Archive for the ‘ Dailies ’ Category

September Baseball!

            As a baseball player, there’s nothing better than reaching September 1 and knowing every game counts. You’re lucky enough not to be on a team so far back in the standings that you’re just sitting in front of your locker and scheduling the moving van and planning vacation. You’re still in the battle, moving closer every day to securing a spot in the post-season.

            The thing is, right about now you’re also feeling how long the season is. Almost two months in spring training then six months of real games. You’re dragging a little. You’re beat up. So you put in a little extra time in the gym. You do a little more prep work on your opponent. And then you step onto the field, and you hear that crowd, and you know you’re the luckiest guy in the world to be on a team in first place, and a team that is so focused on a single mission:

            To win the World Series.

            Obviously, we have to win the division first, then the League Championship. We know every single pitch, every single inning, every single game is huge at this point. We can’t give up anything. We have to have our A game every day.

            For me, the most fun I have is working with the pitchers on this team. This is an amazing staff. C.J. is incredible. That’s the only word. He’s spotting the ball so well. He can get a hitter out with any pitch he wants. He’s very focused and gets himself very prepared for every game.

            I’ve been asked if it’s different for me catching a very young pitcher vs. a veteran pitcher. The answer is yes and no. The bottom line is that your job as a catcher is to help the pitcher get the hitter out with whatever pitches he has. I ask pitchers what their best two pitches are. I do my homework on each pitcher – what he likes to throw in certain situations.

            But with a rookie, there are times I catch him for the first time when he enters a game – which happened with Michael Kirkman during a game in Baltimore. I had never even caught him in the bullpen. I walked to the mound and asked him for his two best pitches. He said fastball in and out and slider. OK. Great. Then I had to pray that he actually threw what I called – that a fastball away was going to be a fastball away.

            Of course, he’s a terrific young pitcher and he was amazing that game.

            Something else with young pitchers. They know I’m a veteran, so they’re going to trust what I call. They going to go with whatever I say. So if I’m not completely prepared, I can destroy them. I take their trust in me very seriously.

            On another note, I’m asking for a favor. I just came from the doctor’s office with Jamie. She’s been undergoing tests for the past few weeks, and the doctor is saying she might have a tumor on her liver. The latest test results should be back later today or tomorrow. Please say a prayer. Thanks.

           

           

 

What I Know Now About the Rangers

I’m about to head to lunch with Jamie and my three daughters on our day off. I heard about a place that serves Puerto Rican food that we want to try out. This afternoon we’ll unpack the last of the boxes that just arrived from San Francisco. We already feel settled and at home here. In fact, we’re loving it. The place we rented is so close to the ballpark and to restaurants and stores. And everyone has been so nice. The fans are unbelievable. All the players told me that the Rangers have great fans, and they’re right. It’s amazing how often the players here talk about how much they appreciate the fans. They’re so supportive and are always right there with us, no matter what’s happening.

Now that I’ve gotten to know the players on the Rangers I’m even more impressed than I was at the beginning. The feeling here inside the clubhouse is not what people might think. Just because we have a 71/2-game lead nobody’s taking anything for granted. These guys play their hearts out to win every single game. That’s what I love about this team. All they want every day is to win. That’s how you make it to the end. That’s how you make it to the World Series. They’re determined to do everything in their power to win. And of course, that’s what I live for — figuring out how to win against that opponent on that particular day.

When we get beat, as we did Wednesday, it’s, “OK, let’s get out there tomorrow and work even harder.”

 A big part of what makes this team special is Ron Washington. He’s all about business and about winning. He’s about working hard in practice and about taking care of his players. He knows the summer heat can take its toll, so he’s careful about giving guys days off so everybody will be fresh to keep playing into the post-season.

As for me, yes, I wish I was hitting better. I don’t feel like I’m having horrible at-bats but nothing’s falling in. My coaches and teammates make sure I know that even with my struggles AT the plate, I help the team BEHIND the plate. I always believe that my most important job is calling a good game and helping the pitchers get the most out of their abilities. Hitting is second.

