Yes, A New Post!

I know, I know, it’s been way too long. Those of you who are parents know, with a new baby, it’s not easy finding a minute to do anything but change diapers, give baths, pat burps from her tiny body and just look at her. Jamie and I are so happy to have little Jayda in our lives.

She was born Saturday, July 11, at 1:15 in the afternoon. Jamie went into labor on Friday afternoon. I called Dave Groeschner, the Giant’s head athletic trainer, to ask him to tell Boch I had to miss the game. (I had a new phone and didn’t have Boch’s cell phone number.) After we got Jamie settled in the hospital, we turned on the game. It was in the second inning with Jonathan Sanchez pitching and Eli Whiteside catching. All I was thinking about – at least as far as anything beyond Jamie and the delivery – was pulling for the guys to win. Then along about the seventh inning, I started to think, “Hey, he might throw a no-hitter.”

With every out, Jamie, her mother and I got more and more excited. At the final out, we were all yelling and cheering. It’s just such a rare thing, an unbelievable thing, to pitch a no-hitter. The only time I’ve ever seen one in person was on September 11, 1999, when I was with the Angels and Eric Milton of the Twins no-hit us. It was an 11 a.m. game in the Metrodome because the University of Minnesota had a football game there that night. The Angels manager at the time, Joe Maddon, sat most of the starters, so I wasn’t even in the line-up.

But I can honestly say, while I watched Jonathan Sanchez and Eli Whiteside, I never thought, “Oh, I wish I was catching.” I would want to be there to celebrate the occasion, of course, but I’m not one for coulda, woulda, shoulda. That was Eli’s game. I strongly believe that what is for you is for you. What is not for you is not for you. Maybe if I were there, Jonathan wouldn’t have pitched a no-hitter. It was meant to be that Jonathan and Eli had the no-hitter and not me.

Again, because I didn’t have everybody’s number in my new phone, I couldn’t call Jonathan. So I sent a text to Groesch and he showed it to Jonathan. Then I congratulated him and Eli in person on the following Sunday when I returned to the team.

I spent Friday and Saturday nights at the hospital with Jamie and the baby. As you can imagine, the birth was amazing, very emotional, very loving. Jayda was perfectly healthy with a thick mop of black hair. She’s beautiful – takes after Jamie. My brother Jose, who plays for the Yankees, flew in on Sunday night and spent the All-Star break with us and helped us welcome Jayda into our family.

I know for the last couple months, my numbers at the plate have not been great. Everybody thinks I’m struggling and I must be getting down on myself. But that’s not the case. I’ve been swinging the bat well and hitting the ball well. But they just haven’t been falling. Even Boch told me he’s never seen anything like it in his career, such a string. Now, the last few games, the balls are dropping again. But I feel the same at the plate as I have all season. Now the balls are just finding the holes. People can call it a slump if they want to. But I didn’t feel that way at all.

Dodgers come into town tomorrow. We can’t wait. This is the time to make up some ground in the division. We’re ready.

Thanks for all your kind words and good wishes for Jamie, Jayda and me.

Great Day at the Park

Yesterday was one of those days when everything falls into place, when baseball seems like the easiest game in the world.

We scored 10 runs against St. Louis — Ishikawa and Renteria both went three for four with three RBIs a piece.

Timmy pitched what might be the best game of his already amazing career, a two-hit complete game – his third complete game in his last four starts.

And we were in St. Louis, so I got to spend time with my brother, Yadier, and my mother and aunt, who were visiting from Puerto Rico.

What more could I ask for?

One thing, actually.

I could ask to have a big game at the plate after a disappointing month of June.

And, sure enough, I got that, too.

I went three for five with an RBI and a run. To be honest, I hit the ball well all five times. I felt great up at the plate. It felt good to see the ball flying past fielders instead of right at them. Hitting is mostly skill, of course, but there’s a little luck, too. Sometimes you can be swinging the bat and seeing the pitches as well as you ever have, and every ball you hit finds a glove. And sometimes the balls fall exactly where you want them to.

Despite the slump, it’s satisfying to still have the most RBIs of any catcher in the National League and to lead the major leagues in game-winning RBIs.

