The Hard Work of Keeping It Simple – Brandon Belt
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.