BUT . . . it sure was fun to go for the cycle. I didn’t write about that in my first post so I’ll do it now.

My first at-bat I was just trying to get in my rhythm. I hit a change-up the middle for a single.

The second at-bat, I figured he wasn’t going to throw me any more change-ups, so I sat on a fastball and hit it over the right-fielder’s head for a double.

My third at-bat, there were two outs with the bases loaded and the score tied at 3. I wanted just to get a hit. But after I saw a couple of pitches – and fell behind in the count 1-2 – I had a better idea of how he was going to work me. The more pitches you see, the more comfortable you get. I knew he was going to throw me a slider. I told myself to stay back, get my timing. And sure enough, he threw a slider and I hit it into the first row of the center field bleachers.

So in the dugout, I’m not thinking about getting a triple but everyone’s telling me that if I hit it into the gap in my next at-bat to just keep running no matter what. I had hit only five triples my entire career. I wasn’t hopeful. But in my fourth at-bat I hit the ball to dead center. I saw the fielder jump and I thought he was going to catch it. The ball hit his glove and bounced off into the perfect spot. I said to myself, “I ain’t stoppin’ for nothin’! This might be your only chance at this!”

NOBODY thought I’d get that triple. I think Jamie, who was watching the game back in the Bay Area, is the only one who thought I could do it. And she told me later she had to leave the room when I came to the plate. She says that every time she really wants something for me it doesn’t happen if she’s watching. Our phones went crazy. I had about 55 text messages waiting for me after the game, some from my old teammates in San Francisco.

I will never forget that moment for the rest of my life.

I know before the season is over, there will be more amazing moments. That’s how this team is.

Thanks for the kind words and comments. Feel free to ask questions and I’ll try to answer them in my next post.

See you at the park!

Thanks for the warm welcome

            I wrote a blog for almost three seasons in San Francisco and loved the connection it gave me with the fans. So I’m looking forward to getting to know Rangers fans through these posts and also, I hope, to giving you a glimpse into what it’s like to be a major-league player.

            First, the trade.

            To be honest, it’s a real blow to be traded. I loved the players and staff at the Giants, so to suddenly find myself off the team, it’s kind of a shock to the system. You’re leaving a group of guys, and an entire organization, that you know inside and out. And you don’t know what it’s going to be like on your new team. You have to learn new routines, get to know the coaches and training staff and, as a catcher, I have to quickly get to know my pitchers.

            Well, I have to tell you, everyone here has been unbelievable. These are very, very nice people. They have made me feel a part of the team right from the first minute. Michael Young texted me right away, before I even arrived, to welcome me and say he was excited about me joining the team.

            My first day with the team, there was a rain delay and the game didn’t start until 9:30, so I had a lot of time to meet everyone and start to get to know them. Another thing that has helped is that the Rangers have meetings every day to go over opposing hitters and opposing pitchers. This helps me a lot because I’ve been in the NL and don’t know the AL players very well.

            Maybe the biggest help of all has been Matt Treanor. I wasn’t sure if it would be awkward because I’m coming in to play the same position. You feel like you’re intruding at first so you kind of just look around and try to figure out what’s going on. But Matt came right up to me and started talking about the pitchers. He gave me the whole scoop on each guy, what to look for, what each guy’s tendencies are. I can’t tell you how impressed I’ve been with that guy.

            But I know that you can’t really know a pitcher until you actually catch him. So I’ve been learning what works for each guy, how they are when they need a big pitch, what they need when they get a little rattled. I have to say this staff is easy to catch. They’re really open-minded and get right down to work. Real pros.

Here’s one funny thing that happened. One of the clubbies picked me up at my hotel on my first day here. He knew my uniform number was 1 with the Angels and Giants. He asked if I wanted the same number with the Rangers.

“Doesn’t Elvis Andrus wear No. 1?” I asked.

“He’s a rookie!” the clubbie said.

