Jamie and I spent the whole day unpacking boxes in our new rental house in Lafayette. You can’t sit down or you’ll never get back up and the job will never get done. We just plowed through and I think we have two boxes left. But I’m taking a break now. (I thought catching was tiring . . .)
It’s great to be back in the Bay Area and about to start the season. It was a long spring and the team got through it without any major injuries. Randy Johnson and I have been working hard at learning how to work smoothly with each other. I’m still learning how to call the game he wants me to call, to call the pitches he wants. He’s the man, the Cy Young winner, the veteran, so it’s up to me to learn how to make him really comfortable during a game. We got closer to that in his last game and we have one more before the season starts, so I know we’ll get there.
The really tough part about this time of the year are the difficult decisions that have to made about who makes the team and who gets sent to the minors. I’m glad I don’t have to make them.
The toughest one for me was Holmy. Steve Holm is one of the really good friends I have on the team. I love Holmy. He’s one guy I talk to all the time about catching and hitting and strategy. So that was really tough for me. Really, really tough. But you have to go with it. You have no choice. I’m not the GM. I’m just trying to do my job. But it hurts me as a friend. I wish we could have him on the team.
Other than missing Holmy, it doesn’t matter to me that the team chose not to carry a full-time back-up catcher. I’m confident that I can play every day. If Bruce Bochy needs me for 162 games, I’ll be out there for 162 games. If that’s what they need me to do, you just step up and say, “Let’s go. Let’s do it.”
Look forward to seeing you tomorrow and over the weekend – and then the real games start. Can’t wait.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
reading. See you at the ballpark. I’ll leave you with some photos:
All right, to continue answering the questions you have posted …
One person wanted to know if I might be faster if I lost a few pounds. My speed — or lack of speed — isn’t about my size. I slowed down from injuries to my hamstrings and quads between 1998 and 2001. I don’t need to lose weight. I’ve always been 215, 220. Now I might hit 225 but I’m usually around 220. My mother once told me she was watching me on TV and I looked big. I told her I was just the same as always. I said maybe I looked bigger on TV or maybe my uniform makes me look bigger. When she came here to visit and saw me in person, she was surprised that, sure enough, I was the same weight I always am.
Someone else asked which pitcher has been the most fun to catch. When I catch, I get so into the moment that my favorite pitcher is whoever I am catching. I catch each pitcher like he’s a superstar. Each has his own personality. I do remember, though, having a lot of fun with Paul Byrd, now with Cleveland. We knew each other so well, he used to call for particular pitches by moving his mouth this way or that. I don’t think anyone does that anymore.
There have been a few questions about the relationship between my brothers and me. We’ve always been competitive with each other, whether in baseball or Nintendo or Playstation. Yadier is eight years younger than I am, and I was 17 when I left home. So he was just a little kid. Jose and I shooed him away when he wanted to play with us most times. Obviously we had some positive influence on him, though, since he followed directly in our footsteps.
But of everyone in my family, if I ever became a manager, the person I’d ask to be my bench coach is my mother. It’s true. She’s the most intelligent baseball person. She never played but she learned from watching her husband and her sons.
She’ll call me and say, “Why’d you swing at that bad pitch? You know on 0-2 he likes to throw the slider!”
Or, “Why are you chasing balls up in the zone?”
She told me after one game, “Every single time there was a man on second, the first pitch they threw was a slider. Didn’t you notice?”
She gets genuinely mad at us. Sometimes I call just to say hi, and she’ll say, “I don’t care. You’re going to hear me.” And then she’ll blast me for not intentionally walking some batter in a particular situation. And I listen.
I can only imagine what she said to Yadier after he was ejected from a game the other day for arguing with the umpire. That was something she drilled into us: You should always show respect. Poor Yadier. Whatever satisfaction he got from arguing the call could not have been worth listening to our mother on the phone.
See you at the ballpark. Thanks for writing and for taking the time to let me know how much you support the Giants.
Thanks for all your kind and encouraging words about my 1,000th hit. As I told reporters, this holds enormous meaning for me. I was never supposed to reach the big leagues, much less last long enough to get 1,000 hits.
Or at least other people never thought I’d make it.
But I think baseball was always in my blood.
When I rewind my brain to my very first memory, it is an image of a baseball field.
I was four or five years old. My father, also named Benjamin, was a second baseman on an amateur baseball team in the Puerto Rican town of Utuado. He was kind of a small guy, but he was like a giant to me. Strong. Powerful. Our tiny house — two bedrooms propped on loose bricks with a zinc roof — was filled with his baseball trophies.
