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!