“I don’t care,” I said. “I’m not going to come in and take a number away from somebody.”

The clubbie said he had number 11 available.

“OK! There we go!”

Number 11 happens to be the number on the first uniform my father ever gave me. (One thing you’ll get to know about me is how important my father was in my life, as he was in the lives of my two brothers, Yadier and Jose. He died suddenly almost two years ago and not a day goes by that I don’t think about him.) Anyway, I think I was five or six years old when he gave me that uniform with the number 11 on it. It became my favorite number – and the number I wore every year until I was 17. So it feels good to be wearing it again.

That’s it for now.

Thanks so much for the warm welcome all of you have given me. I know I’ve got to start hitting. I’m seeing the ball well and swinging well, so I know it will come. My wife, Jamie, and our baby, Jayda, are now settled in the house we rented just five minutes from the park. (Jayda, who turned 1 earlier this month, just started walking!) My mother and aunt have also been here from Puerto Rico to help us get settled. And my two daughters from Yuma have been here, too. So it already feels like home.

Please feel free to leave comments or ask questions. Thanks again for all the kind words and cheers. I am so excited and grateful to be here with the Rangers. This is a very, very talented team that is going to be fun to watch right through October!

Thanks For Everything

            I’m
in a hotel room in Denver with Jamie and Jayda, still adjusting to the sudden
change in our lives. We have a 7:30 flight tonight to Dallas. The Rangers are
playing today in Anaheim, then returning to Texas tomorrow, so they told me
just to meet up with them there. We’ll stay in a hotel until the All-Star
break, then figure out living arrangements for the rest of the season. At some
point, Jamie will have to pack up our stuff in the Bay Area and have it all
shipped.

            This
is baseball. Or at least the business of baseball. As players, we know our
livelihoods are in someone else’s hands for the most part. That lack of control
over who you work with and where you live, though, is a small price for the
unbelievable opportunity to play baseball for a living – and to earn a salary
most of us never thought possible for ourselves.

Players don’t talk about
this part of the game much, the part about getting traded. Publicly, you shrug
and roll with it. But any player who tells you it doesn’t sting is lying. It’s
because you get so close to the people on your team – not just your teammates
but their families. Jamie is great friends with a lot of the wives, so it’s a
huge loss for her, too.

I feel that in this blog
for the last three seasons, I’ve always been honest with you. So I will be
honest now: News of the trade felt like a blow to the stomach. I love the guys
on the Giants. I have loved playing in front of the fans in San Francisco.

            The
way I found out is a sign of the speed-of-light information superhighway. We
were landing in Denver last night and Travis Ishikawa asked me something like,
“Do you know what happened?”

            “No,
what happened?” I asked, but he didn’t answer.

            Then
Freddy Sanchez sat down next to me, “Hey, are you OK?”

            “Yeah,
what’s going on?”

            “Are
you going to be OK? I’m sorry, man. I’m so sorry,” he said.

            I
still didn’t know what he was talking about.

            Then
Pat Burrell says, “It’s been an honor playing with you. You’re a class act.”

            I
guess everyone had seen it on the internet or had received messages about it. I
turned on my phone and there was a text from Jamie: “We’re off to Texas.”

            I
thought, “What the heck?”

            When
I reached Jamie on the phone, she told me it was all over the news: I had been
traded for a relief pitcher and a player to be named later.

            One
by one, my teammates – especially the pitchers – gave me hugs and thanked me
for the help I had given them over the years. When we were all on the bus
heading to the hotel, I stood up in the aisle and faced the team.

            “I
just want to say thanks for being such great teammates and for taking care of
me. I’m really going to miss you guys,” I said. “You have what it takes to win
this thing, and I’m going to watching as much as I can. You guys have my
number. Even if I’m not your teammate any more, I’ll always be your friend.”

            I
was about to sit down when everyone started to clap. Then they stood and
clapped some more. It was an amazing feeling.

