Before the game today, I read the passage for June 19 in a book that Joaquin Arias gave me in spring training. It’s called “Jesus Is Calling You.’’ I’m not a really, really religious guy, but I’ve been reading the book every day since February or March. It reminds me about humility and service, about keeping everything in my life in perspective. In particular, I’ve been trying to work on calming my anxiety. I put a lot of pressure on myself to keep proving myself in the Major Leagues. I talk to Marco a lot about it. He is always telling me to have fun and not worry so much.
So the passage in the book today was about letting go of my worries and handing them over to God.
When Bochy put me in the game as a pinch-hitter with two runners on, I told myself, “Let go. Relax. Believe in yourself.’’ When I saw the ball fly into the gap for a two-run triple, let me tell you that there is no better feeling in baseball. That’s what means the most in this game — coming through when your team is counting on you. It means a lot to me that Bochy gave me the opportunity there.
After the game, someone said that Bumgarner had told reporters that I was one of the best all-around players he had ever played with. That is the highest compliment. I am the happiest when I can utilize all my tools – getting on base, driving in runs, stealing bases, playing solid defense, cutting down runners. I’ve played like that back in Venezuela for a long time but struggled to play like that in the Major Leagues. Now, finally, it’s all coming together.
Some guys like to know exactly what their role is. But I like that the manager feels he can use me a lot of different ways. I like hitting leadoff because it gives me opportunities to run, to bunt, to take pitches, to get aggressive. But I like hitting six or seven because I get a chance to drive in runs.
To tell you the truth, I just want to be in the lineup.
On Tuesday, you might have noticed I stepped out of the batter’s box a few times right before the pitcher was set to throw. I do that sometimes to break his rhythm. But mostly I do it because the pitcher’s taking too long and trying to break MY rhythm. I start feeling anxious because he’s not throwing the ball, so I step out. I always apologize, even to the catcher. I know they don’t like it. But I need to control my at-bat, not let them control it. So I try to let them know, “This is my at-bat, not yours.’’
I don’t know if I wrote about this before, but one of my rituals when I go up to bat is to draw a line across the batter’s box. I’ve done that for about six years. It’s a reminder to stay back. If I find myself crossing the line, I’m going forward too much and not waiting on the pitch like I should. You have to let the ball come to you rather than going out and chasing it.
That 13-inning loss the other night was a killer, especially since we had gotten back to San Francisco just that morning. We were pretty tired by the end. But I had to admire Will Venable’s catch on Juan Perez’s long fly ball. That’s one of the best I’ve ever seen. I had a similar ball in left field the next night. I should have caught it. If I’m able to get to the ball, I expect to catch it. So I asked myself why it hit off my glove. I watched the tape and I think it was because when I stepped from the grass down to the dirt on the warning track, I moved my head just a little bit and moved my glove. But that’s not an excuse. I should have caught it.
It’s been so much fun watching Juan Perez. I like his attitude. He really believes in himself. He’s confident that whatever he was doing in Triple A he can do here. He’s not trying to prove anything. He’s just playing the way he knows he can play. I don’t think he even played center field in the minor leagues and look what he’s doing. His throws! They’ve been unbelievable. Teams keep running on him. And he keeps throwing them out.
I had a great Father’s Day. My wife and son flew all the way to Atlanta to spend the day with me. They woke me up with gifts. My little boy gave me a present of Starbucks coffee and a coffee cup. My wife gave me a couple shirts. I told them the best present was just being there with me.
It’s been a weird schedule. We were home for just two games and now we’re on the road again for a long time. But it was worth coming back here, no matter how short a time. We can see our families, and we get to play in front of our fans. R.A. Dickey was tough yesterday, to say the least. All you can do is try to hit a mistake, which is what I was able to do. He has so much movement on the ball, and he gets your timing all off.
Glad we have a day off today to kind of shake the game off.
