September 2012

The Hometown Team – Brandon Crawford

I don’t let myself think too much about how lucky I am to play for the team I rooted for growing up in Pleasanton. I just play. I keep it simple. I’ll wait ‘til later to think about how things have happened the way they’ve happened.

But after we won last night, we put on our new NL West Champion hats and T-shirts and began our lap around the field. My first stop was a section right past our dugout. There’s a box of seats that is basically on the field and the actual stands are behind that. In the first row of the stands was the person I stopped to see.

My dad, who took me to so many games at Candlestick Park when I was a kid.

I couldn’t get close enough to give him a hug or slap his hand but I waved at him and my sister, who sat with him. (Jalynne and my mom and my two other sisters were in other seats; I didn’t know exactly where.) For me to be on the field at AT&T Park after clinching the NL West Championship and seeing my dad in the stands, well, I don’t have the words to describe it.

Afterward, my whole family came into the clubhouse with the other families.  My dad was really excited. I could see it on his face. It was the first time he had come into the clubhouse. He asked to see my locker. I took him over and lifted the plastic sheeting so he could see in. I introduced him and the rest of my family to everyone. That was the best part of the night,  to share the moment with them.

But the whole night was fun. The Gangnam Style music played three or four times over the clubhouse speakers. Everybody loves it. You can’t help dancing when you hear it. The worst Gangnam dance? Definitely Jon Miller. We saw him on TV doing it in the broadcast booth.

Timmy missed the celebration because he left in the seventh inning to rest up for today’s day game. He was supposed to pitch this afternoon but was scratched when we won. Timmy said this morning that Righetti called him last night to tell him come back, but Tim said getting back to the stadium would have been a nightmare. Hopefully he’ll get another chance to celebrate.

I know some guys had trouble sleeping last night, but not me. I went right out. It’s exciting to clinch but we still have games left and we have to go about them the same way we have all season.

Thanks for all your support. Let’s keep it going.

-Brandon C.

Awesome! – Brandon Belt

It took two Red Bulls to get me going this morning. I had so much adrenaline last night that I didn’t fall asleep until about 3:30 a.m. I just watched TV — the baseball highlights and the college football highlights and whatever else my remote control landed on. Then I got up around 8 to get ready to come back to the park.

​All worth it, of course.

​What was it like on the field after the last out?Awesome. I leaped into the pile and tried not to get beat up too bad. I tried to rip some jerseys off, but I was getting pounded too bad. I was basically in defense mode the whole time.

​I loved taking a lap round the field and high-five-ing the fans – that was awesome, too.

​In the clubhouse, I was running around trying to spray champagne in people’s faces. Everybody hated it – they hated it – but I thought it was funny. Haylee got mad at me for dumping champagne on her head while someone was taking our picture. She had gotten all dressed up and looked really pretty so she was mad. I told her, “You look good every day,’’ so that fixed it. I poured some over Ali Bumgarner’s head, too. I accidentally got CSN’s Jamie Sire right smack in the eyes. I was out of control.

​It was fun watching everybody dancing – Sergio, Pablo, Angel and his kids. Brian Wilson’s got some moves. He was going pretty good Gangnam Style. Wilson’s brought a lot of energy to the team. His personality is really shining right now. A lot of comedic entertainment. He started that little dance with Pablo when Pablo hits a home run. They tried to do it to me last night when I hit my home run, and I wasn’t having any part of it. I’m not doing that. I can make myself look stupid enough; I don’t need to add any highlight clips. I don’t do the hand signals either – the arrow, the salute, whatever. I don’t care if other people do it but it’s not for me. I think it looks kind of dumb. Of course, this is coming from a guy running around spraying champagne in everybody’s faces. I guess one man’s dumb is another man’s fun.

​I heard Sabean say this season was like a tale of two seasons. That’s certainly true for me personally and for the team in general. Most of us have had our struggles and we kept fighting. It’s not always pretty. We don’t always get the spectacular home run. But we get on base, and we get people across the plate.