The best part of yesterday’s game, though, was partnering with Timmy. I take a lot of pride in calling his games and strategizing with him through every inning, every batter, every pitch. I don’t need to tell you that this kid is really special. He’s one of a kind. I have never seen a pitcher exactly like him. He trusts his pitches. He trusts what he’s going to throw. When I call for a fastball, he just unleashes it. The real good pitchers, they execute their pitches.

Sounds simple, right? But there’s a confidence and trust a pitcher has to have in himself, his catcher and his skills. Timmy has four pitches he can throw for strikes. Four good ones – meaning he not only throws them for strikes, he throws them hard.

And this kid doesn’t rattle. He’s really relaxed before his starts, but he’s a very fierce guy when it comes to pitching his game. He has the perfect personality for a pitcher.

Even between innings, when most pitchers sit off by themselves on the bench, Timmy will ask me about the location of a certain pitch, things like that. This kid is the whole package.

I didn’t catch Ryan Sadowski, but I had fun watching him. He really, really impressed me, the way he controlled the game, the way he threw strikes, moved the ball around. He threw breaking balls, sliders when he had to. He looked like a veteran out there.

He spent more than six years in the minor leagues, and he learned how to pitch. Some guys have all the raw skills in the world but they get to the majors too quickly without first learning HOW to pitch. Believe, I understand why everyone wants to get out of minors as fast as they can. It’s no fun being the minors. It’s a tough lifestyle. But there are a lot of advantages to paying your dues in the minors.

That’s where you do all your learning. The major leagues aren’t instructional leagues. It’s not the place to be working on your skills. You get here and you have to execute right away. That’s what Sadowski did. He did his job and now he’s getting another chance.

Here’s another advantage. When you spend that much time in the minors, once you get to the majors, you really, really appreciate where you are. You appreciate the game of baseball and how blessed you are to play it for a living. I was in the minors for more than seven years, so I speak from experience.

Jamie is getting closer to having the baby, so I gave Bochy the heads-up that if I get the call that she’s in labor, I’ll have to go. I’ll keep you posted, of course.

Catching Up

First, thanks for the wonderful comments so many of you left on my last post. I try always to have a positive outlook on life even when I’m struggling at the plate. How can I not have a positive outlook? I am so blessed to be playing this game.

But sometimes, when the balls aren’t falling and you don’t come through when your teammates need you, it’s difficult not to get frustrated and disappointed. So your comments truly lifted my spirits. I carry your thoughts with me every day onto the field. I play so hard because I know I’m playing not just for myself. I’m playing for my teammates and the Giants organization, of course, but it’s so important to me to play hard for the people who come out to our games and watch us on TV or listen on the radio and send us all their great energy. I can’t thank you enough for always being in my corner.

Second, sorry I haven’t written much lately. I’m trying to do better.

Going back to Randy Johnson’s 300th, it was awesome to be part of that. As you know, it wasn’t the greatest setting: wet and dreary and only a few thousand fans on hand in Washington, D.C. But Randy was unbelievable: He allowed just one unearned run in six innings, and even at the age of 45, he dove at a comebacker and barehanded it to throw the guy out.

My adrenaline about the historic milestone didn’t kick in until the eighth. We were ahead 2-1 and Brian Wilson was facing Adam Dunn with two outs and the bases loaded. Wilson had a 3-2 count on Dunn. That’s when you start thinking about the 300th game. How could we possibly walk in the run that ruined Johnson’s victory. Wilson threw a fastball that crossed the plate at Dunn’s knees. The umpire didn’t call anything, and I held the ball a little longer, showing that the ball was in the strike zone. The ump called a strike and we were out of the inning. I’m sure it’s lot of weight off Randy’s shoulders to have the 300th win under his belt.

It’s been fun to watch this team develop its personality. If you walked into our clubhouse, you’d always hear someone laughing – most likely Juan Uribe or Pablo Sandoval. Those two guys always find a way to have fun. They’re always making comments to make the rest of us laugh, even in the middle of a game. When Pablo hit a double recently and I ran from first to third, he yelled from second base about me needing some oxygen and covered his face as if he were holding an oxygen mask. When Juan hit his first home run of the season a few weeks ago in Arizona, it was Pablo’s idea to give Juan the silent treatment when he came back into the dugout. Everybody just sat in the dugout, ignoring Juan. He didn’t know what to do. He kept saying, “I don’t care, I don’t care.” Then we all got up and laughed and congratulated him.

