Results tagged ‘ Giants ’

Awesome Day at the Park

Wow, I’m so happy for Timmy. He’s such a great guy and a great teammate that you just want to see him get a no-hitter every time he steps on the mound. He’s one of those guys who treats everybody exactly the same, whether you’re a rookie or a superstar veteran. He talks to everybody. He comes to the park every day wanting to have fun and do everything he can to win.
After a no-hitter, you have a little celebration in the clubhouse for the pitcher. We all had our paper cups of champagne and Timmy walked in from the dining room with his medieval helmet on and a USA soccer jersey with his name on the back. The no-hitter pitcher is supposed to say something about the no-hitter and what it means to him. But Timmy is so humble he didn’t want to say anything. So he just thanked us and said how much he appreciated everybody.
Timmy is different from any other pitcher I’ve played with. He’s always loose and always ready to have fun, even on days he pitches. Most pitchers stay to themselves on the day they pitch, and you’re not supposed to talk to them. Timmy’s the opposite. Or rather he’s the same whether he’s pitching or not. Even during the no-hitter, he was chatting and joking in the dugout. Pretty awesome.
From centerfield today I could see he was throwing every pitch pretty much exactly where he wanted to throw it. On 3-2 counts, he threw the change-up without hesitation. He located his fastball on 2-0 counts. Nobody did any damage against him. It was great to watch. As a fielder, I wasn’t nervous about the ball coming to me. Actually I wanted every ball to come to me. I like to back up my pitchers.
Timmy’s hitting was unbelievable, too — two hits! As Bochy said, it was The Timmy Show today. I’ve told him several times that he has an outstanding swing. He really does. After his two hits, he worked the count for a walk! What he did today was really amazing.
I was really happy for Hector, too. A no-hitter is huge for any catcher but especially for a back-up. In the minor-leagues, Hector struggled with his defense. He worked on it, and now he’s a different guy. He has the confidence of his pitchers. He knows how to call a great game. I’m really proud of him and so happy this happened to him.
I’m writing this quickly because we have Family Day at the park this afternoon. Once a year, the players’ and coaches’ families come to the park to play on the field and get family photos taken and eat an early dinner together. There’s face-painting and wiffle ball and probably hula-hoops. My little son is tugging at me right now to get out there! He won’t remember that Timmy threw a no-hitter today, but he might remember swinging a plastic bat and running the bases at AT&T Park with all the other kids. That’s a cool memory, too.

 

Hard Work, Attitude & Decaf

The best thing for me about yesterday’s game against the Mets: We won, and I was one of the guys who got some high-fives in the dugout. Getting a hit or making a big play or driving guys in — it’s a big deal when you’re not an everyday player. It’s an even bigger deal on a team like we have. You could play your whole career and never be on a team like this. It’s not just about the winning. It’s the attitude.

 

Every day we have the attitude that we’re going to win, and we believe it could be anybody on the roster who makes that difference that day. And everybody has the same mentality. Everybody. I’m talking about everybody. Somebody’s going to step up and get the job done. Saturday it was Morse. Friday it was Posey. Yesterday when I came through with three RBIs, I can’t tell you how great that felt.

 

One of the things about this team is that nobody jumps on you for messing up, not even the coaches. If you screw up — like getting thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple! Too much coffee in the morning! — the coaches don’t get on you. Or if you don’t get a guy in from third with less than two outs. The coaches prepare us and let us play. They know we’re going all out.

 

I had such a slow start to the season. I was hitting something like .100 in the middle of May. Now I’ve gone .400 in my last 20 games. I can just say hard work pays off. I knew sooner or later things were going to go well for me. I wasn’t frustrated because at some point I was going to start playing the way I know I can play. I just kept preparing myself for every situation because I want to be here for a long time. I don’t know if that will happen or not, but I feel really good here. I want to be the guy who can come off the bench, or play a few games or play a regular position.

