October 2012

Messages from Home – Brandon Belt

I have a little time before heading to the ballpark for Game 3. We got in yesterday around 5 and went straight to Comerica Park for a workout. It was nice because it was really low-key. Almost no press except our regular local reporters. That’s one thing that’s really different with the World Series even compared to the NLCS. There are just tons of cameras and microphones everywhere you turn. But it’s kind of cool, too, because you see people you’ve been watching on TV most of your life, like Chris Berman and Peter Gammons.

My parents and Haylee’s parents arrived at the hotel around 9. They said they met some guys from Channel 7 (the ABC affiliate in San Francisco) on the plane and the guys filmed them from the time they got off the plane until they got their luggage. They’re supposed to come to the hotel today to interview them. Should be amusing.
Last night my parents showed Haylee and me a video from Bonner Elementary School, where I went. It was incredible. Yesterday they had Brandon Belt Day there. All the kids wore Giants shirts or orange-and-black. They had a pep rally in the gym. Then they taped the kids – in the library, I think — giving me advice about hitting home runs and stealing bases. It was hilarious and sweet at the same time. Haylee teared up when she watched it. Here’s the link if you want to see it. http://www.hudsonisd.org/education/district/district.php?sectionid=1

We all went to dinner at an Italian restaurant near the hotel, which is about 30 minutes from the park and from downtown Detroit. I slept in this morning until noonish – still on west coast time. But Haylee and our parents had breakfast in the Giants’ hospitality suite in one of the ballrooms off the lobby. Not all the players are at this hotel. Half are at another hotel about a 10-minute ride away. It’s nice to be out in the suburbs because so far there are no autograph seekers camped out in the lobby. It’s really relaxed. We’re heading over to the mall across the street for lunch then will take a bus at 3 o’clock for the par

I’m surprised I haven’t been more nervous before the World Series games. I have a few butterflies but I’m able to approach the game as just another ballgame. That’s what everyone on the team seems to be doing. We’re playing with so much confidence right now. Not a cocky confidence. It’s more like a core belief that no matter what happens we’ll figure out a way to win.

It’s like in Game 2. Even though the score was 0-0 in the sixth, it felt like we were ahead. I don’t know why. We’re so locked in from the previous two series that, yes, of course, we could lose, but I don’t feel we give anything away. The Tigers will have to earn it.
​One note from Game 2: I shuddered when Fister was hit in the head by Blanco’s line drive. I couldn’t believe he stayed in the game. But then I remembered a similar situation when I was playing with Fresno last year, a pitcher was hit square in the head by a ball during batting practice in Colorado Springs. Like Fister, he didn’t flinch. He said he was fine. They took him to the hospital anyway, and he had a pretty significant concussion. He didn’t play the rest of the year. I understand Fister’s fine, which I hope is the case.
​A couple other random things that didn’t get into previous blogs. I’m not a great flier because I’m afraid of heights. My father, as I’ve said before, is a really bad flier. I shared with him recently a statistic that there have been only six deadly commercial flights since 2000) Strangely, despite my discomfort with flying and heights, I’ve always wanted to be a pilot and have my own plane. On the flight home from Cincinnati, Bumgarner managed to sit in the cockpit for takeoff and said it was really cool, especially because he could see the Northern Lights. So I went up there during the flight for a while and saw the Northern Lights, too. Very cool. Also the pilots were telling me how many backup systems are in place in case anything goes wrong. So that made me feel better.
​The temperature is supposed to get down to 38 degrees tonight. I’ve actually played in colder weather. There was snow on the ground during a game in Colorado Springs, where I think it dipped into the 20s.

​Thanks for reading. Go Giants!

-Brandon B.

Fifty-four More Outs – Brandon Crawford

You never know how important a play might be until the game plays itself out. You can’t know in the second inning, for example, that nailing Prince Fielder at the plate would be so huge. The way we were hitting and scoring in Game 1, one run for the Tigers would have been pretty meaningless. But as it turned out, we couldn’t afford to give an inch tonight.

