October 23, 2010
Just finished watching my former team win a spot in the World Series against my current team. It’s amazing that it has turned out this way. I wonder if that’s ever happened before: one player who, in a single season, has been a starter for the two teams that end up playing in the World Series.
But believe me, I’m pulling 150 percent for the Rangers. I love the guys on this team, and I love these fans. When the umpire rung up A-Rod for the final out of the game, all I remember is bolting for the mound and jumping onto Feliz. Everyone else on the team ran in from the bullpen and the dugout and threw themselves on us. I suddenly found myself flatted on the bottom of the pile. I could hardly breathe – that’s a lot of poundage in that pile. I had the ball in my glove and suddenly someone took it out. I later learned it was Feliz, which was fine. But I’m lying there on the infield dirt. I can’t move a muscle – and my face is smashed into Feliz’s Afro. That was nasty. And Matt Treanor is kissing me on the cheek. It was crazy.
When everyone finally peeled themselves away, I looked up into the stands. It was incredible. All through the stadium, tiny bursts of light flashed from thousands of cameras. I could see people cheering and crying. I saw signs that said, “We Believe!” Confetti fluttered all around us. I saw the scoreboard blazing with the words, “Hello World Series!” I felt as if I was in a dream. When you’ve been around the game as long as I have, you take nothing for granted. You know how rare and special these moments are. I loved making a lap around the field. The fans here have waited so long for this, and I’m so grateful I got to be a part of it.
I sought out Colby Lewis on the field and hugged him and told him how much I respect and admire him for how he pitched. With so much at stake and so much pressure, he was absolutely locked in. He is exactly what this team is all about: guys who believe in themselves and in each other.
I admit that it’s going to feel weird to play against the Giants. But it’s also a great feeling. I have lots of brothers over in that clubhouse, not just the players but the coaches and clubbies and trainers. So, of course, I was rooting for them all the way, yelling and cheering at my TV.
I know one of the story lines of this Series will be me and Buster Posey, the rookie who replaced me on the Giants. People seem to have a hard time believing that Buster and I have nothing but affection for each other. He’s a talented, smart and humble kid. I appreciate how he conducts himself and the credit he gives me for teaching him a few things. He texts me all the time, including after we won the pennant Friday night. And I texted him and other Giants players tonight, congratulating them. I’m so happy for all of them. I know how hard they worked.
Do I think my knowledge of the Giants will help me and the Rangers? I sure hope so. But I don’t think it will help to the degree people might think. Obviously, I haven’t been watching their hitters lately, so it will be our scouts and our pitching giving the pitchers and catchers the most accurate and up-to-date info. And as far as hitting the Giants pitchers, I might drive myself crazy trying to out-think them. They know that I know what they like to throw in certain situations, so they’re not going to throw it, or maybe they will because they’ll think I won’t be expecting it. Or something like that. Anyway, I could twist my brain into a pretzel instead of just getting into the box and hitting the ball.
I can’t wait to get to San Francisco and start playing. This is going to be an amazing Series. Both teams have heart. Both teams are fearless.
It’s amazing to think that no matter who wins, I’ll have my second World Series ring. If this is my last year in baseball, what better ending than to have contributed to both teams in the World Series? I couldn’t ask for anything more.
OK, I could ask for one more thing.
Another rush to the pitcher’s mound, another stadium filled with flashing cameras and a scoreboard ablaze with the words, “World Series Champion Texas Rangers!”
I ended yesterday’s post saying it’s impossible not to be excited and ready to play with this team.
Juan Uribe is one of those guys who seems to carry a current of electricity inside him. He makes things happen whether he’s in the clubhouse or on the field. Before games, he’s at the center of the fierce Domino games at the table near my locker. He, Renteria, Brian Wilson and a few others are there slamming the tiles down and hooting at each other. On the field, well, you’ve seen what he can do. Two home runs and a triple yesterday. He always finds a way to get us going and keep us fired up.
Then there’s Pablo, who continues to amaze all of us. That play yesterday at first? He was like Superman flying to right to stop that ball. He might not look like your typical star athlete, but he’s such a natural. He has all the tools. He’s fast. He’s strong. Look at his forearms. They’re huge. He’s incredibly agile – you have to be agile to play third base, first base and catcher. Plus he can hit. He’s the whole package.