​ My performance last night, with a double and home run,  kind of showed how far I’ve come since the beginning of the season. Baseball is always fun, but it’s especially fun when you play the way you know you can play. When you’re going through funks, you know it’s not you. You know that people watching you – your family and friends — feel bad for you, and you feel bad for them feeling bad for you. Then you get past that and you find that everyone on the team is playing for each other and everything starts to fall into place. That’s what makes this team so awesome. We love each other.

​When things started to settle down in the clubhouse last night, I noticed that most of us were talking about the playoffs and saying, “Man, we want to do this about three more times. This is awesome, but we got to make sure we get the big win at the end.’’

​See you at the park. Thanks for reading.

-Brandon B.

More Thrills Than a Texas Rodeo – Brandon Belt

I have never had more fun playing baseball than I am right now. This team is awesome. Even when I’m not playing, I’m having a blast watching Pablo crank some impossible pitch into the seats. And Buster, too. Angel seems to be on base all day. My blog mate and locker mate, Crawford, almost every game does some crazy fielding thing that nobody’s ever seen. Scutaro digs in at the plate like he’s there for the night and wears out the pitcher until he finally gets his pitch.

​If there’s a more exciting team to watch right now, I don’t know who it is. We haven’t lost a road series since the All-Star break. Ten in a row. That’s pretty unbelievable, given how hard it is to play on the road. And now we’ve taken four in a row from the Rockies here at home. Everything’s clicking.

​But I really like what Pablo said last night after the 9-2 win (and back-to-back homers from Pablo and Buster): “We’re happy but we’re not satisfied.’’

​That’s how everyone feels in here. We won’t be satisfied with just winning the division and feeling good about ourselves for overcoming some pretty significant obstacles. We’re not interested in moral victories. We want the real things.

​OK, your questions.

​From Laura: What’s my most memorable home run? Probably my first one in the majors, last year in Dodger Stadium. My first Splash Hit was pretty special, too. So those two.

​From Kgritz: Did I say ‘’land’s sake’’ when I struck out? No. I do say some gee-whiz/country things sometimes, but not when I strike out.

​From Megan: My favorite parks? I love our park. The scenery is beautiful, and the fans are awesome. I enjoy playing in Houston. It’s my home state, but it’s also a good hitter’s park. St. Louis is pretty awesome. I like Arizona’s stadium, but I never play well there. I don’t know why. Wrigley is fun – I played there for the first time this season. Everything’s kind of cramped, but it’s a lot of fun. My problem is I hit all my balls in the wrong parks in the wrong places. I hit a triple in Chicago to the left-field wall – but had I hit that same ball three days earlier in Houston, it would have been a home run. I’ll hit a ball in the gap here at home that in other parks would go out. I’ve learned that here at home you have to hit line drives. You hit it in the air here, more than likely it’s going to be an out. So that’s what I’ve been working on.

​From Lisa, Arianna and Sienna: Did I see the Baby Giraffe hat on Lou Seal? It’s awesome. I’ve seen that a couple times. He had it on when I got a big hit one day. It was hilarious.

​From Karin: What do you eat before a game? We have four or five different options before every game. My favorite one is fajitas – I make mine with chicken, refried beans, rice, guacamole, sour cream, cheese, salsa and onions. I love that stuff.

​From Mark: How do players help teammates in a slump? If you go up to a player and say, “Hey, I see you’re in a slump, let me help you,’’ that will just tick them off because it reminds them they’re in a slump. Mostly you give words of encouragement because players can doubt themselves to death. You might say, “Hey, I’ve seen you hit — you’re a great hitter. You’re going to come out of it. Everybody goes through it.’’ That’s what guys said to me when I was slumping. It was like showing me that little light at the end of the tunnel. That little bit of hope. And sometimes that’s just enough to get you back on track.

​For leftydf: Thanks for the nice words about Haylee’s interview with Amy G. She was so nervous about it. I told her, “Just be yourself. Talk like it’s a conversation.’’ I haven’t watched it yet, but I’m sure she did a great job.