​I’m sure you saw the play. With Fielder on first, Delmon Young doubled down the left field line. I ran out to take the cutoff. Seeing Fielder round third base, Gregor fired the ball in. It sailed over my head. All I was thinking was, “I hope Marco’s there.’’

​He was. He took the throw, spun and fired it home to Buster, who put down the tag and got Fielder.

​After the game, reporters asked me if that’s how the play is drawn up. It is. We practice it in spring training. I go deep for the cutoff, and the second baseman follows behind me in case the throw is high or comes in on a short hop, and the third baseman covers third in case the runner tries to return to the base.

I still don’t know if Gregor overthrew the ball or if he meant to go to Marco. I’m sure I’ll find out in tomorrow’s paper. It doesn’t matter. It worked.

​That’s how things have been going for us. Things seem to be breaking our way.

​But it’s not luck. OK, maybe a little luck. But mostly I think you make your own luck. For example, usually if we haven’t scored a run through six innings, we’d be pressing. We could press ourselves right out of the game. But I didn’t see any of that. We were relaxed, confident that, with the way Bum was pitching, he’d keep them off the scoreboard. He had more life on the ball than his last outing and he was hitting all his spots. We wouldn’t need a lot of runs to win.

​When I went up to bat with the bases loaded in the seventh and no outs, neither team had scored yet. I wanted to keep my approach as simple as possible, the way I would with two strikes. Don’t try to do too much. The infielders were playing normal depth, so it seemed they were conceding the run at home if I put the ball in play. That surprised me considering the strength of our bullpen.

When I grounded the ball to second base, I thought, “Oh no, double play.’’ Then: “OK, that will do.’’

Hunter scored from third, putting us up 1-0.

​In retrospect, to be perfectly honest, I wish I had been more aggressive up there. Smyly, their pitcher, had nowhere to put me. He was going to have to throw strikes. But I didn’t know him. I might have faced him in Double A a couple years ago. I didn’t know what he was going to throw.

​In any event, it’s probably the most productive out(s) I’ve ever made. The run put us ahead for good.

​A lot of reporters have been asking about our defense. I’m really glad it’s getting some recognition. I think it’s been a key to our success. Our defense has been good the whole second half of the season. Our pitchers get some credit for that. They’ve been awesome. We know where to position ourselves defensively because we know our pitchers are going to hit their spots.

​We need two more wins. Fifty-four outs.

But as you know we’re not accustomed to being ahead in a series. This is a new experience.

​I like it.

​My whole family is traveling to Detroit. Mom, Dad, my three sisters and Jalynne’s parents. The players, wives and staff have to be at the park tomorrow morning at 8:30 to board the buses to the airport. I know it will be a happy flight (made happier by the five different kinds of little cakes Barry Zito’s wife Amber has been making and sharing with everyone).

​Maybe the next time we’re back in San Francisco, it will be for a parade. Is it bad luck to say that? But that’s how it feels. We feel we’re on a major roll, like nothing can stop us.

​Of course, Cincinnati probably felt the same way.

​OK, I take back the parade comment.

​One game at a time. One out at a time. One pitch at a time.

​It’s worked for us so far.

 

-Brandon C.

A big night on the biggest stage! – Brandon Belt

So that’s pretty much what everybody expected, right?

​Seriously, it seems that every time we go up against a guy we know is going to be really tough, we step up and do really well. We did it with Kershaw, for one example. And tonight it was Verlander,

​That’s kind of our M.O. The tougher the situation, the better we play. We dug holes for ourselves in the NLDS and NLCS and suddenly played out of our minds.

We get two outs – and suddenly we start racking up hits and runs. I’m curious to know how many runs we’ve scored in the postseason on two outs.

​I was on a team like this at the University of Texas in 2009. We didn’t have the big-name talent, but we had chemistry – whatever that is, I really don’t know. All I know is it exists. On that UT team, we’d fight really hard with two outs. We’d never give in. We’d be down by a ton of runs, and we kept fighting. We overachieved and finished second in the nation that year.