St. Louis was a weird experience, too. That storm on Friday, which postponed the game till Saturday, was scary. I’d never been in a tornado, so I was nervous about what it might be like. When we got back to the hotel, some of the other Latin guys and I were eating together, and Madison Bumgarner came over. He asked if we had gotten the textabout the possible tornado. That was really nice because he knew none of us had ever been through something like that. I don’t know if he had been through a tornado before, but he seemed really comfortable so maybe he has. He said if anything happens just go to the basement. That made me feel better, but I slept with my phone just the same. I didn’t want to miss a text or a call telling us to take cover. Luckily nothing happened.
Playing a double-header the next day, and losing both games, makes for a really, really long afternoon. Between games, I took a nap in the weight room. They had the lights down and yoga mats on the floor. So I got a towel to use as a pillow and slept for about 45 minutes. Pablo was in there sleeping, too, and Quiroz, and a couple other guys. I think it was a good thing to do but obviously didn’t help us win. You just have to say tomorrow’s another day. That’s why baseball’s so great. Tomorrow you can do something new.
As it turned out, Chad Gaudin was our “something new.’’ I played against him in Venezuela a couple years ago. He’s kind of a different guy now. He works out every day so he’s in better shape. He has a more explosive fastball than before, and his off-speed pitches are better. I’m really impressed who he is right now. I was watching him from center field and I was thinking, “OK, this guy’s really good.’’ He was commanding his fastball low. He didn’t care who he faced. I was so glad we got the win in general and for him in particular. He’s really been working so hard.
I spent my day off on Monday with my wife and son. We went to the dentist in the morning. I had a cleaning and my wife had a root canal. I thought she’d be in pain all day, but she was fine. The doctor did a great job. We got sushi, brought it home and watched the NBA playoffs on a new projector and big-screen television we just got. It was really fun to watch basketball like that.
Today when we get to Arizona, I’ll go watch a movie. Probably The Fast and the Furious 6. Then we play the Diamondbacks and hopefully gain some games on them in the standings. We need to remember to have fun. That’s when we’re at our best. I think we haven’t been having as much fun as we did last year, and we have to get that back.
Thanks for reading! See you in a couple weeks.
I have a few minutes before I go back out for batting practice, so I’m going to write a short post.
I just got in from doing some running. If I’m not in the starting lineup like tonight, I go out with our conditioning coach Carl Kochan almost as soon as I get to the park. Sometimes he has me running, sometimes doing agilities. Today he had me sprinting six times along the curve where the outfield grass meets the infield dirt.
He wanted to me to run from baseline to baseline in 12 seconds. He was excited I did it in 10. The pregame workout keeps me conditioned when I know I’m not going to get much, or any, exercise during the game. And it keeps me loose in case Bochy puts me in.
I know everyone’s talking about our bad road trip. But the way I see it, the bad stuff just makes us stronger. I think things happen for a reason, and this will just make us work harder. We believe in ourselves and in each other. We know things like this happen over the course of a season and that we’re going to snap out of it and be fine. We proved that to ourselves last year.
The high socks in yesterday’s game is an example of how we try always to stick together as a team. It was Pablo’s idea. I think he wanted to do something that would connect all of us. Some guys looked really bad. Affeldt really did. But no one looked funnier than Pablo. Maybe that’s why he chose that particular thing to do, so he could make everyone laugh.
I’ve been wearing the short pants and high socks every Sunday this season. Sundays are a day for God, so I wanted to mark the day by doing something different. So far, I seem to hit pretty well on those days, so I’ll keep doing it.
Let’s hope we get back on track tonight against the Nationals. It’s always great to be back at our park with our fans. Thanks for everything you do!
My 21-year-old brother Gregsman is flying in from Venezuela and will be here for the next home stand. He’s never been to San Francisco. Somebody asked me what is the one thing I want to make sure he sees in San Francisco, and I said, “The ballpark!’’
He is not going to believe this park. How beautiful it is, yes, but mostly he’s not going to believe the crowd. He’s seen me play in Atlanta and Kansas City, but I told him, “Those aren’t the same as here.’’ He’s going to feel he’s back in Venezuela. The fans here get excited like the crowds at home. So I know he’s going to love it. I’ll take him to eat at Benihana in Japantown and the Spanish restaurant Zarzuela on Hyde Street. I’ll make sure he sees the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge. Everything. There’s so much to see, and he has 12 days, so he’ll get a good look around.
