June 24th, 2012
I haven’t posted anything since Matt Cain’s perfect game so I’ll write about it now.
I was probably the most nervous I have ever been in a game. More nervous than my opening day in Milwaukee.
I watched the game from the dugout for six innings then went in cold in the seventh. You know you can’t make a mistake. I told myself just to breathe. The first play of the inning was the shot to Gregor Blanco who made what might be the most spectacular catch ever. So then I’m thinking, “Oh, jeez, now I really can’t mess up.’’ If he makes that superhuman play, I better get to everything – and God forbid I bobble something straight at me.
Then it was the top of the eighth with two outs. Cain was four outs from perfection. The ball comes off the bat and it’s a topspin, bouncing grounder up the middle. My ball. I watched it come toward me, making sure I got the right hop, not an in-between hop. So I backed off a little bit, got it and didn’t even think about the throw. I had made that throw a hundred times so just let it go. When Belt caught it, I let out a huge sigh of relief.
Afterward, you’re just so happy for Matt and you’re so happy for the team because a perfect game is a full team effort. I wondered what Buster must have been thinking. Most catchers go through their whole careers and feel really lucky if they get the opportunity to catch a World Series game or a perfect game — and Buster has done both and he’s only 25 years old. That’s pretty crazy.
In the clubhouse, we probably watched the replay of Blanco’s catch about 50 times, switching from MLB network to ESPN to Comcast. We kept asking him, “What were you doing there?’’
None of us will ever forget that night.
Here in Oakland, I haven’t gotten a hit these past two game, but I’ve had some really good at-bats recently. It’s a boost of confidence when you get timely hits off some of the best pitchers in baseball — Felix Hernandez in Seattle and Jared Weaver in Anaheim.
Having said that, I know it’s not my hitting that has pushed me into the top five among shortstops in the All-Star voting. It’s all about the San Francisco fans. I know I don’t deserve to be there numbers-wise, but it’s pretty cool to see my name on the list. It’s awesome that the fans are showing me so much support.
I spent Thursday’s day off in Los Angeles with Jalynne’s family. In fact, I stayed with Jalynne at her parents’ house during the series against the Angels. They’re night owls so they were always awake when I got home from the game. So it was almost like having a home series. They live near Newport so we spent Thursday out on the water. We fished, in that we had a fishing line dangling from the boat, but we didn’t catch anything and didn’t care. It was just a great relaxing day.
On our last day off at home Jalynne and I took my two sisters to Marine World as a celebration of their graduations – one from high school and the other from middle school. We got “back stage’’ passes so we could see the animals up close. They loved it.
Brandon Belt mentioned in his post about wearing his baseball pants old school – just below the knee. I used to wear them like he does. But about halfway through my sophomore year in college, I tried wearing them down over my shoes and it was so much more comfortable. You don’t have that elastic band squeezing your calf. When you have big calves like I do, it can get uncomfortable. In spring training, you get measured so your pants will be just how you like them. If you want them over the shoe like most of the guys wear them now, it’s called “open bottom’ – they take the elastic out of the hem and flare the bottoms so they’ll fit over the shoes.
On a completely unrelated note, someone asked me what I talk about when they see me chatting with an umpire or an opposing player during a pitching change. It can be about anything, from the weather to something that happened in the game. Last year, a veteran umpire told me that a play I had made earlier in the game was one of the best he’d ever seen. The same guy this year told me that I’d made a hard play look easy and how good I am defensively. So that was nice to hear.
As for players, if I know him we’ll talk about family or what we’re doing after the game. When we were playing Texas, Josh Hamilton was on second and just started talking to me. I’d never talked to him before, and I’m thinking kind of like a fan – like, “Wow, this is Josh Hamilton.’’ He asked how I was doing and then told me not to hit him any more pop-ups in left field. He had lost the last one in the sun and missed it. I laughed and told him I was trying not to. He seemed like a pretty nice guy.
Unlike football and basketball, there’s not much trash talk in baseball. It’s not like the runner on first is taunting the pitcher about stealing on him. The only times you hear some talk is if a batter gets hit and a team think it’s intentional. Then there will be some back and forth. Or if a guy shows up your pitcher when he hits a home run. There might be a few words greeting him when he comes around third.