​That’s how this team is. Pelea, right?

​The truth is I was really excited to go up against Verlander. I had watched him on TV and studied video. He doesn’t seem to have any flaws, which explains why he’s the reigning MVP and Cy Young winner. But I think every hitter wants to test himself against the best pitchers.

​Still, all the preparation in the world guarantees nothing once you’re in the box and facing the pitcher himself. Between innings Bam-Bam watched video of Verlander’s pitches so far. He told me he was throwing a lot of fastballs. I went up looking for a fastball my first time up, and of course got a changeup. You just have to adjust on the fly. I hit it OK, flying out to center. My second at-bat, I was down 0-2 and worked him for a walk. I was pretty proud of that.

​Why did we hit so well against him overall? We hit some pitches that maybe he missed a bit. But we also hit very good pitches in the zone. Our lineup showed a lot of discipline, waiting for mistakes and being aggressive when we saw one.

​I loved having a close-up view of Zito tonight. He was great. When he missed a pitch, it was never over the plate. He missed outside the zone. He was just so locked in. He’s intense and focused but not so much that you can’t talk to him in the dugout. As a first-baseman, I sometimes can pick up on what runners are doing as far as trying to steal. So I talked to him about that. And I talked to him about what sign I’d give him to indicate I wanted him to throw over. He’s always so steady.

​Of course the story of the night was Pablo. It’s just unbelievable what he did. The first home run, he had two strikes and hit the next pitch – a high strike that he had to get on top of. He back-spinned it out of the park. He hit the second home run on a tough down-and-away pitch and just crushed it. The third one was probably the best pitch he had all night.

​Some people might think he just swings and he’s simply talented enough to hit the ball a long way. But he puts himself in favorable situations. He’ll get himself into hitter’s counts. He’ll work the pitcher. It’s not luck. There’s a method to his madness.

​I’m heading home, or more accurately I’m walking back to the hotel. I wonder if cars will still be honking their horns and if people will still be going crazy. I hope so.

​See you tomorrow, and thanks for reading.

 

-Brandon B.

Happy and Drenched – Brandon Crawford

Keeping up with the blog during the postseason is a bit more difficult than I thought it would be. I had no idea how busy I’d be. I guess I should have known, but I didn’t really think about it.

Today we had a big media session at the park. Each player sat at a small table, and the reporters – a couple hundred, I’d guess – came up to whoever they wanted and asked questions. Everyone asked me about growing up a Giants fan and now playing for them in the World Series.

After that we had batting practice. Then I’ll be going out for Mexican food with Jalynne and get a good night’s sleep.

Last night was something none of us will ever forget. From beginning to end, it had kind of a movie quality to it. The rain at the end put it over the top. It never rains here during baseball season, so to have a downpour like that was crazy. And it was raining hard. I’ve never played in a downpour like that.

When the game was over, my parents and my three sisters came to the edge of the field and we hugged in the rain. Then I joined the rest of the team in running the perimeter of the field to thank the fans. Then the wives made their way onto the field. Jalynne couldn’t find me at first then jumped into my arms, or as much as she can jump seven months pregnant. We stood in the downpour without saying a whole lot, just looking around and trying to take it all in. It was really unbelievable.

Which is not to say I’m surprised we’re in the World Series. I would have been surprised maybe a week or so ago when we were down 3 games to 1. I will admit now that during batting practice in St. Louis before Game 5, I wondered if this would be the last time Ron Wotus hit me grounders until next spring.

But I had none of those thoughts yesterday or the day before. We were so confident. You could it see in everyone’s faces. We were completely loose. Boch has been telling us all along to enjoy this time, to appreciate how hard we worked to get here, to savor the experience. We listened.

When the game was about to start, we heard the roar of the crowd and saw what looked like a million orange towels flapping from every row of the park. How could you not enjoy yourself? There were guys actually dancing in the dugout. Someone tossed Pablo a bright orange wig and he pulled it on and mugged for the fans before tossing it back.