In batting practice, I really focus on hitting only low line drives and ground balls. I’m getting better every time. In my last BP, I hit only one fly ball. That’s going to help me. It shows in the game.

 

I’m not sure yet if I’m in the lineup today. It doesn’t matter. I’m ready for whatever Bochy needs. And I’m thinking of switching to decaf.

 

 

 

 

The Game within the Game

I know I’ve talked about this before, but in baseball the same issues come up over and over. There are certain things for every player that are like skin rashes that keep coming back. You think you’ve dealt with it and there it is again.

My skin rash is about trying to be something I’m not. You can get a little crazy when you’re not going well. You go up there trying to drive in five runs in one at-bat. On the recent road trip, I was watching the opposing team’s lead-off batter. I can’t remember now who it was. I thought, “That’s the type of player I am. Putting the ball on the ground, getting on base, walking, bunting, stealing bases.’’

I had a sit-down with myself, and I’ve been playing better ever since. My numbers are creeping up. On Sunday when Angel took a day off, I went 3 for 4 in his spot. And most importantly, we won. I really needed a game like that. Not just for me, but I want Angel to feel he can take a day off and not think he’s leaving a big hole in the lineup.

I love the game within the game of stealing bases. When I’m in the dugout, I watch the pitcher to pick up on patterns or tells. I watch the way he throws off-speed pitches because that’s what you’re looking for. When you’re on base, you’re trying to think along with the pitcher and catcher. On what pitch-counts would he be throwing off-speed? Which batters?

When I get caught stealing, like I did on Sunday, I always look at why. Usually it’s pretty obvious. On that one, I just got a bad jump. You’re supposed to take off as soon as the pitcher lifts his foot to throw. I started when he was already up. Just that split second of hesitation can make all the difference. And the catcher’s throw was perfect. That didn’t help.

I remember when I first started in pro baseball, I didn’t know the tricks that first basemen try to play on you. They’ll talk to you and try to distract you. They’ll say, “Time out! Time out!’’ even though there’s no time out. Or they’ll ask you about dinner the night before or where you’re from. You just think they’re being friendly. In Single A, I was on first base and the first baseman is talking and talking and suddenly the pitcher throws over and gets me. I was pretty embarrassed. I told my manager, “That will never happen again.’’

Now when I get on base, I ask the first baseman how he’s doing — I like to be polite. Then I ignore him.

 

 

 

 

My Two Families: Home and Clubhouse

I flew my wife and son to Los Angeles for the Dodgers series, though they usually don’t join me on the road. But I wanted us to be together for Mother’s Day. Even though I didn’t even have time to have breakfast with them Sunday morning — I had to pack for get-away day and get out to the park for the day game — it was important that we got up together as a family. I reminded my son to say Happy Mother’s Day, and I gave my wife a present. I wanted to make sure she had a good Mother’s Day.

I think, of course, about my own mother on Mother’s Day. She died eight years ago at the age of 47.  I know she wanted so much to see me play in the Major Leagues and she never did. But I know she’s here watching me now and she’s proud.

I was thinking about how my mother always told me to appreciate what I have and to be the best at everything I do, whether it’s playing baseball and being a good teammate or being a good husband and father. One of the toughest lessons to learn in baseball — maybe in anything, but I only know baseball — is to balance your life at the field and your life at home. It’s really easy to get so focused on baseball that you don’t make enough time for your family. Or even if you make enough time, you’re actually thinking about what happened at the park.

Or on the other side, you can be thinking so much about problems at home, that you’re not as focused as you need to be on the field. I know this from experience in my first marriage. So I really try to give 100 percent to baseball when I’m playing baseball, and 100 percent to my family when I’m with my family. If you keep that kind of balance, you’re going to be happy in both places.

