You should see what it’s like right now in this clubhouse. There is unbelievable energy. Everyone’s up. We have all the young guys who were called up. We have Randy Johnson back. And we took two games from the Rockies and are ready, believe me, for the third. And then the Dodgers.
Here’s an example of the mood this team is in – at least this is how it was a few hours before Wednesday’s game.
While we were stretching before BP, and Bochy was walking out of the dugout after his daily meeting with the reporters, the music that’s always blaring through the loudspeakers suddenly went silent. We knew what was coming, but Bochy didn’t. Up on the big screen in center field. There was a video montage of Bochy’s career, at least as it was through his time at the Padres. It showed him as a player then as a young manager. The showing was arranged by a player who shall remain nameless.
“Somebody turn that off,” Bochy said, turning his back to the screen. “Who did this?”
All of us, of course, watched every moment then clapped when it was over.
I guess you could say we were pretty loose.
Every race to the postseason has its own rhythm. You can’t really compare my time with the Angels to the Giants now. You have different players, different personalities. We have been so up and down. I’m sure there are people who wrote us off last week and jumped back on the bandwagon after beating the Rockies in the first two games of this series. We knew we had games left – crucial games left – that could turn this around.
It’s been great watching our pitchers the last two games – Randy Johnson on Sunday and Matt Cain yesterday. Both were in a groove and doing what they know and we know they can do.
Sometimes I can tell in the bullpen before the game when a pitcher is on – like with Timmy on Saturday. I wasn’t sure with Randy on Sunday. But I could see in the first inning he had his fastball and slider working and his change-up.
With any pitcher, with a no-hitter going, you just stay away. You kind of stay away from Randy anyway. That’s how he operates. Sometimes Rags or I will mention something to him – watch out for this or that. But there was nothing to say on Sunday. He was awesome to watch.
On our off day Monday, I just rested. Then Jamie and I went to McCovey’s restaurant in Walnut Creek and had the best experience. The food was great and there was a ton of memorabilia to look at. It’s only 10 minutes from our house, so I know Jamie and I will be going there a lot. Willie McCovey happened to be in Murph’s office in the clubhouse yesterday, so I told him what a great time we had at his place. He was really happy, and Freddie Lew was standing there next to me. Willie said I had to get Freddie to go now.
Got the news yesterday that Steve Holm is coming back up. It will be so great to have him back. You know by now how much I love that guy. I’m looking forward to sitting and talking about the strategy of catching with someone who loves the position as much as I do!
See you at the ballpark.
One of the many things you learn playing baseball – perhaps playing any sport – is to accept what is out of your control. Sometimes the ball has eyes and finds the gap. Sometimes you hit into a double play with the bases loaded.
I went 0-fo-5 yesterday after a good game at the plate on Opening Day. But believe me when I tell you there was no difference – meaning that I wasn’t “on” one day and “off” the next. I felt good last night. I hit the ball well. Some days it goes right at people. Some days it gets through.
That’s baseball. A few inches one way or the other, and it’s a different game. Randy Johnson’s pitch to Gallardo last night, for example. We wanted a fastball higher than the letters on his chest so he would chase it for the third strike. The ball wasn’t as high as it needed to be. That kid is a good hitter, too, don’t forget. But if the pitch is just a little bit higher, we get him.
This game so often comes down to the slightest of margins, the tiniest bits of bad luck.
To tell you the truth, I never thought we were out of it last night. I always expected we’d come back. But we’re going to have many more chances, so you can’t dwell on what didn’t work for us last night. You have to just get ready for today’s game.
As for Tim on Opening Day, I was thinking he might have a tough day even when we were warming up in the bullpen. When he walked the first batter and hit the third, I went out to talk to him. I’m not going to tell him anything about mechanics, of course.
“Keep battling,” I said. “Keep grinding it out. You’re going to get out of it.”
He didn’t have command of his fastball or his curveball. Usually if one isn’t working, he has the other. But people have to remember this kid is a human being. He’s not a machine. I admired how he kept fighting out there. That’s one of the beautiful things about baseball. The days when you really aren’t at the top of your game are the days when you test yourself the most. Those are the days you earn your money.
And afterward I told Tim that sometimes you need to struggle to come back stronger. You have to keep it all in perspective, too, which is tougher when you’re young. There are way more important things to worry about than giving up some walks or going 0-for-5.
Today was the worst kind of reminder of that. I keep thinking about Nick Adenhart, the young Angels pitcher killed by a drunk driver last night. It’s the kind of news that gives you the chills. Makes you shake. We’re playing a game, but once those lights go out in the ballpark, it’s real life out there. I keep thinking how you can be doing everything 100 percent right, but some other guy right next to you isn’t doing the right thing and you pay the price.
I keep thinking that if Adenhart’s car had entered the intersection two seconds earlier or two seconds later, maybe he goes home thinking about his next start.
The slightest of margins, the tiniest bits of bad luck.
It was great playing last night back at AT&T, even though the wind was unbelievable. I felt really good at the plate. I saw the ball really well. Shows that practice pays off. And Timmy looked great, as usual. He’s ready to go.
I know these games don’t mean anything, but winning in our home park – hitting in our home park — against the A’s just gives us that added confidence. It means we’re going to be in a lot of games. We’re going to score more runs than people think.
Just being in the park, with the lights and the crowd, gives you a lot of energy. It’s such a different atmosphere from spring training in Arizona.
So we’re settled in the rental house. The girls have been with us but have to go back to Yuma on Sunday. They love the new place – with pool and game room and huge yard. It’s way bigger than our house in Yuma.
The best thing is my mother is here in San Francisco for the first time. She spent about a week with us in Arizona and now is here about 10 days before flying back to Puerto Rico on Thursday. She has to be home by the 11th because in our church, we have special prayers every month for six months on the day of somebody’s death. My father died on October 11.
It’s been so tough on my mother. She cries and says, “Oh, Benja, oh Benja.” That’s what she called my father, Benja. I realized she got teary every time she saw a photo of my father, so I put away the ones in my house and in my car. For me, it helps to look at my father and remember. For her, at least right now, it’s too painful.
But we’ve had fun, too, of course, while she’s here. On the way from the airport to Lafayette, she asked, “Where’s that big bridge?” We’ll take her to the Golden Gate before she leaves. I also want to take her to Alcatraz. We drove through the city the other day and I took her to my favorite Puerto Rican restaurant, Fruitlandia. She loved watching me at AT&T for the first time but she was freezing! She was so bundled up I could barely see her face.
I spent this afternoon at the Play Ball Luncheon at the Hilton in San Francisco, which is a fundraiser for the Giants Community Fund and Junior Giants Baseball. Every player on the team was there, plus all the coaches and broadcasters and even Mays and McCovey. Each player got to walk into the ballroom with one of the Junior Giants players. It was wonderful to talk to some of the kids and hear how much baseball – and their coaches – have helped them in their lives.
Another game against the A’s tonight. Looking forward to catching Randy Johnson one more time before Opening Day.
See you out there.
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.
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.
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.