When I ran out onto the field with the rest of the starting lineup, I looked back and saw the rest of the team lined at the rail three deep. They would stay that way for the whole game, yelling and clapping and going as crazy as any fan in the stands.

Yes, we were enjoying and savoring.

Everyone had something to take pride in during yesterday’s game. Everyone contributed. I was happy to catch Lohse’s line drive in the second inning with runners at second and third. Two runs might have scored had it gone over my head. Because of what was at stake, I’d say that was one of my best plays ever. It wasn’t a sharp liner, which you can catch by leaping straight up. This was a soft liner. I had to take a couple steps back and time my jump just right. It’s a great feeling to be able to come through like that.

​Just like fans, we like watching the videos on the scoreboard. They’re great, and they’ve gotten even better as they’ve added highlights from the postseason. And we get a kick out of the Fist Pump Lady – who is the 87-year-old grandmother of Marco and Dominic, two brothers who work in our clubhouse. I also really liked seeing video of the Muni buses and airport and local business that have put up Giants signs.

​The most amazing thing, though, was just to look around the park at all the fans, to see how happy everyone was. It’s incredible what a sports team can mean to people. I remember as a kid how excited I’d get when the Giants would win. And I remember how devastated I was when they lost Game 6 in 2002. Nothing else makes you feel the way a sports team makes you feel. It was cool in St. Louis to watch a video on the scoreboard of fans’ reactions to the Cardinals’ comeback against the Nationals. There was one guy by himself in his living room jumping up and down on his couch. You had to laugh, but I’ve felt like that myself!

​ We are so ready for tomorrow. We are so glad we open at home.

​By the way, I changed my walkup song at the beginning of the NLCS. It’s by Kevin Rudolf and called “I Made It (Cash Money Heroes)’’ I had used it in Double A because I liked the beat. I was listening to it before the first game of the NLCS, and I decided the lyrics were perfect.

“I made it, I made it!
“I used to dream about, the life I’m living now
“I know that there’s no doubt.
“I made it, I made it!’’

-Brandon C.

Game 7? Of Course! – Brandon Belt

You had to figure this would go to Game 7. With these two teams, there was little doubt. You can tell that the Cardinals believe that no matter what happens, in the end they’re going to win. We do, too. So it had to go to seven.

​Everyone keeps asking why we keeping winning when our backs are against the wall. We really believe in ourselves, and it’s crazy how much that helps us, as cheesy and corny as that sounds. And obviously we don’t buckle under pressure, thanks in great part to our veteran nut jobs, who keep everyone loose in the dugout. Wilson, Hensley, Theriot, Pablo, they’re always doing something crazy to break whatever tension might be building. Pablo was dancing gangnam style along with the video on the scoreboard. As a young guy who’s new to the postseason, I take cues from the veterans. If they stay loose in the highest-pressure situations, then I’m not going to get worried either.

After struggling at the plate for a few games, I was really happy to get a triple to lead off what turned out to be a big second inning. I had two strikes. After striking out twice in recent games on called third strikes, I knew I had to expand my strike zone. I couldn’t take a called third strike if it was close. Carpenter threw a fastball that stayed over the plate and I was able to drive it to center field.

Of course my next at-bat I struck out looking. Carpenter was beating me up with off-speed pitches then threw a fastball that started at my hip then came back to catch the inside corner. It’s frustrating, but at some point you have to give their pitchers credit; they got a lot of us tonight on called third strikes.

​I felt good, though, to finish the night with two hits that contributed two runs. In the postseason, with the adrenaline on full-throttle, I’ve had to remind myself to slow the game down. I have a pre-at-bat ritual that helps with this. While I’m on deck, I focus on my breathing, which slows my heart rate and helps me focus on being in the moment. Pence bats ahead of me, so I watch his at-bat as if I’m batting, swinging at pitches to lock in on my timing. Then before I step into the box I take a deep breath. I don’t step up to the plate until I’ve completely finished the breath.