​From Kim: Are Madison Bumgarner and I friends? We are. We hang around quite a bit, especially on the road when our wives are with us. The four us go out to dinner. Once we all went bowling. I think Madison and I connect because we’re both country boys — though I’m not near as country as he is. We have that country boy mentality — kind of laid back, not a lot of worrying about too much stuff other than baseball. If our wives aren’t around and we have a free evening, I usually go to the movies by myself. I love movies, and Haylee hates going. So I go when I’m on the road.

​OK. Padres are in town. We’re focusing only on tonight. Everybody else might be talking about the postseason, but we’re looking at just this game. That’s how you win. One pitch, one inning, one game at a time.

See you at the park!

​-Brandon B.

The Continuous Learning Curve – Brandon Crawford

One thing you keep learning in this game is how important it is to wipe your memory clean of failures and move on. I guess it’s not exactly making a failure disappear – because, guess what, it happened. You can’t change that. So maybe it’s more that you put a fence around it to keep it from creeping into the next game.

On our recent series in Colorado, I had a really bad game. One of my worst in the last few months. I hit a line drive up the middle that the pitcher snagged. Then I had a pretty good ground ball down the third-base line that the third-baseman dove for and gloved then stepped on the bag for a force-out. (Luckily Bumgarner picked me up with his three-run homer.) Then I struck out twice. And to cap off the awful day, I threw the ball over Belt’s head and five rows up in the seats.

Infield coach Ron Wotus came up to me after the game.

“You’re going to have a game like that,’’ he said. “You’ve been playing great for three months. You’re bound to have a game like that. Don’t worry about it.’’

After I got dressed and was about to leave the clubhouse, Bochy stopped me.

“You’re playing tomorrow,’’ he said, which surprised me because I knew a lefty was pitching. Usually Arias plays against lefties.

It’s one of the things that makes Bochy such a good manager. He wanted me to get right back out on the field. He wanted to make sure I knew he had confidence in me.

Sure enough, the next day I went two-for-four with two doubles and two RBIs and no errors.

Playing baseball, because it’s an almost daily thing, gives you a lot of practice in not letting your mistakes drag you down. Probably a pretty good approach to a lot of things in life.

Things are heating up around here, and not just because we’re trying to clinch the division. If you walked into our clubhouse on a Sunday, you’d see a bunch of NFL fanatics yelling at the television. About half the team is part of a fantasy football league. It’s a pretty steep entry fee, so Belt and I didn’t sign up. We’re both in another fantasy league together that’s made up mostly of our friends and a few minor-leaguers. (And I’m in yet another league with Jalynne’s family.)

The Giants guys wanted 12 teams and only 10 signed up – Theriot, Romo, Wilson, Pence, Lincecum, Huff, trainer Dave Groeschner, Dr. Akizuki (the team orthopedist), Kuiper and Fleming co-own a team, and Nady and Pill co-own a team.

So Cain sponsored Belt, and Javy Lopez sponsored me. They’re the owners; we’re the general managers. We had our draft in Chicago during the recent road trip. After a day game, we rented a conference room in the hotel and set up a big board to record the picks. Romo is the commissioner, and he inputted everything into his laptop. Theriot brought jerseys of the predicted No.1 picks and whoever drafted that player put on the jersey like the real NFL draft.

Last Sunday, I beat Theriot in our head-to-head. So I’m feeling pretty good.

Now to your questions.

Jojibear93 wants to know why I wear No. 35. Murph gave it to me. My favorite number has always been three, but that was Bill Terry’s number and it’s retired. I like 35. It was Rich Aurilia’s number, so I think it’s a good fit. If I had to choose, I’d probably pick 26. It’s Jalynne’s favorite number because her birthday is on the 26th. Just by luck I had that number a few years ago in the fall league.

Rebecca asked if I read the newspapers and keep up on what’s being said about me. I’m on Twitter and follow some of the local writers, so I see stories that way. On Twitter I also follow players I’ve played with and a few celebrities like Taylor Swift and Li’l Wayne. Li’l Wayne is one of my favorites, and I met him on our road trip to Miami this season. Theriot knows someone who knows him and got him to visit the clubhouse.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading and sending in your questions.

See you at the park.