And having Freddie Sanchez back in the lineup really makes a difference. He’s a proven Number 2 hitter. He can go the other way. He’s not afraid of a sacrifice bunt. He knows how to move the runners over. He makes the whole line-up stronger.
It’s always a shot in the arm when we get the September call-ups and the young guys join the team for the last month of the season. Much was made last week about the Giants management “trying to light my fire” by adding Buster Posey to the roster. When reporters asked if I thought the Giants were “sending me a message,” I answered honestly. I didn’t think that’s what was happening. But I said IF the Giants were trying to send me a message to heal faster from my muscle strain, it’s kind of an odd thing to do. I have never given less than 100 percent, and the Giants know that, so what would be the point of “sending a message”? I think it was reporters looking for an angle.
So before the game the other day, I was standing near Posey in front of some reporters and joked, “Hey, you better not light that fire too much. I don’t want you to burn my ***!” Buster kind of looked at me funny. I guess he hadn’t read the paper. Later I explained it to him. He laughed. That kid is amazing. He’s so humble. Such a nice guy. I think he’s going to be a superstar.
I saw him sitting one day by himself in the dugout, so I called him over, (I wasn’t playing, either.) We started talking about catching and strategy and how to last a long time in the big leagues. If he’s going to take my job someday, I want him to be the best. I want him to take care of these pitchers. I want him to help these guys and be a winner. I’d love to stay here and work with Posey when the time comes. I don’t want to go anywhere else. But it’s the Giants’ decision to make. It’s out of my control.
The truth is I don’t spend much time thinking about what’s going to happen next season. I’m thinking about right now, today. Who are we facing? How do we pitch them? How to win this game and then the next game? Nothing’s better than playing games that matter in September.
Thanks for reading. See you at the park!
The key to surviving Spring Training — to actually enjoying all the long days and hard work of Spring Training — is to make peace with failure.
That could be said about baseball in general, of course. There are tons of guys with amazing raw talent, but the ones who make it are the ones who aren’t crushed by the failure. Because there is a ton of failure, as any baseball fan knows.
Spring training is Ground Zero of failure.
You know you’re better than what you’re showing at the moment, but that’s where you are right now. You’re still getting in your groove, still getting your legs back, still getting your head back to focusing on all the little things that mean the difference between winning and losing.
So what I’ve learned over the years is to be patient with myself. But I see the frustration bubbling up now and then among the younger guys who are desperate to show everyone they’re big-league material. I tell them it’s OK, they don’t have to do everything all at once. They’re expected to make mistakes — though preferably not the same one twice. As long as they learn and keep improving, they’re doing their jobs.
As for me, my body is tired some days and energized others. Catchers tend to have more ups and downs as far as feeling tired during Spring Training because there’s so much wear and tear on our bodies behind the plate. Sunday I felt great for whatever reason and hit an inside cutter over the left-field fence for my first HR of the spring.
Randy Johnson pitched and even though he didn’t have his best stuff, he pitched 3.1 scoreless innings and struck out three. That shows what kind of a pitcher he is, especially this early in the spring.
I got another chance to watch Buster Posey, who came in late in the game. He’s going to be a great catcher, a great player for many years in the league. I don’t know how soon, but he wants to learn. He’s pretty quiet by nature, really humble, but he asks questions and seems to be a fast learner.
It’s been a little sad around here, though, with the departure of Dave Roberts. We lost a great man, a great human being, a very loved teammate. Whatever reason the team decided to release him, that’s not for me to have an opinion on. They’re doing what they think they need to do to put the best team on the field come April.
But personally, it’s a great loss. He was like a brother to a lot of us. I remember last season when I was really struggling at the plate, and we had lost three games in a row, I was so down on myself. Dave came over to my locker and sat down next to me. He told me to go home that night and spend time with my family. Have dinner. Relax. Enjoy their company. Then come back tomorrow and start all over. He reminded me there is life beyond the baseball field, and that it didn’t help anybody for me to get so down on myself. He was absolutely right.
The next day, I went 3-for-4.
So even though I remind the younger players to not get too down on themselves in Spring Training, I need guys like Dave Roberts to remind me sometimes.
My daughters are coming to stay with me this coming weekend. We will go to miniature golf and go-karts and the batting cage. We’ll play a lot of Wii bowling and tennis, I’m sure. They always help me keep the game in perspective. As important as it is to be a great player, it’s more important to be a great human being. No one showed that better than Dave Roberts. He is already sorely missed.