​I’m learning a lot during this postseason, things that nobody can teach you. You have to experience it for yourself. For example, you have to figure out how to take care of yourself when there are so many more demands on your time. There’s so much more media. And at every game, unlike during the regular season, there are family and friends you want to spend time with.

And the games are so intense. You’re focusing so hard. You’re all in emotionally. It can really drain you. I was surprised how exhausted I was after Game 5 in Cincinnati. I just crashed.

In St. Louis, I felt like I didn’t have any down time. Usually I get a little time alone when I walk to the park. But our hotel was right across the street, so I didn’t even have that. So I’m learning that I have to carve out time to rest and regenerate. It’s tough when you’ve been raised to be polite and friendly. But I see now why players can seem selfish at times. You really have to draw some boundaries or you’ll be so tired you won’t be 100 percent for the games.

I’m also learning about money. That might sound kind of stupid because money is money. But I never had any before now, and Haylee and I are still figuring out what it means to have what we have. I’ve always been a tightwad, either by nature or necessity, not sure which. And I still am even though I guess I don’t have to be. I was thinking about this during the postseason because, with family and friends around, we’re going out to eat more than we usually would. I’d rather eat at Chipotle or Chili’s than at a nice restaurant. Part of that is just getting served more quickly, but part of it is feeling uncomfortable spending money on the kinds of restaurants that other players go to all the time but still seem really expensive to us. It still drives me crazy, for example, to buy a bunch of groceries and then leave town before we eat everything and stuff goes to waste. Figuring out when and whether and how much to spend is a good problem to have, believe me. I know that. But it’s the kind of thing you never think about when you become a big-leaguer.

​OK, that was kind of random.

​We can’t wait to get to the park tomorrow. We’ll be here around 12:30 or so for BP, etc. I hear it’s supposed to rain. I hope it doesn’t, of course, but we’ll manage no matter what happens. We’re locked in. and we’re having a blast. We know the fans are, too. You can’t believe how loud it is on the field. It’s unbelievable.

​Let’s keep it going!

 

The Best of Times – Brandon Crawford

I woke up around 1 this afternoon still smiling from last night’s game. There was Zito’s amazing performance – his pitching and his RBI bunt. The great plays in the field from Pablo, Scutaro, Pence, Pagan, everybody. The timely hitting.

I can’t tell you how happy I was to get that two-run single with two outs. There is no better feeling than coming through for your team in crucial moments. It’s particularly satisfying for me, considering how I began the year and considering that I’m known for my defense.

Why do we seem to lift our game when we’re in absolute must-win situations? I have no idea. But we do. We seem to thrive on it.

We had a players-only meeting in the clubhouse before the game. Not only did Pence talk but also Zito and Scutaro and a few others. As a kid I watched Zito and Marco when they played for the A’s. (I joke with Zito about it now and then.) Marco’s almost 37 years old and has never been to the World Series. It puts into perspective for us younger guys how special this is, what we’re doing right now.

I haven’t been in the major leagues very long, so I don’t know if this kind of selflessness – of genuinely wanting to win for each other – is common. But I can’t imagine it is. I wish everybody at some point in their lives could feel what this is like, to be part of something so much bigger than you, to put 100 percent of yourself into something because you know everyone around you is putting out 100 percent, too.

It’s hard to explain exactly what it’s like. I don’t know that I want to think too deeply on it just yet. I’m trying to stay focused on one day, one game, one inning. But I also want to make sure I soak in what I know will go down as one of the really special experiences of my life.

We had an optional workout this afternoon and just about everybody showed up, despite landing from St. Louis this morning around 3 p.m. Jalynne and I got back to Walnut Creek around 4, and I slept until 1. I think we’re just going to chill tonight. Not sure if we’ll go out to eat or eat in. But we just want to relax.

I can’t wait to get to the park tomorrow. We have Vogey on the mound. We’re in front of our own fans. It’s a must-win game.

Perfect.

-Brandon C.

