July 2012

Sunny in Philadelphia (and various other locales) – Brandon Crawford

It was cool to see my name in the five-spot in the lineup when I arrived at the park today. It’s the first time in the majors that I’ve hit in a big RBI spot. I didn’t do anything in the game, unfortunately, and we took the loss. But it’s a confidence booster for sure. Bochy recognizes that I’m hitting the ball well.

After struggling so much early on, I fully appreciate being on a hot streak. On Wednesday in Atlanta, I was 0-for-4 going into the 11th inning. The pitcher threw a cutter and I fouled it off my knee. He came back with pretty much the same pitch and I was ready for it: a three-run homer to get the win.

Two days later against the Phillies, I got a fastball up and in. Most of the season, I’ve been fouling off that pitch, barely missing it. But I got my hands out quickly and got the barrel on the ball. Grand slam.

“What a power hitter,’’ Melky joked when I got back to the dugout.

Then last night I got a walk-off hit in the ninth. Those clutch situations are the reason you work so hard when you’re struggling. That’s what you live for in this game. You want to be the guy who comes through in the clutch.

Of course you pay the price for coming through in the clutch. Melky body slammed me. Theriot delivered some punches to my ribs and back while I was down. But it was worth it.

Overall, it’s been a pretty lively seven days for me.

On Monday night I had a career first.

I was tossed from the game.

I have never been tossed from a game. Ever. On any level.

It all started in the sixth inning. I hit a stand-up double but the umpire decided I didn’t touch first base and called me out.

I couldn’t believe it.

I’m about the quietest player around, but I couldn’t contain myself.

“Do you really think I’m going to cut the corner on an easy, stand-up double?’’ I asked the umpire. “Why would I not touch first base?’’

“I don’t know why you didn’t touch it, but you didn’t,’’ he said.

I’m also thinking, “Does he really think I’d argue the call if I had not touched the bag, knowing they’d show the play in super slow-motion on TV?”

Of course, the replay showed I touched the bag.

It was so frustrating because that’s a double I’ll never get back.

I couldn’t shake off my frustration. I can handle an 0-for-4 — even four strikeouts — and still be able to concentrate on the game. I can make errors and still focus on the next play. But I had a really, really hard time focusing after that call.

Two innings later, in my last at-bat, I grounded out. When I got close to first base, I slowed down and stomped on the bag a little bit to make sure the umpire saw it.

“Did I get it that time?’’ I asked him.

“Get out of here!’’ he said.

I didn’t know if he meant “get out of my sight’’ or “you’re out of the game.’’ I decided to go with “out of my sight.’’

It was the end of the inning, so I was taking my elbow and shin guards off to give to first-base coach Roberto Kelly, preparing to go on the field for the top of the ninth.

“No, he tossed you,’’ Roberto said.

I was a little surprised. I’ve said worse things to umpires and never got tossed. I’m glad it was so late in the game. I missed only half an inning.

Getting back to the road trip: Jalynne went with me for the entire thing. In Atlanta we were joined by Jalynne’s parents, her older sister and husband and their two daughters, and another sister and her husband. We went to the aquarium together one day. Another day Jalynne and I went by ourselves to the Coca-Cola Museum, which turned out to be pretty cool.

Otherwise, we were in our room watching whole season of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’’ on DVD. Exciting, I know.

I’ll answer your questions next time – what the base coaches say to us and whether I set goals for the season.

(Thanks to Penny Davis for her suggestion that I never take fashion advice from Ryan Theriot. “It can only end in tragedy.’’ I’m going to have to make sure he reads that.)

Day off tomorrow, which means one thing: more episodes of “Always Sunny in Philadelphia.’’

-Brandon C.

Clearing Up Some Misperceptions – Brandon Belt

I’m going to get right to the point.

One, I have not lost my confidence.

Two, I have no trouble with Bruce Bochy sitting me while I’m struggling.

The manager’s job is to put his best possible lineup on the field every night. Of course he should sit me right now. That’s what’s best for the team. That’s why there are 25 guys on a roster. When one guy is hitting the skids, there’s someone else to pick up the slack.

My dad is a football coach, and I know what he goes through to make the decisions he does. I’ve heard the unfair criticism he has had to weather. So believe me, I’m the last guy in the world who would second-guess my manager. I was really frustrated that some of the stories in the paper suggested that’s what I was doing.

As for confidence: I have zero doubt I will back in the lineup. Zero. Every player in this clubhouse has gone through droughts like I am now, when you can’t do anything right at the plate. It’s part of the game. If you can’t fight through it and come out on the other side, you don’t belong in the big leagues. It’s part of the game.

The media talks about my body language – that it “is pitiful to the point of pathetic,’’ as someone put it. Look at me when I’m going well. I look the same. It goes back to the whole awkward thing. I’m awkward. I slump my shoulders. I walk with my head down. That’s how I’ve always been. But now that I’m going bad, people are reading all kinds of things into it.