It will mean a lot to me to have him here. Every time I get a hit or make a play, he’s going to feel proud. And that makes me feel proud. But he better not show up without Cocosette and Torontos. They are the best candies in the world. Cocosette is a wafer with coconut cream and Torontos are small balls of chocolate with hazelnut. I’ve never seen them anywhere but Venezuela. So I’m counting on him to come through.
My two-year-old son, also named Gregor, has been coming to the park most days recently. His babysitter brings him as early as 4 in the afternoon, and Gregor will sit with her in the stands by the dugout and watch batting practice. (My wife is busy at home and arrives closer to game time.) He’s really calm and comfortable at the park. He never cries and hardly ever gets cranky. There’s a canvas tarp – maybe six or seven feet long — stretched from the railing on the field to the railing by the first row of seats. During BP the other day, Pablo and I were rolling a ball to Gregor and he was rolling it back, just having the greatest time. At home, he always has a ball and bat and wants me to play with him. I love teaching him and watching him have so much fun.
Every now and then, I’ll bring Gregor into the clubhouse. He’ll just jump on the guys. They play around with him, and he loves it. His favorite player is probably Pablo because he’s so much like a kid himself.
It’s been interesting watching Gregor learn to talk. He doesn’t talk a lot yet, and I think it’s because he’s a little confused about the languages. He listens to us in Spanish and to the TV in English. So he mixes up all the words. He sings Happy Birthday in English but not in Spanish. When he counts, he starts in Spanish and finishes in English. He’ll go, “One, two, three, quatro, five, seis.’’ I’m sure he’ll work it all out and become really comfortable in both languages. I wish I had learned English when I was young. It’s so much easier than trying to pick it up as an adult.
Yesterday against the Braves, we weren’t able to rally back like we often do. I don’t know why we have so many one-run games, and why we seem to win so many of them. I think it’s because we’re pretty much like little kids. You know how when little kids start playing baseball and cry when they lose? That’s us. We don’t like to lose. Sometimes it seems like we wait until the last moment, until our backs are against the wall, and we say, “We’re about to lose this game and then we’re going to cry.’’ Then we say, “OK, come on, we have to win so everybody will be happy in the clubhouse and listening to music and dancing.’’
See? You think we’re grown up. But no matter how old you are or how long you’ve been in the big leagues, when you play a boy’s game for a living, some of that boy stays with you forever.
I’ve been playing baseball all my life. I’m 29 now. But it wasn’t until a day in spring training this year that I finally stopped trying to be someone else. I finally figured out who I was as a player.
In previous years, every time I went 0-for-3 or 0-for-4, I’d change my mechanics. I’d copy Marco Scutaro or Buster Posey or whoever. So no surprise – I’d ride a rollercoaster of trying this and that, and the results were a rollercoaster, too. I was up and down and all over the place.
I arrived at spring training with the goal of figuring out how to be consistent.
It was the first spring training in my life that I could actually pick a component of my game to work on. Every other spring, I was trying to impress the organization so they’d put me on the roster. This spring, I had more security than I’d ever had, so I could afford to focus on becoming a more consistent hitter.
One day in Arizona, I was watching video with our assistant batting coach, Joe Lefebvre. He had put together a bunch of my at-bats from last year.
“Look at your swing,’’ he said. “That’s you right there. Just be yourself and you’ll be more consistent.’’
I said to myself, “That’s right. I’m going to start just being myself.’’
It was like a light bulb switching on.
The reason why Marco and Buster and Pablo are so successful is they always take the same approach. They believe in their approach and don’t change it just because they have a bad day or two.
That’s the biggest difference for me between last year and this year. I’ve found peace in myself and the way I play the game. Which translates into more consistency. I just stay who I am even if I go 0-for-4. I just keep believing in myself and my approach. I just keep swinging aggressively and naturally and with confidence.
My game is to get on base. Every time I get into the batter’s box, I’m just thinking, “Get on base no matter what.’’ That can mean bunting, slapping the ball, getting a walk. Get quality at-bats every single time. That’s what I want to do.