            I
received tons of text messages all through the night, including a really nice
one from Buster Posey. He wanted to stop by my room to talk in person but his
dinner ran late. He wished me the best of luck and thanked me for what I taught
him. I texted him back to thank him for how great he was to me and that I
appreciated how humble and professional he was. I thanked him for his
friendship and for his wife being so friendly to Jamie. I told him I’d always
be rooting for him,

            In
my last blog entry, I want to make sure to thank the clubbies everyone in the
training room, the Giants staff and all the coaches. They are great people.

            This
has been such a great experience the last four seasons. Now I have to look
ahead. I talked to the Rangers general manager last night and he was very
upbeat about how I could contribute to the team. It’s exciting to be joining a
team in first place, and to be sharing a clubhouse again with my old Angels
teammate, Vladimir Guerrero. This is a new challenge for me and it’s going to
be fun to get to know all these new players and coaches and figure out how I
can help them win.

            Thanks
for reading this over the past few seasons. I hope our paths cross again.

           

 

Encouraging Words

Got a text this afternoon from Yadier:
“It’s baseball. You got to enjoy it. I know it’s not going good for us. But we’ve been very, very blessed because we’re God’s children. Baseball is second to that. I love you so much.”
For him to say those things is amazing to me. He hardly ever texts me. I’m always the one texting him and Jose and encouraging them. But that’s the way we see baseball — as a family. We pick each other up. 
I’ll be fine and he’ll be fine. I know that. But it was so great to see those words from my brother.

ESPNs cheap shot

 When I was growing up, respect was the most important thing to my father. That’s what he talked about every day to me, Jose and Yadier. You play the game with respect, yes — but it’s not only about the game. You respect your parents and your teachers and your fellow human beings. 
That’s why ESPN’s sarcastic depiction of me running in slow motion down third base and getting thrown out at home in the Marlins’ game was hard to take. I appreciated Henry Schulman’s blog entry about it.
Until recently, I had thought of ESPN as a network run by professionals who know sports. I thought the people at ESPN, because they focus only on sports, actually understood the game and what pro athletes do to reach the highest level of their sport.
In that Marlins game, which we won, Nate Schierholtz went three-for-three with his first home run of the season. Matt Cain pitched six innings of no-hit ball. And the one highlight ESPN shows of that game is me getting thrown out at home? And they’re doing it just for laughs?
Look, you can say I’m the slowest guy in baseball or in  all of sports or in the entire world. I don’t take issue with that because I AM the slowest guy. I have always been the slowest guy. I can’t challenge that criticism. But ESPN’s intention was not to criticize but to humiliate.
I take what I do very seriously, which is why – despite my obvious lack of speed – I have managed to play in the major leagues for 11 seasons. I play hard. I play hurt. I respect the game, my teammates, the press, the fans. That’s how I was raised. It was the No. 1 thing. 
I know I’m a public figure and I just have to take my lumps. But I would like those people at ESPN who, from a safe distance, make fun of players for a cheap laugh, to remember that players are actual people. With wives and mothers and fathers and children and brothers and sisters. My mother saw the clip. She doesn’t speak English so she asked Yadier’s wife what the announcer was saying. Yadier’s wife didn’t want to tell her. My mom was pretty upset. She didn’t understand why they were making fun of my running when there are so many other things I do every day to help the team win. I told her I didn’t understand it, either.
All I can do is play the way I always have – with respect and professionalism. It’s shame that ESPN, a once great network, won’t have any idea what I’m talking about. 

