The clubhouse was really quiet after tonight’s 6-4 loss, but it’s always quiet after a loss. We know it’s just one game in a seven-game series. And we know we’re pretty good at clawing back. But it’s disappointing to lose in front of our fans for the third time in the post-season. We hate to do that because our fans are unbelievable.
We’ll wash this one away and win tomorrow. We know what we can do.
Everyone back home in Venezuela is rooting for the Giants because we have so many Venezuelans on the team. My family’s house is packed every night with relatives and friends to watch the games. The newspapers and sports radio stations are carrying stories because they love baseball back there. It’s been so fun to hear from people I haven’t heard from in a long time. Yesterday I got tweets from two schoolmates. They said they were amazed to see me on television in the playoffs.
My twin brother asked me the other day what it’s like to be a starter in the championship series.
“It’s like a dream,’’ I told him. “I feel like I’m in a dream.’’
My dad told me on the phone that he’s proud of me and he loves me and hopes to see me soon – and to bring a ring! “This is your moment,’’ he said. “You always do well in the biggest games.’’ And that’s true. I don’t know why. I think I’m good at calming myself and not trying to do too much.
My dad and my brother also make helpful suggestions – like not to swing at bad pitches and not to take a called strike three with the game on the line (as I did in the NLDS).
“It’s not as easy as it looks on TV,’’ I tell them. “The pitches move a lot more in the big leagues here than in the Venezuelan league. It’s very different.’’
They say, “Oh, of course! You’re doing great!’’
My mother died six years ago of brain cancer at the age of 47. I keep thinking about how much she would have enjoyed all this. She loved baseball. I think about her every at-bat. I ask her to give me strength to be successful. Every big moment – like my triple in the fourth inning today – I wish my mom could be here to watch me. I wish she could see this ballpark. She would be really happy and proud.
Tonight was just one game. It’s fun just to think about what amazing thing might happen on the field tomorrow or the next day or the next. We never know who’s going to be the spark – one day it’s Buster, the next it’s me or Crawford or Angel or a hitter off the bench. Everybody believes in themselves and in each other.
Keep believing. Thanks for reading!
My dad can’t make it back from Venezuela for the playoffs – my first in the major leagues. But my 31-year-old brother Edward is here. I call him my brother because he grew up in my house. He’s actually my cousin. My uncle couldn’t raise him so my mother took him in, and we’ve been like brothers ever since. I love him. He hadn’t taken a vacation from his job for five years, so his boss told him to go visit me and see the San Francisco Giants. He arrived three weeks ago – his first visit to the United States. He’s been having a great time in San Francisco. He can’t believe how beautiful it is. I’m so happy he can be here, especially for this weekend. He never played baseball himself, but he loves it.
Pablo and Marco Scutaro have talked to me a little bit about what the playoffs are like. They told me things change in the playoffs – every single pitch counts, nobody’s thinking about their own numbers, all that matters is figuring out how to win. But at the same time, you have to keep doing what you’ve done all season. Not put more pressure on yourself. I’ve played in championship games back home. We had 20,000 people in the stadium instead of 40,000 like here. But the 20,000 are really, really loud. So I think I have at least some sense of what it will be like.
I don’t know when I’ll be playing. But I’m ready. I’m glad we have practice this afternoon so we can all be together and have our usual routines. This team has a great combination of energy and calm. I can’t imagine anything rattling anyone. I’m really thankful to be a part of it, and to have my wife, son and brother here at the park sharing it with me.
Last night was unbelievable. It was the greatest feeling I’ve ever had in my baseball career. The fans were so great. I loved running around the field and slapping everyone’s hand and saying thank you. And the clubhouse was crazy. But at some point in the midst of the champagne and music and hugging, I thought about last year.
I was in the minors the whole season, first for Kansas City then I was traded to Washington. I didn’t play a single game in the major leagues. And by August, I was on the DL after surgery for bone spurs in my wrist. The Nationals released me on November 2. And for two weeks I didn’t have a team. I didn’t know what was going to happen.
Then the Giants signed me in mid-November to a minor-league contract.
“Remember where we were in spring training?’’ I asked Joaquin Arias, who signed a minor-league contract with the Giants a month after I did.
“I know,’’ he said.
We were at the bottom of the roster. Neither one of us thought we’d make the team. And now we find ourselves in the playoffs. It’s crazy. Such a great feeling.
My wife and baby came into the clubhouse with the rest of the families last night. She was so happy for me, and I was happy for her, too. We’ve been through a lot together and to share that moment meant a lot for both of us.
But all through the clubhouse, even while we were celebrating, guys were saying, “Now we have to accomplish the next step.’’ We have the talent, the chemistry and the fight to do it.