On this day that I remember, I spent the game in the dugout. I’m sure it was the first time my father ever allowed me to stay with him and the other men. I remember the game dragging on into the 10th inning. The dugout was quiet. Everybody seemed worn out from the heat and the frustration of not being able to close out the game.
My father picked up a bat, preparing for his turn at the plate.
“I’m going to hit a home run to left field,” he said. “We’re all going to go home. I’m tired of this game.”
At that park, left field seemed a million miles away. The right-field fence was the close one, the one my father was much more likely to clear. Plus, he was a left-handed hitter. His strength was to right field.
“No, no,” one of his teammates said. “Go to right! It’s shorter!”
“He’s pitching me away,” my father said. “I’ve got to go to left.”
Then he walked to the plate and dug into the batter’s box. Sure enough, the pitcher threw outside. My father swung.
The ball sailed into left field. It kept rising. The left fielder raced back. Then ball began to fall. The left fielder ran faster. Just beyond the fielder’s reach, the ball hit the top of the fence and bounced over.
A home run.
I remember watching my father round the bases, the biggest grin on his face. I bolted out of the dugout with his screaming, leaping teammates.
“Get him! Somebody get him!” my mother screamed from the stands, certain I was about to be trampled.
My father crossed the plate and, in the midst of the celebration, scooped me up in his arms. Then he swung me up on his broad shoulders.
That’s the opening scene of my life. A ballpark. A dugout. And my father’s unlikely heroics.
I thought there was something magical about that diamond-shaped field, that within those white lines anything was possible.
I still do.
My priority is catching, so I don’t like to talk much about hitting. But it’s
ittle difficult to avoid the topic lately.
I have had good streaks before, but none like the one I had a week ago. It
was incredible. To quote the summary put out by Major League Baseball when I was named
National League Player of the Week: .652 batting average (15-for-23) with six doubles and nine RBIs for the week ending May 25, compiling a .654 on-base and 1.043 slugging percen
tage in that span.
I wish I could explain why a player catches fire at the plate. You just do. You see the ball better. It’s hard to put into words because, obviously, your eyesight doesn’t su
ddenly get better. Maybe something shifts in your brain that allows you — for some limited time — to be hyper-focused. I don’t know. All I know is that my eyes seem to pick the ball up right when it leaves the pitcher’s hand.
And here’s Part II of being on a good streak: When the ball reaches you, you know exactly what to do with it.
I always have a plan for every bat, which depends on who’s pitchin
g, what the game situation is, etc. So that’s the same whether you’re on a good streak or a bad one. But when you’re going good, you execute your plan almost every time. You get the pitch you’re looking for. You hit it just the way you want.
And of course, success breeds confidence. So when you’re going good, you relax. You don’t press. You don’t go trying to hit a home run when all you need is a base hit. You go up to the plate truly believing that nobody can get you out.
I know, too, that part of any really great streak has some element of luck. I got a lot of good pitches to hit. They weren’t pitching around me. They weren’t getting me out. I had the opportunities to come through and keep hitting.
It helped that part of the road trip was in Miami. I love that weather. It’s the weather of my childhood in Puerto Rico.
Some people have asked if I had any superstitions about how to keep the streak going — like not changing my socks or taking batting practice from a particular coach. I don’t believe in superstitions, so I just went about my day the way I always do.
We’re up against the Mets tonight and looking to have another exciting win like yesterday’s. I’m still feeling invincible at the plate. I still feel that nobody can get me out. Even when I do get out, I know I’m swinging well and still seeing the ball.
That’s it for now. I enjoy answering your questions, so don’t hesitate to write me. I’ll answer them in a future entry.
As always, thanks for reading and for supporting my teammates and me. We love seeing you out at the ballpark.
Another really tough loss today. Matt Cain had a no-hitter going into the fifth and we ended up losing, 13-8. Five losses in a row at home, and now we’re off to Colorado, Florida and Arizona for nine games on the road.
We’re very, very frustrated with what we’ve done so far as a team, I can tell you that. There were times during this homestand that I could hardly move from my locker after a game. I always try to talk to reporters because when I talk to them, I know I’m talking to the fans. But sometimes I take the losses so hard, I can’t talk to anybody.
I know other guys feel the same way. You always feel, if you didn’t come through when you’re needed to, that you let all your teammates down. And you let the fans down. That’s the worst feeling.
