One of the things I really like about playing in San Francisco is that it’s a lot like playing in my home country of Venezuela. Fans in Venezuela are really passionate and really vocal. They’re completely into the game. They’re always telling you what to do. It’s like 20,000 people trying to be the manager: “Run!’’ “Bunt!’’ “Slide!’’
The atmosphere at AT&T is a lot like that. Fans here aren’t quite as bossy, but they’re just as passionate. They are completely into the Giants. Completely into the game. They like guys who play hard and do everything they can to win. And that’s what I love to do more than anything: Play hard and win games.
So just like in Venezuela, I feed off the fans’ energy. I can’t say for sure but I’d bet there isn’t anybody on this roster who appreciates being here more than I do.
As you might know, I didn’t play a single game in the major leagues last season. I was riding the bench on the Kansas City minor leagues. Then the team put me on waivers.
But no team picked me up. That was the lowest point of my career.
“Maybe it’s over,’’ I told my wife. “Maybe that’s it.’’
“Whatever you want to do, I support you,’’ she said. “But I believe in you. I know how good you are.’’
That made me stronger. I realized that no matter what happened, I was already a lucky man to have my wife and my kids and that we all had our health. So I kept playing and now here I am with the Giants.
Through all the ups and downs – being benched, traded, cut – I learned that the only thing in my control is how hard I work. So I get to the ballpark early every day to do weights, get in the batting cage, run. I do everything I can to be the hardest out in the league, to get on base in whatever way I can.
I’ve also learned something else about myself. I play better when the goal is winning. In the minor leagues, the goal is development. In the majors and in winter ball, it’s winning. It’s all about championships. I like to play under pressure. I like to compete. I think I’m more focused when the stakes are highest.
You might have noticed my ritual before stepping up to the plate. I pinch a little bit of dirt in front of the batter’s box, in fair territory. Then I make the sign of the cross, touching my forehead, shoulders and heart. I’m asking God to give me the opportunity to get the ball in fair territory.
But I know it’s up to me to make sure I’m as prepared as I can be. So I keep myself focused on what I want in my life – a healthy and loving family, loyal and competitive teammates — and just keep working hard.
If I do that, I’ll never have regrets.