That’s what makes a team come together. You can laugh and tease each other like a family because the truth is for eight months we’re around each other more than we’re around our families. We have a good balance of veteran guys, young guys, quiet guys, loud guys. Everyone, the Latin players and the American players, all get along and don’t break off into little groups like on some teams.

That’s one of those little things that keep a team together during rough times. We’re playing right now the way I knew we could play. Our starting pitching is the best in the league, and our bullpen is right up there, too. We get hits from different guys in the line-up every night. We’re just going to keep chipping away at the Dodgers’ lead.

We’re in Oakland tonight, which is great for me: Closer commute from Lafayette!

See you at the ballpark.

Family Reunion

This was one of the best home stands I can remember – and only in part because we went 5-1.

We were coming off a terrible road trip to San Diego and Seattle. We couldn’t score any runs for our pitchers. Then we came home and swept Atlanta and took two of three from St. Louis – and as a bonus we had a rare day off at home on Thursday.

And as an added added bonus for me, it so happened that St. Louis was flying in on our off day. Not only was I going to get to see my little brother Yadier, who is the starting catcher for the Cardinals, but he was bringing his wife, Wanda, and their 8-month old son, Yanuel, with him.

Jamie and I drove into the city around midday on Thursday to pick them up at the Ritz Carlton, the Cardinals’ hotel, to take them around the city and then back to our house in Lafayette for the night. We pulled up to the front of the building, where Yadier, Wanda and Yanuel were waiting. Then who should emerge from the door but my mother! I couldn’t believe it. I just hugged and hugged her. Yadier had flown her in from Puerto Rico to surprise me. He knew I was going through a down time with my hitting – and with the disappointment of hearing boos for the first time from our home fans — and wanted to cheer me up. It worked. I couldn’t have asked for a better gift.

From the hotel, we piled in the car and went for lunch at Fruitlandia, the Puerto Rican restaurant I love so much. Afterward, Jamie and I took the crew to Fisherman’s Wharf to see the seals and we drove down the crooked part of Lombard Street. That night, we just chilled at our house. Yadier and I love music so we spent some time sharing songs on our laptops and Ipods.

We had lunch Friday at McCovey’s restaurant in Walnut Creek, another favorite of mine, then Yadier and I drove to the ballpark together.

When I got hit by a pitch in Friday’s game, and ended up face down on the ground, my family was just arriving at the park. Jamie told me later that my mother looked at me on the ground and Yadier bent over me and said, “He better help him up!” Yadier kept asking if I was OK.

“I’m fine, but it might slow me down on the bases,” I said, cracking Yadier up.

Jamie told me she had never seen my mother as happy or enthusiastic as she was watching Yadier and me play on the same field. She was just screaming and cheering both of us. My daughters were also there Friday night. Jamie picked them up at the airport in the late afternoon, and they were so happy to see their grandmother. After the game, all of us went to Mel’s Drive-In on Lombard because it’s open late. Then Jamie and I dropped Yadier and his family and my mother and daughters at the hotel. My mother was staying in the hotel that night, and my daughters always sleep with her whenever they’re together. They adore her and, because they don’t see her as often as they would like, they spend every minute with her that they can.

It was tough to say goodbye to my mother and brother on Sunday. I miss them so much. And I’m so proud of how Yadier has matured into such a wonderful man. He’s a great dad and a great son to our mother.

On another note, I realized recently that there was one big thing I forgot to tell you.

In February, during spring training, Jamie and I got married in Scottsdale. It was a small, beautiful ceremony at sunset in a little park. We’ve been together so long – we’ve known each other 10 years – that I already thought of Jamie as my wife. I can’t imagine my life without her. Maybe that’s why I didn’t think to write about the wedding. We had been married in my mind for a long time already.

