Yesterday was one of those days when everything falls into place, when baseball seems like the easiest game in the world.
We scored 10 runs against St. Louis — Ishikawa and Renteria both went three for four with three RBIs a piece.
Timmy pitched what might be the best game of his already amazing career, a two-hit complete game – his third complete game in his last four starts.
And we were in St. Louis, so I got to spend time with my brother, Yadier, and my mother and aunt, who were visiting from Puerto Rico.
What more could I ask for?
One thing, actually.
I could ask to have a big game at the plate after a disappointing month of June.
And, sure enough, I got that, too.
I went three for five with an RBI and a run. To be honest, I hit the ball well all five times. I felt great up at the plate. It felt good to see the ball flying past fielders instead of right at them. Hitting is mostly skill, of course, but there’s a little luck, too. Sometimes you can be swinging the bat and seeing the pitches as well as you ever have, and every ball you hit finds a glove. And sometimes the balls fall exactly where you want them to.
Despite the slump, it’s satisfying to still have the most RBIs of any catcher in the National League and to lead the major leagues in game-winning RBIs.
The best part of yesterday’s game, though, was partnering with Timmy. I take a lot of pride in calling his games and strategizing with him through every inning, every batter, every pitch. I don’t need to tell you that this kid is really special. He’s one of a kind. I have never seen a pitcher exactly like him. He trusts his pitches. He trusts what he’s going to throw. When I call for a fastball, he just unleashes it. The real good pitchers, they execute their pitches.
Sounds simple, right? But there’s a confidence and trust a pitcher has to have in himself, his catcher and his skills. Timmy has four pitches he can throw for strikes. Four good ones – meaning he not only throws them for strikes, he throws them hard.
And this kid doesn’t rattle. He’s really relaxed before his starts, but he’s a very fierce guy when it comes to pitching his game. He has the perfect personality for a pitcher.
Even between innings, when most pitchers sit off by themselves on the bench, Timmy will ask me about the location of a certain pitch, things like that. This kid is the whole package.
I didn’t catch Ryan Sadowski, but I had fun watching him. He really, really impressed me, the way he controlled the game, the way he threw strikes, moved the ball around. He threw breaking balls, sliders when he had to. He looked like a veteran out there.
He spent more than six years in the minor leagues, and he learned how to pitch. Some guys have all the raw skills in the world but they get to the majors too quickly without first learning HOW to pitch. Believe, I understand why everyone wants to get out of minors as fast as they can. It’s no fun being the minors. It’s a tough lifestyle. But there are a lot of advantages to paying your dues in the minors.
That’s where you do all your learning. The major leagues aren’t instructional leagues. It’s not the place to be working on your skills. You get here and you have to execute right away. That’s what Sadowski did. He did his job and now he’s getting another chance.
Here’s another advantage. When you spend that much time in the minors, once you get to the majors, you really, really appreciate where you are. You appreciate the game of baseball and how blessed you are to play it for a living. I was in the minors for more than seven years, so I speak from experience.
Jamie is getting closer to having the baby, so I gave Bochy the heads-up that if I get the call that she’s in labor, I’ll have to go. I’ll keep you posted, of course.
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.
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.