Also, if my “lack of confidence is appalling,’’ wouldn’t it be affecting my defense? Wouldn’t I be carrying my failures at the plate onto the field if they were so devastating to me? But my fielding percentage is .996 – the best among all first basemen in the National League.

I’m learning a lot this season, and one lesson is that I shouldn’t talk to the media right after a bad game when I’m feeling really lousy about letting the team down. We lost that game in Philadelphia because of me. I left so many guys on base. I didn’t come through when my team needed me. There is no worse feeling. So when the reporters came up to me right after the game, I said what I was feeling in that moment – and it came out sounding like I didn’t believe in myself.

It was a hard lesson. I now know I should take a few minutes to gather myself before talking. I have to think about the impact of my words. I was so angry with myself when I read the stories in the paper on Monday. I don’t blame the reporters – they printed what I said. But the stories left a completely false impression.

Listen, I’ll get out of this slump. I’ve had slumps in the past. I’ve come out of them every single time. I don’t expect this one to be any different.

I know I have a lot of support from so many people. I appreciate all of it. I’m feeling really good in the cage. I’m working on my timing. When my timing’s messed up, I start guessing at pitches and start missing.

I don’t know when Boch will put me back in the lineup. But when he does, I’ll be ready to help the team.

-Brandon B.

Dead Batteries and Broken Zippers – Brandon Belt

Last week was a great week all around – a sweep to start the second half of the season and before that a trip back home for the All-Star break.

Haylee and I spent the first day back in Texas just hanging out with our parents. Then on Tuesday there was a little bitty get-together at the Barbecue House, which I told you is one of my favorite restaurants in Nacogdoches. It was just my grandma, my mom’s sisters and my coach from Little League. Sure enough, Maw-Maw had a stack of cards for me to sign as soon as I walked in.

Then I watched the All-Star game with some buddies, cheering for our guys like any other fan. They definitely represented the Giants very well. Matt Cain faced a brutal line-up of the best hitters in the American League, and he just shut them down. And Melky getting the MVP – I was so happy for him because he works sooo hard. He’s definitely somebody I look up to. And Pablo getting the triple and Posey scoring a run. It was awesome all around.

Of course when you’re around your friends and family, they want to know what guys are like personally off the field. It’s an easy answer for me because every guy on the team is a good guy.

So after writing about how I always wear my baseball pants old-school, I showed up for a game with long pants that covered my socks. “Kristen’’ and “Claire’’ called me on it in the comments section. Here’s the story. I have two pairs of old-school pants that come down to just below my knees. One of them has had a broken zipper for a while. So I had been wearing the same pair of pants every game. Then the zipper broke on that one. So I had to go grab a pair of Bumgarner’s pants and throw those on. Murph, the clubhouse manager, got the zippers fixed and had my pants back in time for the next game.

Obviously, I should get things fixed more promptly. Like my shaver. I told you last time that I hadn’t shaved in a week because my shaver broke. I was going to get a new one during our last road trip back east. I didn’t. So I went another week. I had a back-up razor but the batteries were dead. Finally I got batteries and shaved the night before the All-Star break. Back home in Texas, I was able to go out and find the shaver I’ve always had, the Peanut.

Another question from the comments: My pregame routine. After we take BP, we’re in the clubhouse for about an hour and a half. So right before the game, I’ll go in the batting cage behind the dugout and hit a few balls to get loose. Then on the field I’ll stretch my legs and upper body. Then I throw with Crawford. Most of us throw with the same guys every game. (If one or the other of us isn’t in the lineup, the other one will find somebody else to throw with.) Then I’ll do a couple sprints and I’m ready for the game.

Thanks, Dave Edlund, for telling me you fished my first home run of 2012 out of McCovey Cove. (And to your friend Greg for grabbing the next one.) The one I’d really like back is the first Splash Hit of my career (from last season). That would be pretty cool. If the person who has that ball wants to negotiate an exchange, I’m open.

Thanks, as always, for reading and for leaving your comments and questions. Wish us luck in Atlanta and Philly

-Brandon B.

Big News from the All-Star Break – Brandon Crawford

I spent the All-Star break in Los Angeles with Jalynne and her family. We relaxed for a couple of days. Then on Wednesday she had a doctor’s appointment.

We found out we’re having a girl.

We’ve chosen a name but we’re not telling people yet.

It didn’t matter to me whether we were having a boy or a girl, just that the baby is healthy, which she is. We’re both really happy and excited about being new parents – and relieved that between Jalynne’s family and mine we’ll have plenty of support and advice.

We took in a movie (“Spiderman”) and watched the All-Star Game to see my teammates. (I turned it off when they left the game.) It was great to see our guys show what they can do, especially after all the talk about our fans stuffing the ballot box.

It’s funny that Jessica asked in the comments section, “What’s with the batting gloves in the back pockets?’’  It’s something I’ve done since high school. But I stopped doing it three weeks ago, thanks to Ryan Theriot and Matt Cain.

