserable. I told myself just
to calm down. I couldn’t play being mad at myself or anyone else. I thought if
I calmed down, everything would change. And it did.

In the next entry,
I’ll talk about my at-bats today, and also about the amazing Pablo Sandoval.

Thanks for
reading. See you at the ballpark. I’ll leave you with some photos:

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