Results tagged ‘ Pablo Sandoval ’

Returning home

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So great to be back in the Bay Area. I don’t even mind the rain. Jamie, Jayda and I (and my niece Jennifer from New York, who’s helping out with Jayda while Jamie recovers from wrist surgery) are back in the same great Lafayette house we rented last year. Saturday night one of our neighbors is having us over for a “welcome back” barbecue.
I have to tell you that it was very emotional for me Thursday night when I stepped into the Giants clubhouse and then onto the field. I had said my goodbyes to this place last year. I thought I wasn’t going to be back. When I walked in and headed to my locker, I thought, ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe I’m here.’ ” 
I really love this place and this team. It’s like family to me. I feel like the dad to all these young guys. So returning here has been like getting my family back.
Today we got to meet a lot of fans at the “Play Ball” luncheon at the Marriott Marquis in San Francisco. It’s a fundraiser for “Junior Giants” and the Giants Community Fund, and they were saying they raised about $300,000, which is amazing. There were almost 1400 people there. Some of the fans didn’t know the new guys, so I heard that Jeremy Affeldt was pushing people toward Mark DeRosa because no one was asking for his autograph. Another of the new guys, Aubrey Huff, made a colorful first impression with his purple plaid pants. (I’ve included a photo here.) I noticed that Brian Wilson is so dedicated to his nutrition regimen that he actually brought his own lunch today in a vacuum-sealed bag.
A few of the Junior Giants player got to ask questions of the big-league players. One kid wanted to know who Affeldt would be if he could become one of his teammates for a day. “Brian Wilson because five minutes inside that dome would be awesome!”
And someone else asked Sandoval who would be the toughest opponent in a wrestling match, and he gave the answer I think most of us would: “Juan Uribe!”
I can’t wait for the season to start on Monday. I’ve been telling Jamie that there’s something really special about this team. Everything we’ve been working for the last three years, this is the year it’s all going to come together. I really feel that.
See you this weekend and then for Opening Day on Friday!
PlayBall Lunch: Aubrey Huff and a Junior Giant
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Stocking Up

Spring training is a time not just to get yourself ready for the season but also to get your arsenal ready. That means choosing and stocking the equipment you’ll need for the season.
During our weeks here, manufacturers of gloves and bats set up tables and show us their latest models and take our orders. It’s fun to see what might be new and different, but usually we stick with what has worked for us in the past. 
Let’s talk about bats. How does a player choose a bat?
Part of the answer is the same as it was in Little League: How it feels in your hands. If you have big hands, you want a thicker handle. If you have smaller hands, like I do, you want a narrower handle. Then it’s about weight and length.
I have a bat from Pablo in my locker right now. It has a nice narrow handle, which feels good in my hands. But it’s too long for me – 35 inches. I have a long, sweeping swing, so I need a shorter bat to get around quickly enough on the pitch. Pablo has a short, compact swing, so he can get away with a longer bat. 
(The reason I have Pablo’s bat in my locker is that I’m keeping it as memorabilia. That kid is going to be a superstar. So I want him to sign it and I’ll keep it at home. See? We’re not much different from you when it comes to collecting . . .)
Over the years, I have narrowed my arsenal of bats to three models: Two are from Louisville Slugger – the I13 and the T141, and one is from Sam Bat, the AS12. These are the three that are always in my locker. The I13 is my favorite. It feels the most balanced and streamlined to me.
My bats are 33.5 inches long and 34 ounces, though I also order some 32-ounce bats, too.  Sometimes if I wake up and I’m kind of tight or tired, or if the pitcher is throwing 100 mph, I might want a lighter bat.
All of my bats are maple, which is a bit harder than ash. The ball goes farther, or at least it feels that way. It doesn’t mean the maple gets you a better hit, but when you hit it, you really feel like you hit it. 
I know some people think the maple bats are more dangerous because there’s a perception that they break more often. But I think the ash breaks more. That’s been my own experience anyway 
More soon.

Teammates

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!

A Much Happier Flight to NY

If anyone at the park today was watching their first Giants-Dodgers game, they learned everything they need to know about this rivalry. This was an unbelievable game – like an entire season of highs and lows in one afternoon.

We had the benches clear in the fifth inning when the Dodgers pitcher hit Pablo. I was on deck, and Pablo was definitely hit on the arm. I thought at first they were arguing that Pablo had swung through, which meant even if he was hit, it’s a strike and he doesn’t go to first. But they said the ball hit the bat first then his arm, which wasn’t the case.

Pablo thought McDonald was intentionally trying to hit him, which is a judgment call on his part. Maybe he and McDonald have a history in the minor leagues or something. I don’t know. But you always back up your teammate, no matter what. I grabbed Russell Martin, the catcher, who wasn’t happy that Pablo was accusing his pitcher of intentionally hitting him. I was telling him to take it easy. Basically, your job as a teammate when the benches clear is to keep your teammates safe. You try to grab whoever you can to keep them from getting hurt or getting tossed.