-Brandon C.

Staying in the Game Even When You’re Not – Brandon Belt

We’re all still in a good mood from yesterday’s 10th-inning come-from-behind win against the Diamondbacks. It seemed like everybody contributed, which is when baseball is the most fun. That game kind of captured our team in a nutshell. We’re just a bunch of fighters who battle our butts off every day. When you play for each other, good things happen.

My job yesterday was to come off the bench in the eighth to pinch-hit. It’s something I didn’t do very well last year. I had almost no experience pinch-hitting, so I didn’t know how to approach it. Now I know I have to stay focused the whole game and assume that I’ll be going in at some point. Around the fifth inning, I start getting loose. Last night that meant going down to the batting cages behind the dugout and jogging the length of the cage, stretching, throwing and hitting. All the while, I monitored the game on the TV.

When I was summoned to the plate with two outs and Crawford on second base, I was ready to go. Usually I would talk to Bam-Bam to get the pitcher’s scouting report, but I had faced reliever David Hernandez and knew he had a good fastball but wasn’t afraid to throw a breaking pitch. My job was clear: drive in Crawford and get on base myself as the potential tying run.

I sat on the fastball, and Hernandez delivered on the second pitch.

My single scored Crawford to get us within a run of the Diamondbacks. Two innings later, Scutaro would hit the walk-off that scored Crawford again for the win.

It’s a great feeling when you come through as a pinch-hitter. You know they’ve put you in there for a very specific reason. And you get one shot. In baseball, you fail so much so anytime you get the job done, you really feel a sense of satisfaction.

I was pretty busy during the Houston series, as you could probably imagine, because I have such a great support group of family and friends back home. I left 15 tickets for every game, but there were a lot more friends who bought their own tickets. (The thing about Houston – not to call anybody out – you can buy cheap tickets and move down into better seats because so many of them are vacant.) Unfortunately, the games were played mid-week so almost everybody came in for one or two games then went back to work or school. Only my parents and aunt and uncle were there for the third game when I had four hits.

Not even Haylee was there for that game. She was so sick the night before with a stomach flu or virus. I was up all night taking care of her. The next morning she went home with her mother, about a 90 minute-drive. So I didn’t get much sleep, then we played the night game in Houston, flew to Chicago and arrived around 3 a.m. – only to get up a few hours later for a day game against the Cubs.

We were all pretty sluggish, except Buster, who had three hits that game.

OK, a note about my walk-up song. I listened to “Pretty Handsome Awkward’’ and sorry Rob R. and Alicia, but I’m going to pass. I’ll listen to Beatles’ “Number 9,’’ a suggestion from Allan.

The truth is I haven’t had a walk-up song since I’ve been in pro ball. I don’t even know what plays when I come to bat. It’s not that I’m not into music. I’m a huge music person. But I’ve heard people make judgments about players because of their walk-up music. We get judged on so many things so I thought I’d skip that particular judgment.

But maybe that will change if I find the right song. I don’t know.

Karin asked if I ever pick up tips from players at other positions that I can use at first base. (She was commenting on how Buster blocked throws at first the way he does as a catcher.) First base is a little different in that you mostly use one hand instead of two. Everywhere else you’re told to use two hands, but not at first base except if it’s a weird play and you need your other hand to keep the ball in the glove.

But I do learn a lot from Crawford and Pablo about making the double-play throw. I watch their footwork and body position and incorporate that into my own mechanics when I’m practicing my throw to second for a double-play. I’m always trying to improve the accuracy and speed of the throw, and I know it’s all about footwork and positioning.

Thanks to Rob for pointing out that Ted Williams and Roy Hobbs wore No. 9. I didn’t know about Roy Hobbs. Pretty cool.

Again, thanks so much for reading and for leaving all the great comments and questions. I do read every one. And so does Haylee. A lot of times she’ll read them out loud to me. We both are so appreciative of having an even bigger support group here than we do in Texas!

 

-Brandon B.

The 2012 Giants: We Do Drama – Brandon Crawford

It’s not exactly the Torture of 2010, but this 2012 version can take you on a pretty good roller coaster ride.

