June 11th, 2012
Last week’s amateur draft got me thinking about my own draft day. It’s such an exciting time because, really, you’ve been waiting for it your whole life.
I was at the end of my junior year at UCLA. I think our baseball team was finished with regionals, but the semester wasn’t yet over. I still had to take finals. Believe me, I wasn’t thinking about my grades or my GPA. I just wanted to get started on my baseball career.
There are all these websites and experts that predict in what rounds players will get drafted. Most had me going in the second round, even though I struggled that season. My agent thought I’d go in the first two rounds, too. That’s what we were expecting.
My father flew down to Los Angeles from Pleasanton. He, Jalynne, my best friend Matt Jones –who went to elementary school, middle school, high school and UCLA with me and later was best man at my wedding — gathered with me in Dad’s hotel room. The first round was televised, so we watched that round then switched to my computer.
The second round came and went. I wasn’t picked.
Then the third round.
I was really disappointed.
It’s not just that the money goes down with each round. But you assume that the lower you go, the lower the organization’s expectations. You assume the team won’t pay as much attention to you. You think it will take you longer to get to the big leagues. I later found out that isn’t true. But at the time, you think the worst.
There’s some ego in there, too. You want to be a top pick.
Early in the fourth round, the Minnesota Twins called.
They asked if I’d be willing to sign for a certain amount of money. I said I didn’t know. We were talking back and forth. Then on my computer screen I saw, “The San Francisco Giants select Brandon Crawford.’’
“Sorry,’’ I told the Twins. “I just got drafted.’’
I had no clue the Giants were going to draft me.
We celebrated that night, of course. I was excited to be drafted by my childhood team. It was amazing. But in the back of my mind, I was still disappointed and worried about my future.
Now I know how shortsighted and, frankly, ignorant that was. My career was not going to be made or ruined by what round I was selected.
It’s like wanting to get into a particular college or land a particular job. If you don’t get your first pick, or your second or third, you have to figure out how to make the most of where you are. It’s up to you to learn what you can and build on that.
In the end it didn’t matter where I was drafted — I’m here now in the big leagues. Things can always work out no matter where you start. You just might have to take a different path than you expected.
On another note, I’ve written about my fielding struggles, so now I’ll tell you that I feel that I’m getting back to normal. Infield coach Ron Wotus helped by telling me a week or so ago to follow my instincts. We always went over detailed scouting reports on opposing batters and I’d position myself in the field accordingly. But he told me basically that he trusts me to make the plays and to position myself where I think I should be. In other words, don’t over-think it.
That goes for my mechanics, too. When I’m trying to be too perfect, I lose what has worked for me my whole life. I was doing so many extra drills and hearing so much about my mistakes that it got into my head. I was thinking, “Oh, I have to do this on this certain play’’ rather than just letting my natural ability take over.
So now I just play the way I’ve always played. And it seems to be working.
There are certain plays you love to make because they’re so tough. The other day, I dove to my right for a hard-hit grounder and was able to get the runner at first. The dive isn’t the hard part. You’re just reacting; either the ball goes in the glove or it doesn’t.
The hard part is the simultaneous acts of popping up to your feet in such a way that you’re in position to throw across the diamond and transferring the ball to your throwing hand in such a way that you have a good grip.
What makes that play tough is that you really can’t practice it. You’re not diving for balls in BP. So when it happens in a game, you have to rely almost completely on your athletic ability and baseball instincts.
Once you’re up and positioned correctly with the right grip, the throw is the same throw you make on a normal backhand. I trust my arm no matter how deep I am in the field. I’ve been doing long toss since high school to keep my arm strong. I like to think I have as strong an arm as anyone on the team.
The only time I don’t dive for a ball to my right is if it’s a slow grounder. I’ll let those go into left field. The runner’s going to beat the throw, so it’s stupid to risk injury on a play that’s not going to get you an out. I know sometimes fans don’t understand that. I hear them yelling, “Why didn’t you dive for that ball?’’ (I hope those particular fans read this . . . )
On grounders up the middle, I’ll dive for just about everything because the throw is so much shorter. I feel I always I have a shot at getting the runner.
One other question I’ve gotten over the years: Why do I bat left-handed when I do everything else right-handed?
My dad had me switch-hitting since I was in T-ball. Once I got to Little League I hit mostly left-handed because almost all the pitchers were right-handed. So I stuck with it.
Thanks for the comments about playing baseball with my dad. And thanks to giantsfan9 for suggesting a post about the draft. Keep your questions and comments coming! To Issylina, it’d be cool to see a player from Samoa in the major leagues. We have to take some of those guys away from the NFL.
My in-laws arrived last Wednesday for a six-day visit. They brought all our mail – but I was hoping they’d bring Lily, our dog. She’s a three-year-old dachshund-beagle mix and she’s the sweetest thing. She’s been staying with my parents since February. We didn’t bring her to spring training because she whines whenever we leave her and we were afraid she’d bother the neighbors. Our plan was for Haylee to bring her out to Walnut Creek when she went back to Texas for a visit, but she hasn’t gone home yet. She’ll get home for sure during the All-Star break, and I’ll go, too, if I can, and we’ll get Lily then.
Anyone who has dogs knows how much you miss them when they’re not around. There’s something about having a dog in the house that just makes you feel better no matter happened in your day.
Anyway, Haylee’s parents left today. We really had a great time. Well, they had a great time. They did everything with Haylee. I joined for lunches when we played at night and for dinner when we played during the day.
No breakfasts. I’m almost never awake for breakfast.
Most players will tell you that routines are crucial in keeping focused and staying fit for 162 games. And one of the most important parts of my routine is sleep. I need my sleep, and I take it where I can get it. And most of the time, it’s in the morning because I stay up so late.
After a night game, I leave the park around 11. (The game ends around 10 or so, then I talk to reporters, eat, lift weights and shower.) By the time I drive back to Walnut Creek, it’s 11:30. And I’m wired. There’s no way I can fall asleep.
So I watch TV. Mostly Nick at Nite. I love the late 90s sitcoms like Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I watch in bed with Haylee zonked out next to me. I’ll get to laughing so much that I’m sure I’ll wake her up, but apparently she can sleep through anything. (When Lily arrives, she’ll keep me company!)
I finally fall asleep around 1:30. I’ve discovered I need about nine hours of sleep, so even when we have guests, I don’t get up until 10:30 or 11 (when we have a night game).
Once I’m showered and dressed, we have lunch. We live close to downtown Walnut Creek, so we eat a lot at McCovey’s and Cheesecake Factory. After lunch, we’ll walk around the mall area, but we rarely buy anything. We’re not really shoppers. But it gets us out of the house. I leave for the park around 2:15 and am in the clubhouse before 3.
I’m finding out that once the summer starts, you get a lot more visitors. Especially if you play in San Francisco. Everyone wants to come to San Francisco. We have more friends from Texas arriving at the end of June.
Then we’ll see my parents in mid-July when we play in Atlanta. They’ll drive over from Texas. Then Haylee’s cousins are coming to town after that. It’s a pretty busy summer.
But everyone understands my first priority during the season is baseball. This is a game of such thin margins that you can’t afford any slack whatsoever. You have to stick to your routines. Now that I’m in my second year in the big leagues, I understand that more than ever. It’s a balancing act. I want to enjoy my family and friends while they’re here but at the same time, I can’t let anything get in the way of baseball.
Thanks for reading – and thanks for the great comments about my first memory of baseball. I’m glad it sparked your own memories!