They decided one day to take away what they called my “flare.’’ They thought I had too much extra stuff going on with my uniform  – the gloves in the back pockets, the wrist bands, the longer-sleeve shirt under my jersey. They took the items from my locker and hid them in a different locker. It was funny for a few days then I was like, “OK, give them back.’’

They did, but I decided to stick with the non-flare look. I haven’t put the gloves back in my pockets, and I wore the longer-sleeve shirt for the first time Friday night because it was so cold. The wrist tape stays, however, because it’s not a fashion statement but an injury-preventer.

Another recent change: My walk-up songs.

Actually they’ve changed a few times in the last few weeks. My walk-up songs for most of the season were Eminem’s “Writer’s Block’’ and Drake’s “Lord Knows.’’ I’d switch them back and forth. But I was lining out a lot, just having bad luck. So when I lined out a couple more times during a series last month, I thought, “Screw it. Time to change something up.’’

So I drastically changed it at the end of June. I went with Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger’’ and Katy Perry’s “Part of Me.’’ I got an RBI hit the first game and I’ve been hitting well for a couple weeks now. I think maybe they relaxed me a little. (The way this works is we tell media relations man Matt Chisholm before the game what we want and he relays the information to the public-address people, who download it from iTunes.)

Then I switched back to rap on Friday. I figured the second half of the season called for new music.

Another reader, mlcwriters, asked if we hear what’s shouted at us from the stands. You try not to, particularly if it’s something bad. You hear something negative and you can start to think, “Man, that was a bad play.’’ In baseball, it’s so important to forget about the bad stuff and move on, so the last thing you want is to be reminded of a mistake you made in the last inning. Of course, you hear the big chants. When they’re for us, they fire us up. When we’re in other ballparks and the chant is for the opposing team, it just sounds like noise.

Another question from comments section: What do you want to be called from the stands? “‘Brandon’ is hard to yell out . . .  need nickname,’’ Mindy writes. I can’t make up my own nickname. That’s lame. My teammates call me Craw, Crawford, Crawdad. But I think you should make up a nickname and let me know. (I try to ignore people who call me John Stamos. So definitely don’t go there.)

Rebecca asks whether I get stopped in public for autographs and photos. All the Giants’ players do, and our guys, maybe more than most, appreciate all the support we get from our fans. So we try to be as responsive as we can. But it’s tough when we’re with our families or friends at a restaurant. We still want to be able to go to dinner with our wives and just have a nice quiet dinner. My advice is to ask for the autograph when the player is leaving the restaurant. They’ll appreciate that you let them enjoy their personal time.

See you at the park. Thanks for reading and keep sending in questions.

-Brandon C.


All-Stars and Maw-Maw – Brandon Belt

I’ve said before that we have the best fans in baseball. Now there is factual proof:

I got something like 3 million votes in the All-Star balloting. I finished second in the National League at first base.

That should not have happened. That right there shows you how crazy our fans are. You can’t say enough about them. The outpouring of votes to get our our guys into the lead was pretty amazing.

I was watching the All-Star announcements on TV in the clubhouse. It was pretty calm because it was only me and a couple players and a lot of reporters. I’m really happy for the guys who made it. There are other guys who could have made it. Bum, Vogey, a few others. It shows what a good team we have this year. All of us are really proud of the ones who made it.

If you watch me play today, you might think I’m growing a beard. I’m not. I just can’t find my electric razor. The last time I had it was in Oakland, and I could have sworn I put it in my truck. But it’s not there. So I haven’t shaved since Oakland. I’ll probably buy a new one at Walgreen’s when we get to D.C.

During the All-Star break, I’m going home to Texas. All I want to do is nothing. I want to watch TV and be lazy.

Well, I might go swimming at my friend’s house. I’ve been wanting to swim for a while. I don’t know why.

And I know I absolutely have to go see my grandma, my last surviving grandparent. Her husband is the one who helped me so much in baseball when I was young. He died a few years ago. I call her Maw-Maw. All her grandchildren call her Maw-Maw. (We called my other grandmother Maw-Maw Dumpy. She was real short and round. I know that sounds kind of mean, but even her friends called her Dumpy. “Hey, Dumpy!’’ That was just how she was known.)

When I go see Maw-Maw, she likes me to sign a lot of stuff, which she gives to her friends. If she doesn’t have one of my baseball cards on hand, she’ll go on the internet and print out pictures of me and I’ll sign them. She’s definitely a proud grandmother. I try to bring her as much stuff as possible. Game-used stuff. Maybe some batting gloves, a bat, baseballs. She has stuff from me and pictures of me all around the house. She has pictures of all her grandchildren, so I can’t say she favors me. But I like to think so.

Another thing I’ve got to do when I’m home is eat at Café del Rio and the Barbecue House in Nacogdoches. I also want to see my aunts and uncles and cousins, though I doubt that’s going to happen because they’re all spread out down there. And I want to hang out with my friends.

But I still really want to do nothing. I guess I’ll just have a lot of people to do it with.

-Brandon B.