We flew into the Bay Area this afternoon. Instead of driving over the Bay Bridge to the home I leased for the first half this season, I rode the Rangers team bus to a hotel in the heart of San Francisco. It was weird on the plane to be reading scouting reports of the Giants’ hitters. It’s so strange how things work out. I’m really looking forward to seeing the Giants players at the ballpark, either tomorrow at workouts or Wednesday before the game. Throughout the post-season, Jamie’s been communicating with Kristen Posey, Chelsea Cain, Blanca Kelly (the wife of first-base coach Roberto), Nate Schierholtz’s family, a bunch of others, everyone wishing us luck and Jamie wishing them luck. But we’re not going to be socializing this week, at least I won’t be. I can’t. There is just too much to be thinking about and focusing on.
As Jamie and I were running errands yesterday in Dallas, we were talking about how lucky we are to have landed with the Rangers. I can’t imagine any other team being as welcoming as the Rangers have been, from the players to the clubbies to the front office staff. After we won the pennant Friday night, our families were invited to join us in the dugout. Even thought Jamie’s pretty new to the Rangers’ family, every coach and half a dozen of the team owners came up and hugged her and told her she and I were 100 percent a part of this victory. She was holding Jayda in her arms, and they were just looking all around as if it were dream. Jayda was trying to grab the red, white and blue confetti falling everywhere.
One moment that will stand out for me in the ALCS was the three-run home run. It wasn’t so much because I was able to come through under pressure, though that’s part of it. You always want to be the guy who steps up. For whatever reason, I’ve had success in the big moments. People started calling me “Big Money” when I was with the Angels and it carried over to the Giants. I think I do well in those situations because I’m not afraid to fail. I feel calm. I put my faith in God. I go to the plate believing absolutely that I will get a hit.
But two other things were happening when I was rounding the bases that day. First, I was just so happy and grateful that I almost cried. After struggling most of the season with an injured elbow, and getting traded, it was an emotional thing to be able to help my team win. Second, I was thinking of my father, who, as many of you know, died two years ago. I thumped my fist on my heart as I was heading to home. I was thinking, “Pai, this is both of us.” Then I pointed up to my mother and Jamie. None of this means anything without them.
When reporters talked to me afterward, I made a comment like, “Not bad for the fat kid who everyone made fun of for being so slow.” I was joking but I have to say there was a lot of satisfaction in proving people wrong about me. When I warmed up the starting pitchers during our games in Yankee Stadium, fans near the bullpen chanted, “Ben-gie’s fat! Ben-gie’s fat!” It was kind of funny, of course. They sounded like fourth-graders in the playground. The best part was they chanted in English AND in Spanish to make sure I was absolutely clear about what they were saying. So to drive in the go-ahead runs in front of those fans put a smile on my face.
Another memorable moment for me was Vladdy’s big hit after the Yankees again intentionally walked Josh Hamilton. I sat in the dugout and said a little prayer: “Please let him be the man today. If I have a hit coming to me today, give it to him instead.” And then bang – two-run double. I was so happy for him. He’s such a great player and was really struggling during the series. He deserved to be the hero.
When the game was over, the families not only got to come into the dugout, they were welcomed into the clubhouse for the champagne and beer showers. My mother went home with Jayda, and Jamie came in. She had told me earlier that if she ever got to join in the celebration, she wanted the full deal. She wanted to experience what it was like. As soon as I saw her, I poured two 20-ounce cans of beer over her head. We sprayed champagne at each other – and everyone else. We had a blast. Two hours later, she was still so drenched she could probably have filled a champagne bottle by wringing out her clothes. It was the best night.
Now back to work. We have a workout tomorrow at AT&T Park, then Game 1 Wednesday.
When we get back to Dallas, Yadier and Jose will be there. They’re in Puerto Rico right now but they’ll be there cheering me on for Games 3, 4 and, if we need it, 5. With me going to the World Series, now each of us Molina boys has been to two World Series each. Pretty amazing.
I’m going to try to post on the blog every day. So keep checking in!
So I’m back home, slumped on my couch, still smiling from last night. I’m also feeling completely beat up, like I’ve been in a 15-round fight. First of all, I hardly ever drink. I’ll have a drink maybe three times in a year. But last night in the clubhouse celebration, I found myself drinking champagne out of the bottle, then having a little bit of beer and then Vladdy handed me a shot of great rum that he had. I was thinking, “Oh my God, where am I?”
We left the park around 1 a.m. and got on the plane home. Some of the guys just passed out, but I was still too excited to sleep. I watched CSI and Without a Trace on my iPad, thinking about what an amazing game we had just played, how happy I was for everyone on the plane, how happy I was for the fans, wondering if any of them would be there to greet us at the airport. When we landed and got off the plane, there must have been about a thousand fans waiting. It was so amazing. They were cheering and holding signs.
