September 2008

Time to get some rest

It’s packing day in the Molina household – though Jamie has been filling and taping boxes for the past couple weeks. We’re almost done and about to take a break to get a bite to eat at Bubba Gump’s or Benihana then finish when we get back.

 

This is our autumn ritual. We move into a house in the spring and move out in the fall. This year we lived in a great place in the Marina, though the four stories started to wear on my knees as the season progressed. Still, we loved being so close to the water and to Crissy Field.

 

We’ll drive one car back to Yuma tomorrow — it’s about a 10-hour trip — and have the second car shipped. We loaded up a 16-foot U-Haul and hired two of the clubbies to drive it home for us, then we’ll fly them back to San Francisco. It will be great to see my girls every weekend and take some trips with them this winter. We plan to go to Puerto Rico for Christmas – both my brothers will be there, too.

 

Javier came up with a great idea. January 6 is The Epiphany, or Three Kings Day, in Latin American countries. We put some grass and a cup of water in a box or a basket and put it under a bed for the kings’ camels. The kings come to visit, and like Santa Claus, leave gifts for the children. So my two brothers and I are going to dress up like the three kings and give away toys to the poor. I think it’s a terrific idea and I’m looking forward to meeting all the children and their parents and maybe making their holiday a little happier.

 

What I’ll do first when I get home, though, is put ice on my knees – for about a month. I’ll rest a lot and let my legs get back to normal. Then I’ll start working out again. I work out in the offseason with a trainer in Yuma. We go to the gym from 11 a.m. to about 1:30 then I rest for a bit. Then we run the stadium steps and do agility exercises. Then I rest again. Then we do another hour of cardio in the evening. By the start of spring training, I’m working out seven days a week.

 

We couldn’t have asked for a better game to end the season yesterday. I’m so happy that we were able to get Timmy the win and give voters another reason to pick him for the Cy Young. I think he should win it but it’s not a slam dunk. There are other guys who make a good case. But he has my vote, for sure. He should have had about 23 wins instead of 18, but we just didn’t score enough runs for him.

 

It was really tough in the clubhouse after the game saying good-bye to everyone. You’re together for about 185 games, through a long season, and you become like a true family. You’re looking forward to the rest and relaxation of the off-season, but you’re sad to leave, too. I’m not very good at saying goodbye. It’s very uncomfortable. Sometimes I have so much I want to say but I can’t because it’s so overwhelming. So you just say goodbye.

 

Saying good-bye to Omar might have been the toughest one. I did manage to tell him how I felt about him. I told him how much I appreciated his friendship, his knowledge of the game, his help and his positive mind. I wanted to make sure he knows we all love him and hope he’ll be back. The ovation the fans gave him yesterday was unbelievable. I would have cried my eyes out, if it were me. But he was so gracious and composed. I don’t know how he did it.

 

I better get going if we’re going to have everything packed up by tomorrow morning. Thank you so much for taking this journey with me this season. I truly enjoyed writing this and reading all your posts. I will try my best to post some entries in the off-season, but if I don’t, I’ll start up again in spring training. I’m already missing baseball. OK, almost. Give me a month, then I’ll be counting the days until pitchers and catchers report …

No ordinary home run

There’s a lightness to the clubhouse this weekend, our last
of the season. Everyone is joking around, teasing, signing baseballs and
baseball cards for the clubbies and the staff and each other.

bengie928.jpg

 

We’re all feeling good about beating the Dodgers Friday night
and hoping we take them again tonight and Sunday to end the season on an up
note. I think everyone on the team knows that, despite our record, we laid a
great foundation for next season. We go into the offseason excited and
energized for what might come next year.

 

Everyone always says if you come to ballpark every day,
you’ll see something you’ve never seen. If you came to the ballpark Friday
night, you saw something nobody has ever seen. It happened in the sixth inning
with the Dodgers leading 2-0. Pablo Sandoval was on first. I hit a pitch that
bounced off the right-field wall. I stopped at first, and Pablo advanced to
third.