Determination

I understand Sports Illustrated last week highlighted the number of walks I’ve drawn so far this season, which was zero at the time. I now have two – one on May 12 and another on May 14.
The bottom line is I’m an aggressive hitter. I swing at pitches I think I can hit. When I see a pitch I can hit early in the count, I go for it. I swing at a lot of 3-1 pitches because they’re pitches I can hit. I’m not waiting, hoping for a walk. Would you rather have a guy who has 40 walks but only 30 RBIs and five HRs, or a guy who walks only a few times but gets 90 RBIs and 15 HRs? I want to hit and score runs. 
The other thing I want to talk about is stolen bases. Teams have been running on us. I know it’s been disappointing for fans to see that. A defense has to execute three acts almost perfectly to catch a runner stealing. The pitcher has to get the pitch to the plate quickly. This is key because that act sets the sequence in motion. Then the catcher has to catch, release and fire to the bag quickly. And the fielder has to make the tag quickly. 
Everything needs to click together. No one player can make it happen alone. 
Last year, I had probably the best defensive year of my career – five passed balls all season, five errors and I threw out almost 40 percent of runners trying to steal, which was well above the league average.
So it’s kind of disappointing when I hear fans or guys on the radio taking me on for the steals. I’m the same player I was last year. As we get everyone working together, we’ll catch more runners and teams won’t be so quick to run on us. 
I’m looking forward to returning to the Bay Area for our game Monday against the Braves. Traveling can be tough on your body and mind, especially the road trips when you’re in a city just two days. The last road trip, the one before this one, we went from San Francisco to Chicago, which is two hours ahead. You get in late, put your luggage down and go to sleep. You play the game the next night then come back to your room and pack because you’re leaving the next day after the game right from the ballpark.
Then you go to Colorado, which is another time zone. Then turn around in two days and go to LA – and play three tough games against the division leader.
I’ve been thinking about that last game against LA while I’m on this road trip. It went to 13 innings. We had no pitchers left to use. We fought and fought and Randy hit a two-run single in the 13th for the 7-5 win. As we struggle a little on the road this week, losing to the Padres despite great pitching from Zito and Sanchez, I think about that game – and others – when I watched this team come through. That game in LA showed who we are – that we’re fighters, that if we’re down a few runs, we can make something happen. 
We all believe that. And we know we’re all in this together. This is a great group of guys – which is not to say we don’t get after each other. We do. But it’s all about pushing each other to perform as well as we know we can. No matter what happened yesterday or the day before, we arrive at the ballpark with the mindset that we can win every game. 
We have Timmy tonight. I like our chances.

A Few Answers

Willkan writes: “On last night’s broadcast (4/28 vs Dodgers) the Giants’ announcers were commenting on Sanchez having a change-up but never throwing it. He uses his splitter as a change-up, they said. Isn’t a change-up easier to throw?”

Different pitches are easier for different pitchers. Whatever the pitcher has thrown for a long time is the easiest pitch to throw. If he’s been throwing a knuckleball for 20 years, and you want him to throw a curveball — which is easier for most people – that pitcher would say the knuckleball is easier because that’s what he’s most comfortable with. Sanchez is more accustomed to throwing a splitter for strikes. The change-up is not as comfortable for him because he’s not as used to it.

Here’s the second part of Wilkan’s question: “I don’t understand these fireballers who throw mid to upper nineties with a hard slider to go with it, but they don’t throw a change-up. It seems to me that someone throwing 95 would benefit greatly by having a 75 mph change up. Could you comment on this in a future post?”

You’re generally not going to see anyone who throws 100 mph throw a 75 mph change-up. You can’t slow your body down enough to take 25 mph off your pitch without the batter noticing the change in your motion. A pitcher’s change-up is usually between 10 and 15 mph slower than his fastball – that’s as much as he can reduce the velocity without tipping off the batter.

That leads me to the answer to your question. The speed of a change-up for a pitcher who throws a 100 mph fastball is going to be about 90 mph. Well, the average velocity of a ML fastball is 90 mph. That’s what batters see every day. So if the fireballer throws a 90-mph change-up, the batter has a very good chance of hitting it because he sees it all the time. Therefore, the fireballer has a better chance of fooling the batter by throwing a hard slider that goes out of the strike zone.

This is from giant_leslie@yahoo.com on April 29: “I just wanted to mention that I really see your influence on Sandoval. The other night, the second game vs. the Dodgers in this series, Sandoval was jumping up and down yelling and throwing his water bottle around with such excitement, and when someone got on first, he was SOO happy! He looked back at you as if to be like “BENGIE!! DID YOU SEE THAT??” and you nodded your head with a sense of calmness. I know how much you like Sandoval, and I just wanted to commend you on all of the time and effort you spend with him.”