Appreciating It All

Great to have an off day today before starting a road trip against the Marlins tomorrow. I didn’t fly on the team plane last night because I wanted to go with Jamie to the pediatrician this morning for Jayda’s vaccination shot. Even though you know the shot is for something good, it’s hard to watch your baby in pain for any reason. So I wanted to be there for Jamie. 
The three of us flew out this morning to Florida to meet up with the team. I like Jamie and Jayda to be with me as much as they can, so they go on a lot of the road trips. We go from Florida to New York, where I have a lot of relatives. It will be great to introduce them to Jayda.
I was looking at my numbers the other day. Last year at around this time I was batting .304 and hadn’t had a walk. Right now I’m batting .343 overall (second highest among all NL catchers) and .439 at home (second highest among all NL players). And I already have six walks.
So what’s different? 
I’m way more relaxed this season. I’m not putting so much pressure on myself. This is probably my last year in baseball. I am not expecting any clubs to sign me in the off-season – if only the Mets and Giants were interested last year, when I was coming off five straight good years, I can’t expect I’ll have any interest after this season, no matter how well I do.
So that takes the pressure off to produce big numbers because, as I have found out, numbers don’t seem to make a difference in the marketplace. The Giants signed other guys to beef up the offense, which means the responsibility isn’t squarely on my shoulders anymore. Therefore I’m not pressing as much. 
This has translated into being more patient at the plate. I’m swinging at first pitches only 11.8% of time this season, compared to 39.4% in 2009 and 31.1% over my career. 
It’s funny because I thought I’d feel more pressure in thinking that this is probably my last year. But I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do in baseball, except be an All-Star. So I’m appreciating everything around me and having more fun. I’m just thinking about today and the guys who are around me in the clubhouse today. I am enjoying, as I always have, teaching the young guys about the game. I’m enjoying getting the most out of each pitcher’s outing. I am enjoying it all – maybe because I don’t have anything left to prove. 
The only thing that matters is winning. And that’s something that happens as a team, all of us contributing everything we can. 
I am so happy that, if this is my last season, I’m spending it in San Francisco with the Giants. I said this before and it becomes clearer to me every day: There is something special about this group this season. I feel it in the same way I felt it in 2002 with the Angels. 
Thanks for reading and thanks for being there for me and the Giants through all the ups and downs.

Brothers and opponents

Before today’s
game, Barry Zito was answering questions from a large group of young
ballplayers. The last question was about me and Yadier. A boy asked what he
thought about me and Yadier playing against each other and what it was like
when one of us was catching while the other was at bat.

            Zito
said he and Timmy were just talking about it last night and were joking about
whether I am telling them the truth about Yadi’s weaknesses when we’re going
over the scouting report before the game – or if I’m helping Yadi to do well.

            I
know my teammates don’t really think that, of course. They know Yadi and I have
a wall between our personal and professional lives. When he stole a base the
other night, and then when I caught him stealing yesterday, we didn’t say a
word to each other about it. Not a word. He knows that he did a good job
getting a jump on Tim when Timmy wasn’t paying attention. I don’t have to tell
him that. And I certainly am not going to say anything to him about getting
thrown out yesterday.

            You
might see us talking and even laughing at the plate when one of us comes up to
bat, but usually it’s making fun of each other for taking foul tips and getting
beat up behind the plate.

            Speaking
of which . . .

            Someone
asked me after yesterday’s game about the foul top that smashed me straight on
the mask. Yes, it hurts. But that’s not why I say a quick prayer every time it
happens. I know if you get hit enough like that, you can be out of the game. It
happened to Mike Matheny. He had to end his career when he suffered a head
injury after taking a series of foul balls to his mask.

So when that ball
hit me yesterday, I thought, “Please, God, let me be all right.”

            The
hit left a little burn under my left eye but otherwise I was OK.

During our first
series in Houston, I took a foul tip straight to the front of the mask and I
got a little whiplash. The back of my head and neck were hurting and I almost
came out of the game, but they decided to keep in me in. Believe me, I wanted
to stay in the game But I do wonder why, when a batter gets hit on the helmet
by a pitch, he’s kept out of the game to make sure there’s no concussion and
that he’s OK. But they don’t take the same precautions when a catcher takes a
blow to the head.

            We’ve
got Matt Cain on the mound today. Here we go.