That’s been the rallying cry all season for us – pelea. It’s Spanish for fight. Our manager started it, I think, early in the season. He was just having fun, but we all followed him. When someone’s up at bat, we yell, “Pelea!’’ When a pitcher is facing a big at-bat, we yell “Pelea!’’
It’s a word that describes our team really well. Fighters.
I’m getting ready for our fourth game against the Rockies, hoping for a sweep. We’ve been playing so well on the road, so it’s great to play so well in front of our own fans. The magic number is down to five, but we take nothing for granted. We keep focused on every single game and try to win every one. We have to keep working harder and harder so if we make it to the playoffs we’ll be ready for them.
And our fans deserve for us to play hard, no matter where we are in the standings. They cheer for us every single day, so we need to show them that we want to win as much as they do. We’re fans, too, of the San Francisco Giants and we want to go to the World Series again. If we keep playing the way we’re playing, we have a chance to do it.
Look at what Matt Cain did yesterday. Look what Pablo did. Guys are stepping up. I had three hits yesterday for the first time since early July. I had some inflammation in my shoulder and had to take a few days off, and maybe that’s what my body and mind needed. I’m feeling really, really good at the plate.
I’m not in the lineup today, which is one of the hardest thing as a player. But you always have a job to do, even when you’re on the bench. Paul left a question for me that ties right into this. He asked what I think my role is on the team. I think it’s to bring extra energy to the club and to always be really supportive. So when I’m on the bench, my job is to cheer for everybody and to pump them up when they’ve made a mistake. I always have a smile on my face and just try to keep people loose and happy.
Someone asked what I do on the road. Usually I eat with Scutaro and sometimes with Pablo and Sanchez, my Venezuelan buddies. We talk about the games, about food, about families. I also watch a lot of movies. I love watching movies. That’s the thing that relaxes me the most. On the last road trip I watched a scary movie. I can’t remember the name, but it was a good one. I watched it by myself, and I wasn’t sure that was going to be OK. But I was fine. My favorites are action movies like Independence Day and Armageddon.
Like most players, I have routines on game days. When I get to the ballpark, I do my batting and fielding, and after BP I have a protein shake. I don’t like to eat too much because I’ll be full during the game. Then around 6 o’clock (for a 7 o’clock game) I put on headphones and listen to Venezuelan music while I stretch and get focused. I always say to myself, “You can do this. Go out there and have fun and play hard.’’
When I go up to bat, my walk-up song is “Welcome to Jam Rock’’ by Damian Marley. I’ve had the same song all season. It makes me happy to hear it.
OK, got to get out to the field to warm up. Then I’ll drink my milkshake and I’m ready to go. Thanks for reading and for supporting our team! It means a lot to all of us.
Jean Machi’s arrival this week means there are now six players in the Giants clubhouse from Venezuela – Pablo, Hector Sanchez, Marco Scutaro, Jose Mijares, Machi and me.
By the way, we pronounce Machi like this: Ma-SHEE.
Being so far from home, it’s really nice to have people who know the same food, same traditions, same music. We all know each other from winter ball, so we were really happy to see Machi finally get a chance in a major-league game at the age of 30 after 12 years in pro ball.
“You deserve this,’’ I told him when he came in from Fresno, where he was the closer for the Grizzlies. “You worked for it and nobody can take it away from you now. Enjoy it.’’
Then he went out and threw a perfect inning in his major-league debut. I think everybody in the park was happy for him because he had waited so long and had worked so hard. What they don’t know is that he’s a really nice guy. His personality is a lot like Pablo’s in that he has a lot of energy and enthusiasm. But he’s quieter than Pablo.
Pablo is kind of the leader of the Venezuelans because he’s such a great player and a great teammate.
Scutaro has become a leader, too, even though he hasn’t been with the team very long. But he’s the oldest of the Venezuelans and has the most experience. Marco tries to help everybody. He knows I’ve been struggling at the plate, so every day he says to me, “You are a great player. We believe in you. Everybody in here believes in you.’’ He tells me to relax, to trust my hands and go with the pitch and hit the ball the other way. That’s what he does. And that’s the kind of player I am when I’m locked in. I’m patient at the plate like he is. I have quality at-bats. So he talks to me a lot about getting back into a good groove.
If someone asked what all Venezuelan players had in common, I’d say two things: We’re team players and we’re passionate about baseball. And one more thing: Pride. Every single Venezuelan I’ve played with takes great pride in how he competes and what he contributes to his team.
We haven’t all gotten together away from the park yet, though we want to. I tried to do it August 13 for my baby boy’s birthday, but Pablo was celebrating his birthday the same day.
