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!”
As a baseball player, there’s nothing better than reaching September 1 and knowing every game counts. You’re lucky enough not to be on a team so far back in the standings that you’re just sitting in front of your locker and scheduling the moving van and planning vacation. You’re still in the battle, moving closer every day to securing a spot in the post-season.
The thing is, right about now you’re also feeling how long the season is. Almost two months in spring training then six months of real games. You’re dragging a little. You’re beat up. So you put in a little extra time in the gym. You do a little more prep work on your opponent. And then you step onto the field, and you hear that crowd, and you know you’re the luckiest guy in the world to be on a team in first place, and a team that is so focused on a single mission:
To win the World Series.
Obviously, we have to win the division first, then the League Championship. We know every single pitch, every single inning, every single game is huge at this point. We can’t give up anything. We have to have our A game every day.
For me, the most fun I have is working with the pitchers on this team. This is an amazing staff. C.J. is incredible. That’s the only word. He’s spotting the ball so well. He can get a hitter out with any pitch he wants. He’s very focused and gets himself very prepared for every game.
I’ve been asked if it’s different for me catching a very young pitcher vs. a veteran pitcher. The answer is yes and no. The bottom line is that your job as a catcher is to help the pitcher get the hitter out with whatever pitches he has. I ask pitchers what their best two pitches are. I do my homework on each pitcher – what he likes to throw in certain situations.
But with a rookie, there are times I catch him for the first time when he enters a game – which happened with Michael Kirkman during a game in Baltimore. I had never even caught him in the bullpen. I walked to the mound and asked him for his two best pitches. He said fastball in and out and slider. OK. Great. Then I had to pray that he actually threw what I called – that a fastball away was going to be a fastball away.
Of course, he’s a terrific young pitcher and he was amazing that game.
Something else with young pitchers. They know I’m a veteran, so they’re going to trust what I call. They going to go with whatever I say. So if I’m not completely prepared, I can destroy them. I take their trust in me very seriously.
On another note, I’m asking for a favor. I just came from the doctor’s office with Jamie. She’s been undergoing tests for the past few weeks, and the doctor is saying she might have a tumor on her liver. The latest test results should be back later today or tomorrow. Please say a prayer. Thanks.