I don’t put nearly as much pressure on myself as I used to. I don’t expect myself to go 4-for-4 every game and then get all stressed when I don’t. I’m much more even.
And so far it’s working well. I feel comfortable at the plate, and I’m getting on base.
Maybe I learned this lesson a little late, but I guess I had to go through everything I did in order to get to where I am. I feel like I’m a better player now than I’ve ever been. And I have the Giants and you to thank for that. I will always feel blessed that I ended up in San Francisco.
When Larry Baer handed me the ring today, I thought I was going to cry. I really did. I was remembering my family, especially my mom, who’s up in heaven. I know she would have wanted to be here with me so badly. I dedicated that moment to her. I know she’s proud.
To be out on that field today with my teammates with Cepeda, Mays, Marichal, McCovey, all the great Giants, it was not even real. I just looked at the ring in the box and then put it on my finger. It was more beautiful than I imagined. It just flashed like little light bulbs in the sun. I saw my name on the side, and thought, “Yes, it’s really mine. I am really a champion.’’ I can’t wait to look at it closer after the game.
Getting that World Series ring makes me believe that everything you want in life you can accomplish if you really believe in it. The strongest thing a human being has is their mind. It’s tough, for sure, to get where you want to be. But you always have to have the mindset every day, every at-bat, every moment on the field. That’s true, I think, in everything, not just baseball. Last season taught me that.
This game is so much about your mind. I focus on the opposing team for any little thing I can use to my advantage. If I’m up at bat, for example, I watch the fielders really closely. If they move before the pitch, then I know where the pitch is going to be thrown. There’s so little difference between winning and losing so you can’t miss a chance to gain an edge.
Having a World Series ring means a lot to every player, but I think it has added meaning for the Latin players. Most of us came from poor countries. So it’s a really, really big deal to bring the ring back home. I’m not going to wear my ring. I’ll keep it in a safe and take it out only on special occasions. It will be my family’s legacy, something my son and future grandsons can have. They can say, “My dad and granddad was a world champion.’’
The best part of the ring ceremony was the last part. Every player got to throw a first pitch to the fans in the stands. I went to left field and tossed the ball up. I don’t know who caught it, but in my mind I was throwing to every fan in the park. I was thinking, “It’s unbelievable to play in this ballpark and in front of all of you. Thank you, thank you for believing in us!’’
Now all the ceremonies are over and it’s back to baseball and our usual routines. Now it’s all about playing — and believing in each other and earning our way back to the postseason and another ring.
Below: Blanco waiting to receive his ring
I haven’t blogged since before the ﬁnal game of the World Series. My ﬁrst night home in Venezuela, I got into my bed and I remembered that the last time I slept there I was about to leave for my ﬁrst spring training with the Giants. I still can’t believe how much has happened since then.
I made the Giants’ Opening Day roster.
I contributed to Matt Cain’s perfect game.
I played in the World Series on a team that wasn’t supposed to win and surprised everyone with a sweep of the Tigers.
The most amazing part was the parade. Sometimes I wonder if that really happened. I remember every single moment of that parade. It’s the biggest thing that has ever happened to me in my life. I felt like a king, to tell you the truth. I felt like some supreme being. It’s so cool what the fans did for us. My wife and baby and I enjoyed every second. I wish my other son could have ﬂown in from Venezuela, but it was too far to travel. We knew there would be a huge crowd but we didn’t expect to see people on rooftops, hanging from windows, sitting in trees. Every time I think about it I want to do it again!
People at home during the off-season looked at me differently. There was more respect.
When I talked, people paid more attention.
The question I heard most was, “Were you nervous in the World Series?’’ I told them no, I was just enjoying every single moment. So many people never even get to the World Series, so win or lose, I was going to enjoy the experience. I kept everything: jersey, ball, bat, glove, pants, hat, shoes. I’m building a showcase for everything at home.
I played 16 games in the winter league in Venezuela. When they announced the lineup for the ﬁrst game, they introduced me as a World Champion and the crowd went wild.
It’s still crazy to think all this really happened. I don’t think I’ll really believe it until I see the ring.