OK, I’m heading to the cage to get in some extra batting practice. I hope it doesn’t rain, though the skies look a little dark. After back-to-back extra-inning games, the last thing we need is a rain delay.
Looking forward to the day off tomorrow before the big series against the Dodgers. September baseball, in first place, playing our rival – what’s better than that?
My dad leaves tomorrow after spending a month with my wife, baby boy and me here in San Francisco. He loved everything but the cold weather. His favorite restaurant was Benihana in Japantown. He commented on how different the fans are here compared to Venezuela. Not in the ballpark – they’re just as passionate here as there. But out in public.
In Venezuela, fans are often too nervous to come up to a player and talk to him. But here, everybody does. I like it because I get to meet so many people and everyone’s so friendly and supportive. Sometimes people tell me their son wants to be like me when he grows up and that makes me want to be a better player.
I’m happy my dad got to see me play with the Giants and enjoy our great ballpark. I was happy, too, he could be at the park for the celebration of Matt Cain’s perfect game.
I didn’t know until a few minutes ahead of time that Matt was going to make a presentation to me during the pregame ceremony. The whole team contributed to that perfect game, so it was really amazing that Matt wanted to do something special for me. He had been asking me what I wanted for making that catch. And I kept telling him, “I’m just there for you. That’s my job to catch the ball. And I hope it’s not the last time we do something special like that. I hope we can do it again.’’
So on the field, he gave me a framed photo of the team celebration with a personal note saying I saved his perfect game and thanking me. It was a great feeling to read that, and it shows what kind of person Matt is.
I’m not sure where I’ll hang it. We’re in the middle of renovating our house in Venezuela. All I know is that it’s going to be in a really good spot.
People sometimes ask me if it’s hard not starting every day the way I had been earlier in the season. I tell them, “Not at all.’’ Being a good teammate means contributing however you can. Sometimes it’s giving a teammate a pep talk in the dugout if he’s just struck out. Sometimes it’s pinch-hitting or pinch-running.
Every day I come into this clubhouse, I’m thankful. I’m thankful for being a Giant. I’m thankful that I’ve been here since Opening Day. Whether I’m starting or not, I love being part of this team. I keep my mind focused on supporting my teammates and doing whatever job I’m needed to do that day.
Right now, so deep into a long season, we’re changing our routines a little bit. We don’t push ourselves as hard in our workouts because you want to conserve energy for the games. You try to get more rest. You take really good care of your body so you’ll be strong for the stretch drive.
We’ve already put last night’s awful game behind us. You have to. We’re too good a team to take a loss like that too much to heart. We’ll go out today and tomorrow with nothing but confidence.
Hope to see you out there.
The best part of the road trip was that my dad, Hernan, flew from Venezuela to Atlanta. It was the first time he has seen me play in the major leagues. And I hit a home run in that series, so he was really proud and happy.
Now he’s here in San Francisco with my family and me for a month. When I talked to him on the phone in Venezuela, I told him to bring the warmest coat he has because it can get really cold in San Francisco.
And I told him he’s going to love the fans. “You’re going to feel like you’re back in Venezuela!’’ I told him.
He had a great time at the game Monday night. He said I was right about the fans. They’re crazy for the Giants. He really loved that they lifted Melky out the stands when he made that catch.
You might have seen or read about me missing the suicide squeeze sign in Philadelphia. How did I miss such an important sign? I’m going to be completely honest. I never looked. With Buster on third, all I was thinking about was driving him home. I briefly thought about bunting, but Buster’s a catcher and so he’s not the fastest guy on the team. I saw the infield playing in, and I said to myself, “All you need to do is hit the ball hard to the outfield to get him in.’’
Then suddenly I saw Buster charging down the line. I thought, “Uh oh.’’ But in this game, you have to wipe a mistake from your mind. I told myself, “You made a mental mistake. Forget about it. We’re going to win this game. You’re going to have another opportunity to do something.’’
And I did, in the 10th inning. We had runners on first and third. Bochy told me to think about bunting to the right side. I had been watching the second baseman and first baseman – Utley and Howard – earlier in the game and saw they were both a little slow. (Both were coming off injuries.) We had a fast runner in Melky at third.
When I had a 3-1 count – a hitter’s count — I figured the Phillies would think I’d swing away. They wouldn’t be expecting a bunt, a safety squeeze.
The key to a good bunt is to trust your instincts, trust your hands and relax. As soon as the pitcher goes into his motion, you put the bat out and hope the pitch is middle-in. It was. I followed the ball, angled the bat pretty sharply toward the right side and pushed. The ball fell just right.