Clear skies and RBIs – Brandon Crawford

I’m in the hotel room with Jalynne resting a little before I walk over to the ballpark at around 2:30. Last night was as frustrating a game as you can have. We had pitching, defense and offense – but we simply couldn’t get the hits when we needed them. It’s crazy to have 12 runners on base and score only one run.

But you’re going to have games like that. And you have to forget them.

We’re all sharing information with each other in the dugout about the pitcher: How’s Lohse’s slider today? Is the ball sinking more than usual? Can you pick up his changeup? I especially ask other left-handed hitters what they saw at their at-bat because that’s probably what I’ll see, too.

Before my first at-bat, either Pablo or Angel said Lohse threw him a backdoor slider or cutter. So with the count 3-2, sure enough I got a backdoor slider. If I hadn’t had that in my mind, I probably would thought the pitch was going outside and taken it for a called third strike. Instead, I was able to foul it off. I walked on the next pitch.

All those little things can really count.

I was happy to get two hits yesterday after getting robbed twice Monday night at our park, particularly on that line drive to short in the second inning. Jalynne retweeted a tweet from Alex Pavlovic: “Brandon Crawford just found out what it’s like to hit a ball to Brandon Crawford.’’

I thought that was funny.

The rain delay seemed like it would never end. I was walking around, eager to keep playing. I couldn’t sit still. I ate a Nutrigrain bar and drank some water. I wandered into the trainer’s room and sat around talking to the other guys in there. I went back to the clubhouse and watched TV. But the TV was showing the same video that was on the scoreboard outside: a review of the Cardinals’ 2011 championship season. Wilson and Mota and I think Timmy were playing dominoes. (There haven’t been many dominoes games this season because Wilson and Mota weren’t around.)

So I walked out to the dugout to check out the weather and the field. The dugout was packed with camera men and the grounds crew and TV reporters. Erin Andrews pulled me aside for a short interview, asking me how we were passing the time and what we were hearing about resuming the game. Then Theriot came out and joined me on the bench. We sat there the rest of the time, talking to whoever was around. Better than watching Cardinals’ highlights.

After the game, I went to dinner with Jalynne and my dad, who flew in for the series. Peter Magowan came over to say hi and introduced himself to my dad, which was really nice.

We’re all looking forward to seeing Timmy on the mound today. We’re confident that if we keep playing the way we’re playing, the hits will start to fall when we need them. The Cardinals are a tough team. A lot like us. You can never count them out.

Just like you can never count us out.

Thanks for reading.

-Brandon C.

The Art of the Foul Ball – Brandon Belt

We’re getting ready to go to the ballpark where we’ll take buses to the airport. I love that our wives can go with us. We don’t have to make separate travel arrangements and worry about all the logistics. And it saves us money, too – which still matters to the younger guys.

Haylee and I moved out of our rental in Walnut Creek and now are staying in a hotel in San Francisco. I walked to the park for the first two games and it was like there was a carnival in town. It felt a little like going to a college football game. Everybody’s in orange-and-black. There’s an excitement in the air. I’m kind of recognizable because I’m pretty tall, but I walked with my hood up and tried to blend in so I could just enjoy the atmosphere. (The only disappointment was no fly-over before the game. I love the fly-overs.)

Last night’s win was great all-around. Vogey was the Vogey we’ve seen all year. He pitched his butt off. The bats came alive, the defense was strong as usual. I haven’t heard anything about Marco yet this morning. I’m sure we’ll learn more when we get to the park. He’s a huge part of the team, but if he can’t play, we have Theriot. So we’ll be in good shape. I didn’t see the slide because I was looking to catch Marco’s throw.

There’s a lot to talk about from the game, but I thought I’d give you a little insight about something a little more obscure – catching foul balls. I made a catch in the third inning that was far up the right-field line where there’s an indent past a VIP box. Those kinds of plays illustrate how important it is to know the quirks and characteristics of a park. I learned that from Will Clark and J.T. Snow. You learn about a park in different ways. You roll a ball down the line to see how it breaks. You watch the way the wind pushes fly balls. You take note of the configuration so you’re aware of how much room you have in foul territory.