Getting back in the swing

We had a hitters’ meeting
yesterday. No surprise, right? We have driven in just three of the last
41runners in scoring position. We had a chance to win all five of those losses
on the road trip. All five. Every game could have gone either way. If you think
it’s frustrating to watch it on TV, I will tell you it’s a hundred times worse
when you’re watching from the dugout.

The less you hit,
the more you press, even though you’re telling yourself not to press. You get
in the batter’s box and you want so badly to help the team. It’s a 1-0 game,
and the pitcher has been phenomenal and working so hard, and you know with one
swing you can tie it up. Your bat seems to want to attack every pitch. You try
to be patient, to just make contact, just get something going, but I think
subconsciously you’re trying for the 10-run homer.

So in the meeting,
I stood up and told the guys, “This team has a lot of heart. Don’t let give
games dictate the whole year. Keep your confidence. Keep having fun out
there.”

Bam-Bam said the
same thing. He wanted to make sure guys weren’t getting down on themselves. He
went over some things – being patient at the plate, choosing your pitches —
but he told us not to worry, we’ll be fine.

And we will. I
know this team.

When I got the
first base yesterday, Albert Pujols told me that he was struggling, too, with
runners in scoring position. He said he had left the last 10 runners stranded.

“Hey, B-Mo, you’re
a great hitter,” he said. “All you have to do is be more patient. You’re the
best hitter with a man on third base, so most of the pitchers are going to be
throwing you balls. So just be patient.”

It meant a lot
that he was trying to lift me up.

I was hoping to
spend some time with Yadier while he’s here with the Cardinals, but it doesn’t
looking like I’ll get to see him except at the park.

On Thursday, our
off, day, Yadier was busy. And on Friday he had to get to the park early, so we
didn’t see each other. And after Friday night’s game, I was still battling a
cold so I decided not to go out with him and Jonathan Sanchez, who Yadier got
to know during winter ball a couple years ago. (My not going out with him had
nothing to do with the fact Yadier stole a base on me! Maybe I’ll get him back tonight
. . .)

            See
you at the ballpark!

Returning home

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So great to be back in the Bay Area. I don’t even mind the rain. Jamie, Jayda and I (and my niece Jennifer from New York, who’s helping out with Jayda while Jamie recovers from wrist surgery) are back in the same great Lafayette house we rented last year. Saturday night one of our neighbors is having us over for a “welcome back” barbecue.
I have to tell you that it was very emotional for me Thursday night when I stepped into the Giants clubhouse and then onto the field. I had said my goodbyes to this place last year. I thought I wasn’t going to be back. When I walked in and headed to my locker, I thought, ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe I’m here.’ ” 
I really love this place and this team. It’s like family to me. I feel like the dad to all these young guys. So returning here has been like getting my family back.
Today we got to meet a lot of fans at the “Play Ball” luncheon at the Marriott Marquis in San Francisco. It’s a fundraiser for “Junior Giants” and the Giants Community Fund, and they were saying they raised about $300,000, which is amazing. There were almost 1400 people there. Some of the fans didn’t know the new guys, so I heard that Jeremy Affeldt was pushing people toward Mark DeRosa because no one was asking for his autograph. Another of the new guys, Aubrey Huff, made a colorful first impression with his purple plaid pants. (I’ve included a photo here.) I noticed that Brian Wilson is so dedicated to his nutrition regimen that he actually brought his own lunch today in a vacuum-sealed bag.
A few of the Junior Giants player got to ask questions of the big-league players. One kid wanted to know who Affeldt would be if he could become one of his teammates for a day. “Brian Wilson because five minutes inside that dome would be awesome!”
And someone else asked Sandoval who would be the toughest opponent in a wrestling match, and he gave the answer I think most of us would: “Juan Uribe!”
I can’t wait for the season to start on Monday. I’ve been telling Jamie that there’s something really special about this team. Everything we’ve been working for the last three years, this is the year it’s all going to come together. I really feel that.
See you this weekend and then for Opening Day on Friday!
PlayBall Lunch: Aubrey Huff and a Junior Giant
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