What I learned from my father was to be appreciative of everything I have. I try to see what’s good in my life and not focus on what might be missing or not so good. I’m going through a slump and am working really hard to get through it. I’m realizing that, because I don’t play all the time, I’m trying too hard to make a big splash when I DO get in instead of being who I am: a kind of small guy who should hit grounders and get on base and steal. I’m not a slugger. So I’m telling myself, “Don’t forget who you are. Do the little things you did before and you’ll be fine.’’

In the meantime, I’m completely appreciative of having the opportunity to play for the Giants against this season, and I’m having a great time watching our guys win. The road trip was unbelievable. We seem to find a way to win games, and it always seems to be somebody different who comes through. Sometimes it’s been the bottom of the lineup. Sometimes the top.  Sometimes the bench guys. Hector’s been so good. Watching him and everyone inspires me to be better and get out the slump. I want to be part of it!

Thanks for reading. See you at the park! And a late Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms!

Pinch-blogging: El Iman! The Magnet!

The Brandons seemed to have a lot of fun with their pinch-bloggers, so I asked Hector Sanchez to fill in today. I asked him a few questions about things I thought you might want to know. We taped the answers, and here they are.

Why did you become a catcher?

I was a third baseman, but my agent said I wasn’t fast enough or good enough at third to make it as a professional. He said maybe I should try catching because I had a good arm. I was 15 at the time. I worked on catching for about 6 or 7 months, and I was signed by the Giants as a catcher. They sent me to the team’s baseball academy in the Dominican Republic with other young guys from Latin America.

My first year there, 2006, was embarrassing. I could barely catch the ball. My glove would fly off from the impact of the pitches. The manager there nicknamed me El Iman (pronounced ee-MON). The Magnet. Every ball hit me. I’d be one big bruise at the end of the day. I’d have bags of ice on every part of my body. My glove hand hurt all the time because we used the same cheap mitt all season, and the padding got flattened to a pancake. I’d tape my hands as best I could. To this day, I tape my thumb because it still hurts from being bent back so many thousands of times I was learning the position.

The guys who know me from the Dominican academy, like Adrianza and Jose Casilla, still call me El Iman. Now Gardy (bullpen coach Mark Gardner) does, too. He’ll yell,  “Hey, Iman!’’

After that first season in the Dominican, I knew I had to get better fast. Back home in Venezuela, I just worked and worked with my coaches. I did drills with my hands to learn how to catch the ball softly. I learned block positions. I threw to the bases. I just forgot about hitting and worked only on catching.

The next year, in 2007, I was a different guy when I returned to the Dominican I knew a lot more about what I was doing. And in 2008, when I was 18, I was MVP of our Dominican league.

Was the 11-inning game in Colorado the other day the longest game you’ve ever caught?

            No! The longest I ever caught was 18 innings for San Jose in 2011. The manager asked me in the 12th or 13th inning if I wanted to come out. I said, “No, I feel good!’’ I was having a good game — I had four hits — so I wasn’t coming out. I ran out to my position every inning to show I was good to play. Still, when Stockton’s shortstop bobbled Jarett Parker’s grounder and the winning run scored, I dropped to my knees and looked up at the sky and said, “Thank you!’’

You hit a solo home run and a grand slam in that 11-inning game against Colorado. Were you doing something different at the plate?

Before that, I had been trying to do too much. It’s something that happens especially when you don’t play very much. You put pressure on yourself. Bam-Bam reminded me to relax and to keep my front shoulder closed. That was the big difference. I kept the shoulder closed and I told myself to think just about the pitcher and myself. Forget about the other players. Forget about the fans. Just keep it simple.

It seems funny that the less you try to do, the better you do.

 

Thanks, Hector.

Hope everyone enjoyed hearing from him!

 

An Awesome Almost

I’m enjoying our day off but wanted to do a quick post today about my almost-inside-the-park-home-run. It’s an example of how, even if you fall short, you can be thrilled about and grateful for the attempt. I’m still thinking about how close I came! It’s a dream of mine to accomplish that, like Angel did last year.

