The Final Stretch
I’m on my way to the ballpark in Anaheim to play the Angles, my old team. I have such great memories of that 2002 season when we won the World Series. With the Rangers’ magic number at six, there’s nobody on this club who doesn’t believe we’re headed to the playoffs and, we hope, the World Series. We have the players and coaches to get there.
But you have to be careful about making too big of an assumption. You can’t take anything for granted. You have to keep playing with intensity during the last couple weeks of the season, even if the games don’t mean anything, because you want to hit the ground running once the playoffs start. Each series are so short that you don’t have the luxury of ramping up the intensity. It has to be there from the first pitch. And it has to continue for every pitch, every swing, every moment. Not many guys on this team have played the post-season so Vladdy and I and the few that have been there will talk to the younger guys about how one play, one lapse in concentration, can knock you out of the playoffs. Everything gets amplified.
I don’t worry about this Rangers team on that issue, though. The intensity is there on the field. And maybe that’s because everyone is so loose in the clubhouse. I’ve never been on a team that has more fun. You walk into this clubhouse, and everybody’s joking. They’re talking about what’s on the television or playing cards together. Even guys who seem kind of quiet, like Michael Young, is still joking with everybody. I’ve been in a lot of clubhouses and I’m very, very impressed with these guys. It doesn’t matter what color you are and where you’re from, we’re going to make fun of you and you’re going to make fun of us. It’s like a family.
If this is my last year of baseball, I’m so glad I’m spending it with these guys. Not only are they a lot of fun, they’re so hungry to win. The lack of hitting in the last few games is probably due more to pressing than to letting our guard down. Hitting is the key to this team. When we hit, we win. Yesterday we pitched well but we couldn’t get anybody home. Pitchers can keep you in a game but only hitters can win it.
Of course, not having Josh Hamilton in the line-up hurts. The whole year he’s been the backbone of this team. He’s such a key part of our success. But we can’t sit back and moan about it. We have to battle and find ways to win without him. It helps that Josh is in the dugout with us, cheering everybody. Just his presence makes a difference.
We finish up in Anaheim tonight then fly to Oakland for a four-game series. We could clinch in Oakland. We’d rather do it in Arlington but we’ll take it however and wherever we can. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and neighbors from the Bay Area. Jamie is already there with Jayda, so for me this weekend will be a little like being home.
See you when we’re back in Texas. Thanks for checking in.
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.
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.
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.
Notes from Scottsdale
I wasn’t able to watch Puerto Rico’s blowout over the USA on TV Saturday, but I followed it pitch-by-pitch on my cell phone. There’s a part of me, of course, that wishes I were there. But if I’m not going to get playing time, it doesn’t make sense to lose out on the work I’m getting here at spring training. That’s my first priority – getting ready for the season. I’m just so happy for Yadier and the rest of the guys. They’re playing really well, and it looks like they’re having a great time.
I did get to see Yadier’s heroics in the game against the Netherlands last week. He hit a two-run double in the eighth with Puerto Rico behind 1-0. When Yadier reached second, he pointed to the sky in tribute to our father. It was very special for me to see that. When I talked to him on the phone afterward, he said he had been watching the pitcher a day earlier against the Dominican and saw that he was throwing a lot of sliders. So he was waiting on a slider and there it was.
One of the small surprises of spring training so far is Randy Johnson. I knew he was a pro and a battler, and that, of course, is what I’ve seen so far. What I didn’t expect is how open and friendly he is. I thought he was a guy who just kept to himself. But he loves to talk baseball and he’s made himself available to the younger pitchers. What a great addition to the clubhouse.
Madison Bumgarner is one of the pitchers who has been watching Randy Johnson to learn whatever he can from the future Hall of Famer, and boy did he look good on the mound this weekend. He got into a little trouble early on but settled down nicely. He has great stuff. Electrifying stuff. He’s a left-hander who throws strikes. He’s got a good off-speed pitch but his greatest strength is he throws strikes. I loved what I saw.
Jamie and I are looking forward to moving into our rental house for the season, a terrific place in Lafayette with a pool and hot tub, a pool table and a movie theater. We lived in the city last year but because my two daughters spend so much time with us during the summer, we felt we were better off with a house with a yard and a pool.
The girls were with Jamie and me this weekend in Scottsdale, even though Kelsey’s soccer team was in the league championship game in Yuma. I felt bad that she missed it because she has been working so hard on soccer, but as a dad who adores his girls, it made me happy she chose to visit with me instead.
Both girls went with Jamie and me to the team dinner Friday night at the W Hotel in Scottsdale. They got all dressed up and looked beautiful. Their favorite player is one of my favorites, too: Pablo Sandoval. His parents from Venezuela are in Scottsdale for the first time, so Jamie and I have made them part of our extended family. We’ve been having them over for dinner and showing them around.
In the next couple weeks, my mother will be coming to stay with us and help us pack to move into the Lafayette house. She just had cataract surgery so she has to wait a little while before she can get on a plane. She is still mourning the loss of my father, but we have lots of family and friends in Puerto Rico to keep her company. I call her every morning on my way to the park and again on the way home.
Before I sign off, I’d like to ask you to pray for my aunt, my father’s sister. She is battling cancer and has been sent home from the hospital. There is nothing more the doctors can do. We are all so sad and are praying that she doesn’t suffer.