I have the same locker here in Scottsdale that I had last year. I remember I didn’t know anyone except Pablo when I ﬁrst got here. Now I feel like part of a family. I couldn’t wait to get back here and see all my teammates and spend time together.
What I’m working on most this spring is improving my offense. I have to put the ball in play more and use the whole ﬁeld. I want to be known as much for my hitting as my ﬁelding.
I’m heading up to the gym for a workout before we dress for practice. Part of the club is going to Goodyear to play the Reds but I’m not in the lineup so I can go home a little earlier than usual and spend time with my family.
Thanks for reading. I’ll try not to let so much time go by before my next post.
It’s more than two hours before game time. We’re about to go out to batting practice. Will this be our last BP? You try not to think about it. You try to do what all of us have been doing since we were down 0-2 to Cincinnati: Focus on just this game. Forget what happened yesterday. Don’t worry about tomorrow. It has worked for us so far.
If you walked into our clubhouse right now, you’d think we were about to play a game in August instead of the fourth game of the World Series. Everyone’s relaxed and low-key. There’s loud music playing through the speakers. Some guys are sitting at their lockers, half-dressed, with headphones on and iPads open. Some are watching football on TV. The usual.
I’m guessing, though, that most of the guys didn’t sleep real well last night. I woke up three times. I kept thinking that I’m in a dream. I can’t take it all in. I think I’ll be sitting at my house one day about a month from now and say to my wife, “I think I was in the World Series.”
I also thought last night about my triple in the second inning that scored Hunter for the first run of the game. I was so excited when I reached third base. I hit a triple in the World Series! It was funny, too, that right before that, while I was in the batter’s box, Miguel Cabrera kind of yelled at me for calling time as the pitcher went into his windup. Mostly he was yelling at the umpire. “He can’t call time out right there!” he said. “You got to do a better job!”
Miguel was just playing mind games. I stepped out of the box because Sanchez, the Tigers’ pitcher, was trying to throw too quickly. He does that to knock the batter’s timing off. So I stepped out to slow him down. I guess it worked because he threw me a curveball that I lined into the gap.
Cabrera and I are good friends. He played with my brother when they were 14 or 15 years old, and everyone already knew Miguel would be a star. We played together in winter ball in Venezuela in 2007 and in the World Baseball Classic three years ago. He’s a great player and a great person. We talked and joked during batting practice before Game 2. He was saying how great our pitching staff was and how loud our fans were. He also joked that he would be stepping it up that game so watch out.
I’m happy about the triple, but not happy about the mistake I made in the seventh inning. I hit a chopper to Cabrera at third. The throw was low and Prince Fielder had to stretch and, as it turned out, he pulled his foot off the bag. I was called out, though replays showed I was safe. But I’m mad at myself for sliding into first. It’s the dumbest thing you can do. I had no intention of sliding but I wanted to get to first base so badly that I just found myself diving for the bag. Hunter told me as soon as I got back to the dugout that it makes no sense to slide into first. “I know, I know,” I said.
I didn’t write a blog after Game 2, so I’ll share a few things about that. Yes, I was actually trying to hit Crawford with my relay throw. We practice that play a lot, but I think Brandon was farther out in the field than usual. I threw to the spot I usually throw to, closer to the infield. Marco was there and made an unbelievable throw to nail the runner at home.
As for the bunt that stayed fair — of the thousands of bunts I have hit in games and practices, from the time I was a kid until now, I have never, ever hit a bunt that perfectly. I knew a good bunt right there could change the game. I told myself to calm down in the batter’s box. Be patient. As always, I asked my mother for help. And the ball seemed to actually flutter off my bat and die right inside the line.
There is definitely something special at work with this team. It’s like how the interaction of certain kinds of electrons produces energy. We’re a bunch of the right kinds of electrons interacting in a way that generates good energy. When I’m out in the field, I pray for the pitcher to throw a good pitch. When I’m in the dugout, I pray for the batter to get a hit. Praying is like sending energy. Angel, Marco, Joaquin, Crawford – they all say they pray during the game. I actually feel it when I’m at bat and in the field, like everyone’s with you when you’re in a pressure situation.