To tell you the truth, I was actually thinking about a home run when I went up to bat yesterday. I hadn’t had a hit yet this season, so I was thinking, “Why not hit a home run for your first hit of the season? Why not an inside-the-park home run?’’

As soon as I hit it into the gap, I was thinking about going all the way. When I reached second base and saw the ball rattling around in the gap, I thought, “This could happen!’’ And Flan was waving me home.

But when I rounded third, my legs just didn’t go as fast I needed them to go. When you’re coming off the bench, as I was, your legs aren’t as loose as they are when you’re in the whole game. It’s so much tougher to sustain your speed around all the bases.

The catcher already had the ball as I barreled to home. I thought, “OK, just do your best to get around the tag.’’ I dove, and he did a great job of going after me. I completely scratched up my right arm and my chest and abdomen.

I high-fived Flan afterward and thanked him for sending me. It was just awesome — especially for my first hit of the season.

Then Crawford saved all of us with his huge home run in the 10th. As soon as he hit it, everybody knew it was gone.

This team has that special feeling you get sometimes. It’s like you never know who’s going to come through, or how they’re going to do it.

The excitement and energy from yesterday’s game is exactly what we want going in against the Dodgers tomorrow. Hope to see you out there!

Holy Opening Day, BatKid!

The best part of Opening Day, even more than winning, was watching the BatKid take the mound and throw out the first pitch to Matt Cain. Wow. We were all in the dugout watching this little five-year-old who’s been battling leukemia. I think he got the biggest cheer of the day, which is exactly how it should be.

My mom died of cancer so I really followed the BatKid’s story last year and have been cheering for him ever since. Seeing him today having so much fun — coming out of the BatMobile in full BatKid costume — makes you appreciate everything you have in your own life. Matt brought him into the clubhouse after the game. He didn’t seem impressed, but looked happy when I saw him leaving with what looked like a BatKid bobble head.

There’s no arguing that the BatKid did his job. He kept our park safe from Diamondbacks.

I was happy to get in the game and contribute. I’ve been talking to Ehire Adrianza about how important it is for players to understand their roles. I’m going to be coming off the bench this season to pinch hit, play defense, run bases, bunt. So is he. It’s a different role than what he did in the minors, and it’s a position you have to learn just like any other position on the team.

For example, knowing I’m going to be pinch running sometimes, I put in extra time in practice not only running the bases but talking to Flan, our third-base coach, about thinking through different situations — inning, outs, batter, fielders, etc. If there’s any hesitation, or if you’re not 100 percent prepared, you can lose quickness and lose the game.

So I practice getting a good jump. I practice making great turns at the base — hitting the inside of the bag and pushing myself as quickly as I can toward the next base. I probably do more conditioning now than ever. I get to the park early to run by myself. I work with Carl, our conditioning coach.

Bochy called on me today to pinch run for Morse in the fifth with two outs. Crawford singled to right. I rounded third, knowing their right fielder, Gerardo Parra, has a great arm — and knowing there’d be a play at the plate. I said to myself, “Just go and try not to get tagged.’’

For all the plans you make, all the drills you do, sometimes there are situations in the Major Leagues that are like sandlot baseball — just don’t get tagged!

So the catcher caught the ball. I took a side-step, somehow slid around him and brushed my fingers across the plate. You can’t practice that kind of slide. It’s just instinct.

The other thing I tell Adrianza about being a bench player is that it’s our job to support the guys who are on the field. When we’ve given up a couple runs and guys come off the field with their heads down, it’s our job to pump them up. We need to pay attention to the game as much as if we were playing because you can be called on at any moment. And you have to anticipate when the manager is going to call on you so you’re ready.

Everybody on the roster today was ready. More than ready. We were coming off an incredible road trip. And we had the BatKid on our side. How could we lose?