I wish everyone could experience what all of us players and coaches felt at that moment. You never forget as a ballplayer that you’re playing for more than the other guys wearing the same uniform. You’re playing for an entire community, for all the people who buy tickets to cheer us on and wear T-Shirts with our names on the back, and send all their good thoughts and prayers our way. We don’t always get a chance to feel that connection as directly as we wish we could. So to see those fans up close, right when we landed back home, almost moved me to tears. And it was 4 in the morning! Wow. I can’t thank all of them enough for putting the perfect cap on a perfect day.
I know a lot of people might think the highlight of the game for me was my stolen base, which I will get to in a minute. But the story for me was Cliff Lee. He was amazing – again. He had total command – mixing speeds, making his locations, keeping the ball off the middle of the plate. It’s such a pleasure as a catcher to work with a pitcher of his caliber. He’s unflappable. He’s fearless. And he’s smart.
What I loved about last night’s game was how smart everybody played. We didn’t wait for Tampa Bay to give the game away. We took it. That was our mentality. Look at our base running. We did all the little things. These are very smart baseball players and coaches. They see everything and take advantage of every opening.
Which brings me to my unlikely steal.
I was on first base with Elvis up at bat. First base coach Gary Pettis saw that every time Elvis swung and fouled off, no one covered second. When the count when to 3-2, Pettis mouthed to me, “Go!”
” ‘Go’ or ‘No’?” I mouthed back.
When the ball left the pitcher’s hand, I went. After the first couple of steps, I saw Elvis swing and miss. I was thinking, “Oh my goodness, I’m toast.” But there was no one covering the bag. So the catcher didn’t even make a throw.
I looked into the dugout, and everyone was giving me the antlers. It was unbelievable. But that’s what kind of a season this team has had.
I’ve been in the league a long time, so I know how special it is to get this far into the post-season. So I’m trying to soak everything in. I’m thinking about so many things, but one thing I’m not thinking about is pressure. All we can do is work as hard as we can, and the result will be what it will be. That’s why I’m so calm. I believe in this team, and I believe in God. What is supposed to happen will happen.
We have today off and will practice tomorrow. Then we open with the Yankees Friday night. Every major league player in October has a body covered with bruises and muscles that are strained and tired. But once the game starts, adrenaline kicks in and you don’t feel anything. You become a warrior out there, with nothing on your mind but winning.
Vladdy just stopped by – he lives three hours away. He’s having a bunch of players over to his house for dinner tonight. I’d like to go, but right now I don’t know. I think my body needs to rest. But if I do join them at Vladdy’s house, one thing I know for sure – no rum.
See you at the yard on Friday. Thanks for your amazing support of the team. You don’t know how much it means to all us.
Sorry for the delay in getting this post out. I wanted to get something out as soon as we clinched in Oakland but you know how it is. Anyway, that day in Oakland was awesome. It was an amazing feeling – I haven’t felt that way since I was with the Angels in 2002.
I wish everybody in their lives could experience this at least once. There is nothing better than sharing a moment of complete joy with your team — the people who have been working so hard together. It’s so much more satisfying than achieving something individually. It’s hard to put into words, really. You just look at each other in the clubhouse, with the champagne flying everywhere and everyone hugging, and you want almost to burst with emotion. We all did it together. Everyone contributed. Everyone believed.
The only down side was that we didn’t do it at home in front of our fans. That would have made it perfect.
I feel very lucky, needless to say, to have joined this team. One of the best parts, which I couldn’t have expected, is getting to know Matt Treanor. From the outside, maybe, Matt and I should be rivals. We’re sharing the catching position. Each of us, of course, wants to be behind the plate more. We’re both very competitive. We both hate sitting on the sidelines. But Matt and I have become great friends – and so have our wives. They’re already planning an off-season vacation for all of us.
The thing about Matt and me is that we both care about just one thing: Winning. Neither of us cares about individual statistics. We don’t care about personal goals. We both just want to win this thing. So that’s why it works.
So when I’m playing, he’s there between innings helping me with strategy, giving me feedback on this batter or that batter. And I’m there doing the same for him. We watch video of opposing batters together. We meet with the pitchers. We share whatever information we have.
Maybe it’s because we’re both veterans who understand it’s all about the team and winning. As much as baseball seems like an individual sport in a lot of ways – you’re by yourself on the mound or in your position on the field or and at the plate. But all the parts have to work together. Players have to trust each other and pick each other up. And that’s how Matt and I have always played. And as we’ve gotten older, I think, the team concept only becomes more important.
Matt and I both take pride in the fact that our pitching staff has a chance to finish the season with a sub-4.00 ERA for the first time since 1993. I take some satisfaction, too, in learning the Rangers pitchers pretty quickly and learning the American hitters. Matt has helped a lot there, too.
Do I wish my performance at the plate were better? Of course. But it was nice to see bench coach Jackie Moore quoted in a story today saying of Matt and me, “They know they’ll win more games with the way they call pitches than they will with their bats.”
That’s why the Rangers are in the post-season. We know our roles and play as a team.
This team also understands that we can’t slack off just because we have clinched the division. We need to keep the intensity up so when we begin the playoff games, we it the ground running.
Off to the field. Thanks for reading!