 

Bochy had already told Manny Burriss that if I reached
first, he’d go in as a pinch-runner for me. When I got to the dugout, I saw
Omar telling Bochy that he heard the ball hit the green metal roof above the
wall, which meant it should have been a home run. Bochy talked to the umpire,
who apparently felt confident in the call. Then Bochy saw the ball – it had
green paint on it. The crew chief called for a review under the new rule, and
he ruled it a home run,.

 

So now Manny’s standing at first, and I’m about to go back
out there to complete the run around the bases. But the umpire said that,
because Burriss was officially entered in the game, I couldn’t go back in. So
he ran the bases.

 

When he came into the dugout, I was laughing. “Nice swing,”
I said.

 

I heard the official scorer had to call the Elias Sports
Bureau to get a ruling on how to score it. They said I’d get credit for the
home run and the two RBI but not the run scored. So I am the only player in
baseball history who has hit a home run without scoring.

 

It was a crazy game, as Dodgers games often are. It was
great to come back in the 10th and hear the fans go wild.

 

It’s been a really nice few days for me. I found out on
Friday that I had won the Willie Mac Award for the second year in a row. It
surprised me because there were other guys who couldn’t easily have been
chosen. Randy Winn, for one. When Jim Moorehead from Media Relations told me in
the clubhouse, I got chills. It means so much to me that my teammates and
coaches respect me and think so highly of me. That’s the biggest thing, that
they appreciate my effort and my friendship inside and outside the game.

 

I’ll write again tomorrow and share my plans for the offseason.
Thanks for reading.

Making things clear

Just to clear the
air after today’s story in the Chronicle about me being upset with Bochy
sitting me with Zito on the mound:

I shouldn’t have
said anything publicly, and I apologized to Bochy this morning. I apologized to
Zito, too. Everything’s fine. They understand that my heart and my competitive
spirit took over, and I spoke before thinking things through. Bochy wanted to
give me a day off either today or yesterday, and he chose yesterday because he
wanted me out there with Hennessey today. I never want to sit out, as I’ve said
before. I want to help the team win, so it’s always frustrating to watch from
the bench.

As I was sitting
at my locker this morning, I got a photo on my cell phone from my younger
daughter. She’s in a catcher’s crouch with a glove on her hand and she’s
wearing the uniform from her new softball team. She’s playing organized ball
for the first time. I can’t wait to watch her. She’s got great hands and a
great swing. Another Molina on the field . . . But really all I want is for her
to have fun and build her confidence as a young woman and learn all the great
lessons from sports that I did.

Someone asked me
recently about the relationship between a catcher and an umpire. Every umpire
is different, and as a catcher you come to know most of them over the years.
Some are quick to tell you why he called a pitch a ball — it was high, outside,
etc. — when it’s apparent I thought it was a strike. Some will even ask me
where I thought the pitch was. Some don’t say anything. Some like to rest their
hand on my back, which is fine except when they flinch and push me and I have
to say, “Hey, watch out.” But of course I do it nicely. There is no advantage
in getting on the wrong side of an ump.

I also have to
take into account, as I’m calling the game, the slight differences in the
umpires’ strike zone. If an ump isn’t calling the fastball away, I don’t call
that pitch.

Another thing you
might notice when I’m behind the plate: Between batters, I often groom the
dirt, smoothing out the divots left by a batter who stands deep in the box. The
smoother the dirt, the truer the bounce. The worst thing is to be expecting the
ball to bounce a certain way and it hits a rock or a divot and flies off in a
different direction.

I’ve also been
asked if I notice when the fans leave early. I can tell you, we all notice. I
understand why people leave early – they have to get home on a weeknight, or
they think the game is over because we’re so far behind. But it’s still
deflating. We want the fans to be a part of the game, and when they start
streaming up the aisles, it takes away a little of our energy. And we feel bad
that we’re not playing in a way to make them want to stay.

Another thing we
notice, of course, are the boos. Tyler Walker has been on the receiving end
lately, and we feel horrible as his teammates when it happens. He knows it’s
the nature of the job as a pitcher to get booed. I always think that if they
knew how hard that guys works to prepare himself, maybe they wouldn’t boo. But
the fans have no way to see what goes on behind the scenes.

After today, we go
on our last road trip then it’s the last homestand. Hope to see you at the
park. Thanks for reading and continuing to leave all your kind and encouraging
messages.