 

My Question For Bonds

The big news in camp today, as you know, was Barry Bonds showing up to coach for a week. I think it’s great. I didn’t talk to him today other than to say hey. I know he’s open to anyone asking him about hitting. Not every one will do it, but I’m going to.

I want to ask him what his mentality was at the plate. That’s the most important thing about hitting at this level. I want to know what he was thinking every single time. He was like a super human playing baseball. He had incredible focus. I just want to know what he was thinking.

I didn’t hear a lot of advice today. I think he was mostly trying to get to know everybody and putting us at ease. He was kind of joking at the batting cage, teasing guys about how hard they were hitting the ball. I think it’s great that he’s here to help us.

It’s kind of a baseball tradition to pass what you know down to the next guy. I had a chance to do that today with one of our minor-leaguers. I was playing in the intra-squad game yesterday against our young guys. Andrew Susac, a second-round pick in 2011, was catching for them. I was on first base and noticed I could see his signs to the pitcher.

Obviously, that’s not a good thing. If the base runner can see the signs, he knows when the pitcher’s throwing over to first, throwing to home, throwing a breaking ball. If he had called a breaking ball, I could have stolen a base pretty easily.

So today in the dugout, I saw Susac with bullpen catcher Billy Hayes. I told him what I saw from first base and said he needed to close up his legs a little. He was really appreciative. I told him it was no big deal — that’s how you learn.

​I really liked playing in that game and getting to see more of the young guys. When I got to second base, I chatted with last year’s Number One pick, Christian Arroyo, asking how he was doing and joking with him. I told him I had bad hamstrings and I was really tired and getting old and that he didn’t need to worry about me on the base paths. He was just laughing.

​I also talked to Chris Lofton, an outfielder for Single A San Jose last year. I told him I remembered when I was in his shoes. I said, “Every time you’re here you have to show 100 percent of yourself. You have to use all your tools. You’re a speedy guy. You’ve got to run, you’ve got to bunt, you’ve got to show them that you’re hungry.’’ I told him it’s such an exciting time in his life and he should enjoy it.

I’m heading home from the park now. I think I might go to the movies. I love going out to the movies. I love it. Whenever I have time, I try to go. I might go see RoboCop today. My wife will probably go, even though she always falls asleep. We took our son one time to watch a kids’ movie, but we had to get out of there not long after we sat down. He kept saying, “Vamos! Let’s go!’’ He’s three and can’t yet sit through a movie. So we won’t be doing that again any time soon.

​We’re waiting for the water park here to open, supposedly March 15. That’s more his thing. There’s a pool at the apartment we’re renting but the water’s still too cold. I check it every day. Maybe in a few days. In the meantime, I’ll take my son sometimes onto the practice field beyond the stadium’s right-field wall. He runs and we play catch. He loves baseball already. When he comes to watch batting practice, he gives his mother a hard time when it’s time to go home. She practically has to drag him to the car.

​One of the great things about having a three-year-old is that if he had to choose between me and Barry Bonds as the better player, he’s choosing me every time. How much longer do I have of that? Believe me, I’m appreciating it while it lasts.

​Thanks for reading.

A Dream Day for a Fellow Shark

It was so great to arrive home Sunday night. On the off day Monday I just wanted to sleep in and spend the day in bed with my family watching movies. And that’s what I did.

That was a really, really long road trip. Two of the best moments came on the final day, Sunday.

          First, we got to witness the tribute to Mariano Rivera at Yankee Stadium. I couldn’t believe I was right there to see it up close. I filmed the whole thing on my phone. I grew up watching Mariano Rivera. He has been so inspiring, especially for Latin players. Watching the pregame ceremony, I felt like I was in the middle of history. I didn’t get to meet Mariano, but I could tell he is a really humble man. Before his speech, he thanked God for all he had accomplished. I liked that.

I had never been to Yankee Stadium, so that was fun in itself. Everybody was telling me I should go see this or that at the field. But to tell you the truth I didn’t go see any of it. I was there to play baseball, not to be a tourist. I didn’t want to get all caught up in seeing everything and then not be ready for the game. So I’ll have to go back another time.