As I’ve said before, I love Pablo’s spirit and heart. He has brought so much joy to the game for me last year and this year. Maybe I enjoy him so much because he’s so different from me. I don’t like showing emotion. I keep as even as I can. But sometimes I try to make him calm down a little. I tell him we’ve still got a game to play and there will be time to celebrate when the game is over.

From mikeysaldana@yahoo.com: “I saw you having a tough time catching wild pitches but you managed to hold on. I think I only saw one get by you. I just voted for you and all the other giants for the all star game! It’s good to see the giants doing great again, and I’m making sure everyone knows because I’m posting it up on my status on myspace everyday! Keep up the winning and the hot hands!”

One thing to understand is the difference between a wild pitch that’s a fastball and a wild pitch that’s a breaking ball. Fastballs are coming in too fast to move your body. You can’t block them with your body. You have to throw your glove at it. That’s your only chance. A breaking ball is different. You were expecting the pitch to come one place and it comes in a different place. You should be able to block it with your legs and chest.

I was happy to see a note from a fan in England: “Hey Bengie. Great blog – thanks for giving us UK baseball nuts a chance to read what it’s really like playing in the majors. I stay up every night to catch the giants on mlb.tv as we are like 7 hours ahead of west coast (don’t think my employers are happy but its worth it!) Mark (mes4@hotmail.co.uk).

Mark, while you’re in England watching baseball in your free time, I’m in the U.S. watching soccer in my free time. I’m a huge soccer fan, as you probably are, too, living in England. Not sure what team you follow but mine is Manchester United. I watch as much soccer as I can. Every day, I flip through ESPN2 and the Spanish stations to find whatever game is on.

And finally a note from Jingles: “Hey Benjie, you forgot to mention the FANATICAL bus driver, Jingles (aka: Rally Pumpkin) and the way he decorates the bus when he drives the team in So Cal. LOL! Hope to see you again when you’re back in LA May 8-10. All the BEST to you and the rest of the Giants. Take Care, Jingles.”

I read this post and then, sure enough, when we got off our plane in Los Angeles last Thursday night, Jingles was right outside the gate. He wasn’t our bus driver this time but he showed up anyway. He was there all by himself with an orange jersey, his big San Francisco Giants hat, and a trumpet or something in his hand. He’s a cool, great guy. He made me smile when I saw him there – a one-man welcome party.

More later.

Manny, etc.

All the talk here in L.A., as you might imagine, is about Manny. Not so much in our clubhouse, although of course it comes up. But it’s splashed all over the newspapers and on TV and the all reporters want to know what we think.

Here’s what I think. I know he’s a rival and a Dodger, but he’s a good friend of mine, too. He’s a nice guy. You don’t want to see something like this happen to anybody.

My first reaction when I saw it on the news Thursday morning was, “Wow, why would he do that? He’s already a superstar. He’s a guy who’s so talented he doesn’t need any of that.” You start asking yourself all those kinds of questions.

When all the steroid stuff first came out, back a few years before the Congressional hearings, I had mixed feelings because a lot of the stuff that guys were getting in trouble for wasn’t banned yet in the major leagues. I’m sure they were thinking, “OK if this is going to get me over the hump, give me a little edge, I’ll try it.”

But now the rules are clear. Now there is no excuse to be using any of it. It’s against the rules, and obviously it puts the clean players at a real disadvantage. I don’t want to see Matt Cain or any of our pitchers going up against a batter who is on steroids. It’s not fair to that pitcher. It’s not fair to anyone.

Do I worry that the players who test positive make fans suspicious of all of us? I can’t let myself worry about it. People are going to think what they’re going to think. People need to remember there are plenty of guys who have had great careers who didn’t do any of that. Most players are successful because we have worked, and continue to work, really, really hard.

So I guess fans have to decide for themselves how they want to judge a player. I’m someone who stays away from judging anyone. All of us have our faults and have made our mistakes. So if I see my friend Manny tonight, if he’s working out with the team before the game, I’ll tell him just to hang there and that I’m thinking about him.