Still, you know you have to put it behind you. You have to keep fighting. That’s the only way. You don’t make it very far in baseball if you can’t battle through tough times. There is so much failure in this game that it’s easy to get beaten down by it. The ones who DON’T let it crush them are the ones who survive at the Major League level. And believe me when I tell you that this is a team not just of survivors, but of warriors. When we get to the ballpark in Colorado, we’ll put a fence around this awful loss and be ready to go 150 percent.
Part of what I do to get ready at the start of each series is to study the inch-and-a-half-thick scouting report on our opponent. Right now, I’m on the plane from San Francisco to Denver and going through the reports on each batter for the Rockies: How have they been swinging lately? What percentage of the time do they swing at curve balls, sliders, fastballs? What do they want when they get one strike? Two strikes? How do they run?
Steve Holm is sitting in the row in front of me, and he’s going through the same stack of papers. We talk about the hitters and get an idea on how to pitch to each one, how to get each one out. At the ballpark, we’ll watch videos of the Rockies’ last few games with Dave Righetti and Mark Gardner, the pitching coach and bullpen coach. Those two guys are very, very prepared for every team. It’s amazing how much homework they do. So we go over the lineup together and come up with a plan for every batter.
Of course, once the game starts, what we prepared for and what actually happens could be totally different things. A batter might not do anything that the scouting report said he would. So Holmy and I have to be ready to adjust. Between innings, we’ll consult with each other and with Righetti about the next three guys in the order. Sometimes, in the dugout, I’ll look at the scouting report again to refresh my memory about a particular guy. Then, after all the hours of preparation, it’s up to the pitcher to make the pitch.
Two real positives of this homestand were Omar Vizquel’s return from the disabled list and Tim Lincecum’s continued great pitching. Omar is always so motivated and happy that he lifts everyone up. We feel pretty secure when he’s out on the field. Not taking anything away from the younger guys, but Omar is a veteran, a future Hall of Famer, and when he’s out there, we all feel pretty good.
People have been asking me what makes Lincecum special. The first thing I say is he has a great heart. He’s not afraid of anything. He’s not afraid of getting hit. His skills, of course, are amazing: He throws over 95 mph, has a great changeup, a great slider and curve. But what makes him so good, at least in great part, is that he believes no one can hit him. Sometimes pitchers give too much respect to batters. But Lincecum always seems to believe that no matter how great the batter’s reputation, he’s better, and he’s going to get him out.
OK, I should get back to studying this scouting report. Thanks for checking in. I’ll try to write more often. But I admit, when we lose, I’m not very eager to share my thoughts.
And during homestands, I’m trying to spend as much time with my family as I can, so I run out of time for anything but family and baseball. I took my younger daughter to the Exploratorium on Saturday and had a great time. What an amazing place. She thought it was awesome. Then after the game Saturday night, I took her into the batting cage behind the dugout and tossed balls to her. I was still in my uniform and dog-tired. But she was so happy that we stayed until about 11. She flew back today to Yuma, where she lives with her mother.
The toughest part of any homestand, besides letting go of the losses, is saying good-bye.
This is the first entry in a blog I’m hoping to keep updating throughout the season. Maybe it will give you a better feel for what it’s like in the clubhouse and on the field — and it will give me a chance to talk directly with fans and get to know them better.
I was thinking today about spring training and how pitchers have two ways to go: They can polish their best stuff, or they can work on the stuff that needs to get better. Obviously, you win more games in spring training when you put your best stuff out there. Our pitchers didn’t do that. We were always thinking about the season, not that particular spring-training game. We didn’t win a lot of games. Our pitchers looked pretty bad out there sometimes. When they got frustrated, I’d say, “Look, don’t get mad. You’re doing this to get ready for the season.”
Now we’re seeing it pay off.
Three wins in a row.
I can’t tell you what a difference that makes in the clubhouse and in the dugout. Guys are joking around more. Everybody’s more laid back and relaxed. That first week was rough, no doubt about it. We came out of spring training with people saying we were going to be last in the whole baseball world, not just our division. When they say things like that and then all of sudden you start winning, that makes us believe again. You think, “OK, we can do it.”
It’s not that you ever stop believing, even during the worst slumps. For me, it’s all about faith and trust. I trust my teammates, and I always remind myself, “This is a marathon, not a sprint.” I’m always talking to the younger guys about that, how we’re in this for the long haul and to stay positive, to not be so hard on themselves. But words are only going to take you so far. Nothing boosts your confidence like winning.
I can see it in the guys on the mound. They’re not pressing. They’re locating the fastball, keeping batters off balance. They understand they don’t have to overpower everybody. It’s been a great week so far.
Feel free to write in with questions or comments. It’d be great to hear what you’re thinking.