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.
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!
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!
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
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.
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?”
what happened?” I asked, but he didn’t answer.
Freddy Sanchez sat down next to me, “Hey, are you OK?”
what’s going on?”
you going to be OK? I’m sorry, man. I’m so sorry,” he said.
still didn’t know what he was talking about.
Pat Burrell says, “It’s been an honor playing with you. You’re a class act.”
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.”
thought, “What the heck?”
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.
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.
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.”
was about to sit down when everyone started to clap. Then they stood and
clapped some more. It was an amazing feeling.
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,
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.
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.
for reading this over the past few seasons. I hope our paths cross again.