When we win, I look to the sky and thank God and my mother for hearing my prayers.
Today, after my restless night, I woke up at around 11. My family and I ate at P.F. Chang’s then I took the bus to the field around 3. For so many guys in here, this is the most important game of their lives. It certainly is for me. W know our pitchers and defense have saved us. But we have to score more runs. The Tigers can do a lot of damage at any time We have to face Miguel and Prince Fielder four times each. That’s a tough thing. One pitch to either one of those guys can change the whole game.
I like that the last two games have been so close. That’s what the World Series is supposed to be. The best teams fighting until the last out.
A reporter after the game asked me what the big headline would be in the Venezuelan newspapers tomorrow.
“I think the big headline will be about my two catches.’’
That made him laugh. Obviously it’s going to be about Pablo. None of us could believe what Pablo did tonight. Even Pablo couldn’t believe it. In the dugout after the third consecutive home run, he said, “I feel like I’m dreaming right now.’’
He had three major factors against him tonight: Verlander, AT&T Park and the World Series. It’s tough to hit a home run facing any one of those, and he conquered all three. Three times!
I can’t even hit a single and he hits three home runs and a line drive.
I remember watching the Pepsi Home Run Derby on TV two years ago. It’s a big competition in Venezuela, and Pablo won it that year. He just blasted one home run after another. Nobody had seen anything like it. He put on a show for the whole country. Tonight he put on a show for the whole world.
He was already a big star at home. When he got off the airplane after the 2010 World Series, when he didn’t even play very much, there were so many reporters he could barely move. Now it’s going to be unbelievable. People will be mobbing him everywhere he goes. Maybe he won’t go back!
As for me, I hope I hit better tomorrow. But if I don’t, I always know I’ll contribute with defense. I cover a lot of ground in the outfield. I love that. It’s really fun to run down a ball and making a diving catch and hear the crowd explode. I can’t begin to describe what that feels like.
Part of the reason I get to so many fly balls is that I get a great jump. I have it in my mind what’s going to happen when the hitter makes contact. I can see the catcher’s sign so I know what pitch is coming. I know the hitter either from facing him before or watching video. Is he a pull hitter? A line drive hitter? A slap hitter?
Sometimes I’m moving before the pitcher even throws the ball
Am I wrong sometimes? Yes, but not often.
Today before the game, my dad and brother were filling me with advice on how to face Verlander. “He’s going to challenge you with his fastball,’’ my brother said. “Try to bunt!’’ I tell them, “Don’t tell me too much! Just let me play!’’
Tomorrow is the sixth anniversary of the day my mother died from brain cancer. She also had breast cancer and ovarian cancer in the years leading up to her death. So I was really touched that I could hold up her name on the Stand Up To Cancer sign. I wrote, “MaMa, this is for you.’’ I believe she saw it and was really proud. Tomorrow I’ll light a candle in memory of her.
All we’re thinking about right now – and what we’ve been thinking about since the end of the season – is playing game by game. It sounds so simple. But that’s what it takes. You can’t think about tomorrow’s game. Or that you need three wins in a row to move on to the next round.
Just one game.
This team always believes it can win one game.
There was no doubt in our minds we would win tonight. You could see the confidence in every face right from the start. Everyone’s relaxed. There wasn’t even a speech before the game because we’re already on the same page. We’re playing hard for each other and we’re having fun
Even when I struck out today in a big situation, I didn’t worry about it. I knew someone would step up. I didn’t know it would be Vogey, but there you go. That’s our team. He makes the Cardinals pay for walking Crawford intentionally. He smacks a grounder that the shortstop misplays, and suddenly we have our second run in and we’re teed up for Marco to drive both runners in with a double to left.
That’s how it works with us.
We’re 27 outs away from being in the World Series. Just saying that out loud is amazing. I know I say this a lot but that’s because I think about it every day – I’m so thankful to the Giants for giving me a chance. I feel so blessed to be here right now. It’s been the best experience of my life.
And it’s not over. We have no doubts going into Game 7. None. We know that we can control only one thing: How hard we play for each other. When we do that, we can have no regrets.