Howard couldn’t get to the ball fast enough, and Melky scored the go-ahead run.
Thanks to those of you who asked about my trip to Santa Monica during the All-Star break. It was awesome. I didn’t expect it to be as great as it was because you don’t hear much about Santa Monica. Everybody talks about Hollywood, LA, Malibu. We spent time on the beach relaxing. We also went to Disneyland. It was the first time for my son. He was all over Mickey Mouse and Donald. He really loved it.
That’s all for now. See you out at the park. (If you run into a good-looking, Spanish-speaking, shivering man named Hernan, say hello and maybe loan him a scarf.)
I saw Melky when he got to the park today. As soon as he arrived, all the reporters were around him.
“What’s going on?’ he asked.
“You made the All-Star team,’’ somebody told him.
Then he smiled the way he does – he always looks like he’s trying not to smile but then it just spreads across his face. This time it broke through fast. He seemed genuinely surprised and really happy.
“I can’t believe it,’’ he said. “Nice!’’
He called all his family back home.
He really deserves it. He should have made it last year, but this year God has given him the opportunity to show again what he can do. He knows he belongs among the best in the game.
I’ve said this before, but Melky has become the guy I really look up to. I’m so happy for him. And I said to myself, “Next year, I’m going to try to do what he did and make the All-Star team.’’
I’m so happy for Pablo and Buster and Matt Cain, too. We’re so lucky to be playing in San Francisco with these fans. Even when we’re going bad, they’re always supporting us.
During the All-Star break, I’m taking my family to Santa Monica. We have never been there. I wanted a beach vacation. It’s the most relaxing place for me. So I went on the internet and researched places in California and decided on Santa Monica. We’ll fly down and stay in a hotel and just chill.
We go to Washington, D.C., this week. I was there with the Braves when the Nationals played their first game in their new ballpark in 2008. But I still have never toured the city. I’ve never had time. We are there four days this week, so maybe I’ll finally get a chance to walk around and learn about the history of the United States.
I’ll try to check in again before the All-Star break.
Thanks for reading!
Life has been a little different since my catch in Matt Cain’s perfect game. A lot more people recognize me on the street and around the park. Almost everybody asks me the same questions: How did I make the catch, and how did it feel? It’s really cool to have people appreciate what I did. It makes me want to do something like that again, another play that people will always remember.
I was talking yesterday on the phone with my friend Martin Prado from the Braves, where I played from 2008 to 2010. He’s also from Venezuela. We were just catching up on our families and things like that. Then he says, “I want to ask you something. How did you make that catch?’’
I laughed. I said, “I don’t know. Seriously I don’t know. I ask myself the same question.’’
Even a couple of umpires talked to me about it. So that’s pretty different for me.
What isn’t different is how I go about my work every day. That’s the key to everything. Talent gets you only so far. If you didn’t know that before getting to the big leagues, you learn it quickly up here. The best players – the ones who stay the best for a long time – are the ones who keep working hard.
I get to the park around 2 or 2:30 for a 7 o’clock game. I change clothes then do some running on the field – sometimes sprints, sometimes just a jog to stretch out my legs. I’ll ride the stationary bike. Then in the weight room, I work mostly on my core muscles, doing crunches, that kind of thing. Then I spend 30 to 40 minutes in the indoor batting cage. Lately I’ve work with Bam-Bam, our hitting coach, on hitting the ball on the ground and staying away from pop-ups. I’ve also returned to using a pitching machine that can throw 102 mph. I used it in spring training and was hitting really well. Then I got away from it during the season because I thought, “I want to save my bullets for the game.’’
But when my bat went cool, I added it back into my pregame routine. Trying to hit pitches coming at you at 102 mph hour sharpens your eye. When you see a 95-mph fastball in a game, it looks much slower and you’re more likely to get your bat around on it.
There’s also a psychological reason to work really hard every single day. It gives you confidence. You feel strong. You feel ready. So much of this game is played out in your head. If you know you are in peak shape, that no one out there has worked harder than you have, you feel that there isn’t anything you can’t do.
Having said that, when we had an off day last week, I just wanted to chill. On the last off day, my wife and I took the kids to Santa Cruz, which was fun but exhausting. This time, I said, “Hey honey, let’s just stay here. Let’s relax and watch movies and play with the kids.’’ It felt good.
There was a comment from a mom that her son was in the backyard pretending to be me. Wow, that’s so amazing. I remember growing up and imitating Chipper Jones and Kenny Lofton and Ken Griffey. I’d try to run the bases like Rickey Henderson. I wanted so much to be in the major leagues. I always tell kids if they really want something, they should keep dreaming because it’s possible.