          The second great moment was Adrianza hitting that home run to break up Andy Pettitte’s no-hitter. I couldn’t believe it. Everybody was really excited for him, but especially me because I’ve known him since he was 14 or 15 years old. That’s when the Tiburones – the winter-ball team in Venezuela I play for – brought Adrianza to the field for a workout. They said, “This guy is really young, but he’s going to be a Major Leaguer.’’ I thought, “OK, I want to watch him.’’ He was amazing in the field. So I thought, “OK, let’s watch him hit.’’ He was terrible! Yes, he was using a wood bat instead of aluminum, which he was used to. But he was so bad he looked like he was using a bat made of paper. He couldn’t hit it out of the infield.

At 16 he signed with the Tiburones then signed with the Giants shortly afterward. So I’ve been watching him and working with him ever since. We’ve spent a lot of time together during winter ball. I said this before but he reminds me a lot of myself. He has a great work ethic and really, really loves the game. All he’s focused on is being a Major Leaguer and taking care of his family.

If ever there was evidence of how far his hitting has come it was that home run in New York. I know him so well, so I could tell that when he got back to the dugout he didn’t even understand what had just happened. A home run in Yankee Stadium against an almost-perfect Andy Pettitte! He didn’t comprehend it. The next day, I think he kind of said to himself, “Did I do that? I think I did that.’’

          There will definitely be more great moments that like for him.

          Thank you so much for filling the seats last night against the Dodgers. I am so grateful to be playing here in San Francisco. No other fans are like you. You give us energy in this last week when it seems there’s nothing to play for. But everyone in this clubhouse feels there is a lot to play for: You. And next year.

Turning Things Around

blanco_photoMatt Cain came through the clubhouse today handing out T-shirts to everybody. The shirt has a photo of a blubbery shirtless guy in red-white-and-blue boxing trunks. I thought at first it was just some random fat guy. Somebody just told me it’s the body of Butterbean, the fighter, with the face of Carl Kochan, our conditioning coach. It’s pretty funny. Cainer must have had them made this morning. I think it’s a reminder that we have to loosen up and have fun and stay united. We’re a team that has always had a good time together and we have to keep doing that.

In baseball, you go through streaks when the luck is with you or the luck is against you. Last year in the postseason everything broke our way. For the last couple weeks, nothing is. Everything seems hard right now. It’s weird. It’s really weird. I’ve never been on a team when so many guys are going bad at the same time.

We’ve also run into some good pitching. In the Cincinnati series, I saw only one or two pitches the whole series that I felt I should have done something with and didn’t. Give the other teams credit. They’re pitching well and playing good defense.

We all know we’re still in the race, and there’s still half of the season left to play. I don’t think we’ve been really down actually as far as our attitude. The good thing about this team is we stay together. We arrive at the park with same attitude. We’re still pounding each other’s backs and taking care of each other like brothers. We tell each other we’re going to get through this, that we’re winners and we’re going to be OK.

Personally I don’t keep track of my numbers. My family from home will call and say, “You’re oh-for-whatever.’’ I don’t care. Don’t tell me that. Just talk to me about winning. That’s all that matters. Did we win?

I know better now than to over-react and start changing things when I go through a bad streak. You have to stay with what’s been successful for you most of the season. I’ve said this before, but I’ve learned a lot from watching Marco and Buster. They know what they can do. They don’t panic. They really believe in themselves and know that things will turn around. I’ve been having good at-bats and hitting the ball hard. The balls will start dropping.

In the meantime, it is so great to be home. I love having my son at the park before the games. He came on the field with me before batting practice. He likes to throw the ball – and he lifts his front leg already like he’s seen all our pitchers do.

We’re ready for the Dodgers. This the game that will start turning things around. We believe that every single game.

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