​If you watched today’s game, you know what I mean. We scored four in the first then kind of went on cruise control and blew the lead. But lately we have this knack of getting a hit or a walk or a hit-by-pitch in the eighth or ninth inning – and suddenly it’s like a switch has been flipped.

Today we were down 8-5 with two outs in the eighth, and Hector Sanchez hit a double. And everything changed.

I followed up with a double, scoring Hector and closing the gap to 8-6. Belt came in to pinch hit. He hit a single to drive me in: 8-7.

In the ninth, Scutaro doubled. Then Buster doubled him in: 8-8.

People say hitting is contagious. I know it makes no sense at all, but I believe it because that’s our team. (Of course, it can be contagious in the other direction, too. Nobody hits, so nobody hits.)

In the tenth I led off with an infield chopper that I barely beat out. And with two outs, I scored the winning run on Scutaro’s walk-off hit down the left field line. I loved watching Scutaro racing around the field, trying to get away from Pablo, me and the rest of the mob chasing him. I don’t blame him for running – when I hit that walk-off against the Padres, I got crushed. Scutaro was yelling at Pablo in Spanish as Pablo grabbed him, and we all piled on. I guess we should be thinking about the possibility of injury, but everyone’s so happy after a walk-off we never even think about it.

What’s different about this team right now is that key hits and runs are coming from every spot in the order. I take my job in the No. 8 hole as seriously as Buster takes his job hitting clean-up.

​Hitting eighth is hard. You can ask anybody. Hitting eighth in the National League is one of the toughest spots to hit. If there’s nobody out and nobody on, a pitcher is going to pitch you the same as everybody else. But if there are guys in scoring position, you have to expand the strike zone a little bit because the pitcher’s on deck. It’s up to you to drive those runners in. So you want to put the ball in play, even if you don’t get the perfect pitch. But you don’t want to expand the strike zone too much and find yourself flailing at bad pitches. It’s a fine line.

​On another topic, you might have noticed I am no longer the Wolverine. I know the TV cameras caught me in the dugout in Houston running my fingers up through my beard and trying to poof it out and see how big it was. Some of the guys were telling me I should keep growing it. But when I went 0-for Houston, I thought it was time for a trim. So the clipper came out. And tonight I got three hits, so I think I’ll keep it trimmed, even though I hate to shave.

​It’s been fun to watch the replays of my catch of Pablo’s flip in foul territory in our first game in Houston. It’s been Number 1 on Best Plays of the Week on ESPN, even beating out Felix Hernandez’s perfect game. Fans said a perfect game had been done before, but they’d never seen a play like that. I’ve watched it a bunch of times myself, and I enjoy it as much as any fan. I still can’t tell you how it happened. I saw Pablo falling backward, so I thought the ball might come out of his glove. And then he came forward – and the ball flipped into the air. It was just one of those things that you just react to it.

​Here’s another thing from that Houston series I had never seen before: An outfielder nearly trampling an infielder to catch a cut-off throw. Pagan threw from deep center field, and I had just caught the ball when Blanco – who was trying to catch the cut-off throw — crashed into me and we both went tumbling.

The closest thing I’ve seen to that is Manny Ramirez back in the day when he was in Boston. Johnny Damon throws the ball in from center, and Manny Ramirez for some reason dives and cuts the ball off – even though it was heading right to the shortstop. Manny then turns around and throws it to the shortstop. For no reason. Manny being Manny.

​I asked Gregor in the dugout what he was thinking: Why would you try to catch a cut-off throw? He said the throw was so off-line that he didn’t think I’d be able to reach it. I told him, “With me, you’ll never have to cut a ball off.’’ I know our outfielders’ arms – who has strong and not-so-strong arms — and know where to situate myself for the cutoff.

​Baseball fans often say they come to the park every day because they’re going to see something they’ve never seen before. That is absolutely true for players, too. It’s what makes baseball so fun. You never know what a teammate – or you — might do. It could be something that will never be seen ever again. Sometimes, of course, that’s a good thing.

-Brandon C.

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