I generally don’t say much, but I got into it with another player just this past November in the fall league. It was the last week of the league. Everybody’s pretty tired. A guy slid really hard through the bag at second on a double play. Joe Panik was playing second base and could have gotten hurt. Those games don’t count for anything, and that kind of slide was really out of line. I said to the guy, “Hey, take it easy. It’s November.’’ And he tried to be Mr. Tough Guy. So we chirped back and forth a little bit. If you try to take one of our guys out, I’m going to say something.
Everyone’s looking forward to getting back to our own park with our own fans – though playing in Oakland seems almost like a home game. There seems to be as much orange in the stands as green and gold.
Obviously the series this week against the Dodgers is a huge one. Sweeping our cross-bay rivals would a great warm-up to sweeping our division rivals.
See you out there.
Playing baseball can be a mysterious thing. I mean, you know how to swing the bat, how to field the ball, how to throw. But there are times – and often you can’t pinpoint the exact reason – everything is working or almost nothing is working.
Right now for me at the plate, a lot of things are working. To be honest, I’m the most comfortable I’ve been since I’ve been in the big leagues. I’ve hit safely in last 11 games and have four home runs and 12 RBIs in that span.
The difference is that I’m not thinking about anything at the plate except seeing the ball. I’m not thinking about my mechanics. I’m not guessing at pitches. I’m seeing the pitch where it actually is.
It’s what baseball people call simplifying the game. It’s kind of counter-intuitive because you have to work really hard in order to get yourself in the frame of mind to keep it simple. And I’ve worked really hard. Now it’s paying off: I can clear my head of everything except seeing the ball.
And because I’m not swinging at pitches outside the zone, I’m walking more, too.
There is no better feeling in baseball than being able to come through for your team. Last night, the two-run homer in the sixth put us ahead for good in the win against the A’s. But the double on Friday night to tie the game in the ninth is the kind of hit that you always hope for.
Timmy had fought back from a rough first inning and didn’t give up a hit through the next five. And the bullpen gave up nothing. So you really want to do something to make all that work pay off. And we’d had a tough two series in Anaheim and Seattle, so we really needed to get something going.
I remembered that the last time I faced A’s closer Ryan Cook he threw me a couple of sliders. So I knew there was a good chance, with two strikes, I’d get a backdoor slider, and I did. I just tried to get the bat on it and put it in play. It got past the leftfielder and both runners scored. When you just get the bat on the ball, good things can happen.
As for the play at first base in that bad first inning on Friday, it was one of those unfortunate things. As a fielder, you always go through in your mind what you’ll do if the ball’s hit to you. With bases loaded and no outs, I knew if I got a ball to my left, to my backhand, I’d have no chance at a double play, so I’d throw home to get the force. If the ball was hit straight at me or to my right, I’d go to second for the double play.
It was hit to my left, so I purposely stepped over the bag to get the force-out at home. But Sanchy thought I stepped on the bag. So he went for the tag at home and wasn’t able to get the runner. Throwing home for the force-out to save the run was the right play. It was just one of those unfortunate things that Sanchy couldn’t see if I had stepped on the bag or not.
I’ve gotten a little ribbing about my orange shoelaces. I guess they’re kind of bright. They were already on the shoes when they arrived from Under Armour. I didn’t put them on the shoes myself. But I’m going to keep them. Good things seem to happen when I’m wearing them.
The truth is I don’t really pay much attention to what I’m wearing or how I look. I wear my baseball pants kind of old school, just below the knee, but it’s not a real conscious choice. I’ve just been wearing them that way since I was eight years old and never changed.
On our day off on Thursday, I dragged Haylee to the movie theater to see “That’s My Boy’’ with Adam Sandler. It’s not a movie that’s going to wow the critics, but I love Adam Sandler and I laughed through the whole thing. Even Haylee laughed. She hates going to the movies. She’d rather just watch a movie at home. But I love it. When she doesn’t want to go, I’ll just go by myself.
Thanks to all of you who left such nice comments here after the last post about Matt Cain’s perfect game. Through all the ups and downs of the last two seasons, you’ve always been there. The incredible support I’ve gotten here in San Francisco has really helped me deal with the doubts that inevitably creep into your mind when things aren’t going well. For any player, knowing that the fans are behind you gives you a little bit more juice. I’ve read every comment and appreciate each one. I wish I could write back to everyone but there’s just not enough time in the day. But I want you to know how amazing it is to take all your good thoughts onto the field with me.