Yesterday, as you know, we had a great game in Colorado. I had two home runs in my first two at-bats. People ask sometimes, after a game like that, if I know right away I’m in a zone. The answer is hardly ever. Most of the time, the pitcher dictates what kind of swing you take. It’s not like you can put a ball on a tee and go out there with your best swing. I was lucky that I got a hanging slider my first at-bat and a fastball down the middle on the second. To tell you the truth, I haven’t been seeing too many of those pitches this season. Pitchers generally give me nothing in the strike zone.

My third at-bat, I got ahead in the count, which kind of frees up your swing. You can put more into it. (When you’re behind in the count, you take a little bit off your swing because you’re looking to just put the ball in play.) I really, really hit that ball hard – harder than the first two home runs. I thought it was gone when I hit it. But the wind picked up and was blowing in. When I saw the fielder get under it, I knew it wasn’t going out. If it had, it would have the first time I hit three home runs in a game.

Then I had the weird at-bat. I swung, the ball bounced off the plate, hit my hand then trickled down the third-base line about 40 feel from home plate. I didn’t run because I knew it had hit my hand and was a foul ball.

But the umpire didn’t call it. He said he didn’t see it or hear it, so he couldn’t call it. Our runner scored, but obviously I was thrown out at first base. So here’s a lesson to you Little Leaguers: Don’t assume anything. Run everything out. That’s what I should have done.

Another lesson for young players from yesterday’s game: Never give up. Did you see Matt Cain? He was really struggling, especially early on. He couldn’t find the strike zone. He was walking guys – three in the first inning. He had all kinds of trouble. But he got Todd Helton to hit into a double play and then struck out the next guy, I think, to get out of the inning.

He never found his rhythm yesterday, so it was a perfect example of just bearing down. He wasn’t hitting his spots and he knew it. But he came out with the win because just kept plugging away one batter at a time.

Matt and I didn’t talk too much during the game because he was trying to keep his focus. But after the game, he came up to me and said, “Thank you for getting me through that.”

I told him, “This is the type of game where you earn your money. It’s easy to come out and play when you have all your pitches working. It’s not easy at all to pitch when you don’t.”

So the Dodgers tonight. Can’t wait to get back on the field. Every game is important but the ones against the division leader – especially when the division leader happens to be the Dodgers – are especially exciting.

In my next post, I’ll answer some of the questions you’ve been leaving for me. Keep them coming. I really like hearing what’s on your mind.

Reminders of Who We Are

I’m in the clubhouse waiting for Game 2 of our series against the Dodgers.

I was so happy to see Brian Wilson come back last night in Game 1 after giving up three runs in the ninth on Sunday. He was hitting the spots, which is the most important thing for me. We were mixing up the pitches really well.

I know there’s been a little dust-up over his Twittering or whatever it is. To be honest, I really don’t know what the whole thing was about. But you need to know that Brian Wilson is the hardest-working guy we have on the club. If you could see the way he works out, you’d be amazed.

He feels that if his body is invincible, his mind will be, too. It gives him a feeling that no one can beat him. No one should have any doubt that baseball is his top priority – because as all his teammates know, it IS his top priority.

When the season began, I took a pen and wrote something underneath the bill on my Giants cap.

“All out everyday.”

It’s something my dad always said to me. Now that he’s gone, he can’t remind me anymore. So I wrote it there. I see it every time I put on or take off my cap. I long ago stopped needing his reminder to play all out everyday. It’s what I do. It’s part of who I am as a player.

But I still needed to hear it. Not for the words. But for his words. The way he said it was like another way of saying he loved me. It was his way of still being my dad. He knew I always played all out. But he still said it because it was a thing between us, something he had been saying since I was a child.

Last week, I added another reminder of him, and of my mother, too, to my Giants uniform.

It’s a small patch sewn to the inside of my jersey in the spot that rests over my heart. On the patch are two words: “Mai” and “Pai” – mom and dad.

Still pumped

We’re in Arizona on our day off and still pumped from yesterday’s win over the Padres. As you might imagine, the flight to Phoenix yesterday afternoon was pretty loud. Everyone was joking and laughing. It was just a great environment.

Those are the days when you are especially grateful that you play baseball for living. It’s an amazing gift every single day to play a game you love and get paid the way we get paid for the privilege, but yesterday’s bottom-of-the-tenth win – I mean, what’s better than that?

I told the reporters that, sure I was thrilled to have the game-winning hit, but to be honest, I wish it had been one of the guys who had fought so hard throughout that game. I was so happy when I touched second and saw that we had scored the winning run -but I was happy because we won, not because I’m the one who got the hit.