Obviously, we don’t like the Dodgers, and they don’t like us. The only thing you hope is that nobody gets hurt. And nobody did.

Timmy pitched such a great game it’s a shame he didn’t get the win. Late in the game, I was just telling him to keep making his pitches. Don’t try to throw harder or slower. Just make his pitches the way he always does. It was a killer not to get the call at first. We get that call, and maybe the game is over in nine.

We had more than little bad luck as far as the calls during this series. I hated to see Bochy thrown out of the game, but I understand it. It’s frustrating when it seems like all the calls are going against you. It’s hard for everybody when the manager’s tossed. You want him making the decisions. We have great coaches, though. After Wotus got thrown out, Flannery took over. I was wondering who was going to manage if Flannery got tossed. Maybe Murph. He’s certainly seen more baseball in his 50-something years with the team than all of us put together.

But I’m not going to be too harsh on the umps. They’re human. They have bad days like the rest of us.

The best part of the game, of course, was watching Juan Uribe’s monster home run sail over Ramirez’s head. Ramirez didn’t even watch it. He just started walking off the field.

It’s hard to describe the feeling of rushing onto the field when a teammate hits a walk-off home run – much less in a game like this. Against the Dodgers. Ten innings. And it was especially exciting because it was Juan. He had a tough day. Left runners on base. Dropped the pop-up. I haven’t talked to him but I’m guessing the sun was in his eyes.

And then he clobbers the ball.

That’s the great part of this game. With one pitch, one swing, you change your whole day. Maybe you change a whole season.

This is a huge win. That goes without saying. It’s especially big not only because it’s against the Dodgers and the first-place team, but because we’re heading out to New York and the start of a long road trip. This win – and HOW we won – gives us so much positive energy going onto the road.

I’m heading home for a few hours before I have to catch a plane tonight. We have a day off tomorrow in New York. I’ll be resting.

I’ll try to update the blog sometime during the road trip.

Thanks for reading and for supporting us. This is an amazing team. I love coming to the ballpark every day because I get to watch these great guys play.

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.

Perseverance

It was a quiet clubhouse last night, as you might imagine. To lose the fifth game in a row when we were so close after Aaron’s three-run homer – it’s incredibly frustrating. We were all very down and angry at ourselves for not coming through when we needed to. As frustrated as you are as fans, let me assure you we are ten times more frustrated as players.

What’s going wrong? A few obvious things.

We haven’t been putting the ball in play. You have to give a lot of credit to the opposing pitchers. They’ve been throwing great. That’s been a factor. Then the longer you go without hitting, the more you start pressing. And when you lose four, five games in a row, you go up to the plate trying to hit a seven-run homer with no one on.

Second, we haven’t been making our pitches. We’re not hitting our spots. We’re falling behind in counts. If we’re going for a fastball away, we’re leaving it over the plate. Curve balls are hanging. We need to hit the corners for strikes. Our poor hitting isn’t helping the pitchers – it puts even more pressure on them.

Last night was a killer because we were so close. Wilson came in in a tough situation – bottom of the ninth, tie game, bases loaded, no outs. He got a grounder to short – exactly what you want — but we couldn’t turn the double play. So with Loney up – who had hit a sacrifice fly on a high fastball earlier in the game – we wanted to keep the ball down so he’d keep it on the ground and we’d get a second shot at a double play.

Unfortunately, on a 3-2 count, the fastball was too low and Loney walked. Game over.

Like the other veterans on the team, I talk to the young guys and remind them that it’s a long season. We’re not even out of April yet. We have to stick together and work hard and make sure each of us does everything we can to be ready for every play, every pitch. That’s all you can do, and inning by inning, game by game, you rebuild.

The truth is, our young guys are handling this rough stretch really well – with much greater perspective than you might expect. Pablo Sandoval, who has really been struggling at the plate, is still really positive and energetic. His attitude is great – he lifts everybody up.

And Timmy’s another kid who has such a positive attitude no matter what’s happening. He loves the challenge of things. He knows what he’s facing, and he’s got that fierce competitiveness that gives you no doubt he’ll be absolutely fine.

I think returning home tomorrow and playing in our own park in front of our own fans will close the chapter on this awful past week and we can start fresh.

I know you’re disappointed and frustrated as fans. But it’s more important than you can imagine to stick with us. Don’t turn your backs on us in the tough times. We’re working as hard as we can to break out of this, and I know we will. We need you there with us in good times and bad – maybe even more so in the bad times.

I hope to see you this weekend when we play the Diamondbacks. This is a great group of players, and an even better group of men.

One thing I can promise: This team will never give up. I hope you won’t either.

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.