But you have to work hard and leave a lot of things behind like parties and drinking and girls. When I was growing up, I played with a lot of guys who had really good talent but they never made it to pro ball. They got too involved in stuff off the field. They’d asked me, “Hey, why don’t you hang out?’’ I’d say, “I just want to go play baseball and run and get better.’’
And look where I am now.
The guys I really like to watch now are Rafael Furcal and Jose Reyes because they play the game hard every single game. They’re aggressive hitters and runners. But now that I play with Melky, he’s the guy I look up to the most. I watch how he goes about his business. He’s an unbelievable player. I’d like to be the kind of player he is.
The person who has influenced me the most, though, is my mother. She didn’t graduate from high school, but she never stopped educating herself. She worked in a bank and eventually became a high-level manager. She’s an example to everyone she knows, not just me. Because of her, I try to be someone people can look up to.
So when I hear that there are some kids who want to be like me, I’m really humbled. That’s part of the reason you do this. I want kids to believe that playing sports is a way to live a positive life. There are a lot of bad things on the streets, and sports gives them an alternative.
So if I contribute in some way to kids wanting to play sports, that’s awesome.
I hardly got any sleep last night. I went home after the game still trying to really absorb what happened.
A perfect game from Matt Cain. The most unbelievable thing I’ve ever seen.
And I keep thinking how incredibly grateful I am to have made the catch that kept the perfect game going.
I watched the replay a dozen times when I got to the apartment I’m renting a few blocks from the park. My wife and almost-two-year-old son were waiting up for me. She was upset she didn’t come to the game, but I told her it was OK because it was so loud and the baby probably would not have been happy. She told me that when I was being interviewed on TV, the baby just stared at the screen like, “That’s my dad!’’
When I watched the replay, all I could think was, “I can’t believe you really did that. That’s crazy.’’
What I liked most was the feeling it created in the ballpark. Everyone just went crazy. And I think at that moment Matt knew he was going to do it. It was like he got more confident as the crowd got louder.
When he tipped his cap to me, well, that’s the greatest compliment a fielder can get because he knows you’re there for him. That’s what a team is about.
In the dugout, everyone went nuts. They’re asking me, “How’d you make that? That was the greatest catch I’ve ever seen in my life.’’ There were two really great moments. Bruce Bochy came up to me and said, “In all my years, I’ve never seen a play like that, man. That was great.’’ And he gave me a hug.
Then Matt came up to me and said, “What are you doing playing there? How’d you make that?’’
“I’m there for you, man’’ I said. “I did it for you.’’
I was playing a few feet closer to the gap than usual. Ron Wotus, our bench coach, talked to me before the first game of the series on Tuesday about how we’d position ourselves for different hitters. He said Jordan Schafer is a gap hitter. So when Matty went 3-2 on him, I knew he’d have to throw Schafer a pitch he could hit and let the defense take care of it.
In a situation like that, all I’m thinking is, “Hit it to me.’’
All of us knew what was at stake, of course. You try not to look at the scoreboard. You try not to think too much about it. But you have a bit more intensity. You’re focusing more.
As soon as the ball came off the bat, I was running. I got a great jump. Then I just ran as hard as I could. I saw the ball coming closer. I kept running. Then I threw myself at it. When I popped back up with the ball in my glove, I think the umpire didn’t believe it because it took a few seconds before he called the out.
In the ninth inning, I saw Melky in left field waving his arms for the fans to get on their feet. So I did the same thing in right field. We all wanted to do whatever we could to send Matty all the support we could.
Then Arias threw it to Belt and the game was over. We all just leaped on Matty. It was the best feeling. Matt so deserves it for everything he’s done for this team. We were so happy for him.
I believe in fate. I was thinking about all the factors that had to come together for me to have been at that spot at that moment. So many great things have happened to me since I joined the Giants, so actually I was expecting to have a moment like that. I really was. There was something about this team that I felt in the clubhouse during spring training. Just how everyone gets along. I felt like there was something special going on. And I felt like there was some reason I had landed with this team for this season.
And now I have the highest honor a player can ever have: to play a key role in the greatest single game in a team’s history.
I’m still sorting through all my text messages, mostly from friends and family in Venezuela. For some reason, the sports channel in Venezuela was playing the game, so my family stayed up really, really late to watch. (They’re three hours later than the West Coast.) They were all so happy for me.
I think I’ll go the Murph, our great clubhouse manager, to see if there’s a ball or something from the game I could have. Wouldn’t it be great to have the actual ball I caught? And get Matt to sign it?
That would be something special to pass down to my son.