One of the writers asked if I had ever come off the bench and hit the game winner before this, and I truly can’t remember. Those aren’t the kinds of things that stick in my mind. My brain doesn’t seem to pay much attention to what I do personally in a game but what the team does.

It’s funny how things work out. At first, when Bochy told me he was giving me the day off yesterday, I welcomed it. I really thought I needed to rest after playing every game so far. But as soon as the game started, I wanted to be out there so bad.

I spent the game on the bench watching and talking, mostly to Holmy, about what was happening on the field, the different situations. Pablo sat next to me between a few innings and asked me things. He caught an awesome game. He and Zito were completely on the same page. And he made an amazing catch on the pop-up behind the plate. Those are the toughest playes. Pablo had to look directly in the sun and couldn’t see the ball. In that situation you have to guess where it’s going to come down. Pablo did a great job of adjusting as soon as the ball reappeared in his line of sight and made a lunging catch.

The guys had battled so hard all day, I wanted to do something for the team. I was happy when Bochy told me to grab a bat in the ninth. I took a few swings in the batting cage downstairs behind the dugout. I was expecting the pitcher to come at me with sliders and fastballs so I was kind of surprised to see a change-up.

When I swung, I knew I hit it pretty good – not home-run good but I thought it had a chance to reach the wall. The outfielders were playing shallower than usual to prevent Torres from scoring from second. When I saw the ball was going to land between the left-fielder and center-fielder, I knew we had won. There are few experiences more exciting than having your teammates rush out of the dugout and mob you and jump up and down around you like kids. I guess we’re all still kids when it comes right down to it. You never get jaded to the thrill of winning a game like that – particularly in your home ball park.

A little side note: Someone recently asked about how we travel. We fly on a chartered plane. We go through security in the parking lot at the ballpark before we board the bus, which pulls up right to the plane. Management sits in first class and the players sit in the coach seats, though many of us get whole rows to ourselves. Some of the veterans sit in the same seats on every flight. I always sit in row 21 on the left side. I sat there on my first trip with the Giants because no one else was sitting there, and I’ve been there ever since.

It’s great, too, because we don’t have to deal with our own luggage. This is a wonderful thing about the major leagues – a big difference from the minor leagues. The bags are delivered not just to the hotel but to each of our rooms. We can’t get too accustomed to it, though, because when we’re on our own, we’re standing in security lines and lugging our baggage like everyone else in the world. But I have to tell you, it’s a luxurious, wonderful thing to go from bus to plane to bus without touching a suitcase.

Today, on our off day, I just rested. Jamie flew down to be with me. We slept in, ate, came back to the hotel, watched baseball on TV, napped and now we’re heading out either to the Cheesecake Factory or to Havana Café.

We’re excited to get back on the field Friday against the Diamondbacks. We’ve got Timmy on the mound – always a good thing.

Thanks for reading!

Back on Track

It’s been great watching our pitchers the last two games – Randy Johnson on Sunday and Matt Cain yesterday. Both were in a groove and doing what they know and we know they can do.

 

Sometimes I can tell in the bullpen before the game when a pitcher is on – like with Timmy on Saturday. I wasn’t sure with Randy on Sunday. But I could see in the first inning he had his fastball and slider working and his change-up.

 

With any pitcher, with a no-hitter going, you just stay away. You kind of stay away from Randy anyway. That’s how he operates. Sometimes Rags or I will mention something to him – watch out for this or that. But there was nothing to say on Sunday. He was awesome to watch.

 

On our off day Monday, I just rested. Then Jamie and I went to McCovey’s restaurant in Walnut Creek and had the best experience. The food was great and there was a ton of memorabilia to look at. It’s only 10 minutes from our house, so I know Jamie and I will be going there a lot. Willie McCovey happened to be in Murph’s office in the clubhouse yesterday, so I told him what a great time we had at his place. He was really happy, and Freddie Lew was standing there next to me. Willie said I had to get Freddie to go now.

 

Got the news yesterday that Steve Holm is coming back up. It will be so great to have him back. You know by now how much I love that guy. I’m looking forward to sitting and talking about the strategy of catching with someone who loves the position as much as I do!

 

See you at the ballpark.