With high foul balls, the first thing is to get some sense of where the ball’s going as soon as it comes off the bat. Then you head there as fast as you can. And then the biggest thing: Find the rail.

Last night I knew I had more foul territory to play with because of that indent. I’m told a fan had his glove outstretched while I was trying to catch it. I didn’t see him. But if he did interfere, I don’t think I’d be mad because if I was a fan I’d do the same thing. It would be awesome to catch a playoff ball.

A few innings later, I caught a ball that really was probably the second-baseman’s ball. But I had a bead on it and, more important, I have a bigger glove than any of the other infielders. It’s a glove made for catching, so theoretically I have a greater chance of catching. That’s why you see first-basemen catch so many infield flies.

One of my favorite moments of last night’s game was watching Aubrey Huff score from second base on Theriot’s single in the sixth. He looked like he was running with a trailer hitched to his back. We all give him a hard time about his speed. When he got to the dugout and everybody was high-fiving him, I took the opportunity to give him a turkey tap, which he didn’t like too much. (I’m not describing what a turkey tap is but you can google it.)

Ok, that’s it for now. This should be a pretty happy flight today. A little different from when we headed to Cincinnati in the NLDS.

Thanks for reading!

 

-Brandon B.

The Dream – Brandon Belt

You wait your entire life to get here. You play make-believe in the backyard. You watch the games on TV through high school and college and then in the minor leagues, imagining what it’d be like to hear your name announced or to stand in the batter’s box with the game on the line or spray Champagne on your delirious teammates.

The postseason is so much more than I expected. I still can hardly believe it. We’re just having a blast right now.

​We did something together in Cincinnati that no other National League team had ever done. And going into Cincinnati, we knew if any team could do it, we knew we could because we play for each other.

I think that speech from Hunter in the locker room made a big difference. Boch had told the story of Gideon, about how the underdogs came out on top. Boch always comes up with something that puts everything in perspective and puts you in your right mind. Then Hunter stood up and said, “Hold up, hold up, I want to stay something.’’

He had told me earlier that he was going to say something. So I knew it was coming. But other people were like, OK, let’s see what he’s got.

​He was sort of calm at first then it just started coming out, amping up. At one point I thought he might cry. It was just real emotional. He said how he wants us to win so he has one more day to play with all of us. But the power of the speech wasn’t as much in what he said but in HOW he said it. You could just tell it was so genuine and heartfelt. You could see guys’ faces start to change. They started to smile. You could almost see the spark.

Personally, I had never been through something like that before. We were even calling it a Friday Night Lights type of speech. Like a Texas high school football thing. I’m from Texas – and my dad is a football coach – and I’ve never heard anything like it.

​It reminded us how much we really love playing with each other. Everybody on this team loves playing with each other. And when we play for each other, we do really well. Even though it’s a cliché, we really did take it one game at a time — let’s go out and win this game tonight. That’s all we could do. You can’t think about, “Oh, we have to win three games.’’ You just worry about tonight. That’s what we did. We focused on one at-bat, one inning, one game. We didn’t give up.

​We got back to the hotel after that game about 7 p.m and I just crashed. It was so emotionally and physically draining. I slept for two hours then Haylee and I went to grab a bite. Neither of us wanted to wait in a restaurant for an hour to get our food. So we just went to Chipotle next to the hotel.

My father-in-law and some family friends came to the game, but I think my dad is going to drive up from Texas to St. Louis. That’s one reason I’m glad we’re not playing the Nationals. He’d have to fly and he won’t fly by himself. (My mom can’t come.)

​I can’t wait to hear what Hunter has to say today. Sometimes people will get up there and try to force the issue, and it’s not genuine and it falls flat. But when something’s genuine and it’s delivered with so much emotion, it can’t help but spark something inside you.

I don’t know if we need another spark going into the first game of the NLCS, but it’s become a tradition now.

Beautiful day for baseball. Go Giants!

 

-Brandon B.

​Finishes, flights and frogs – Brandon Crawford

Just got done with our workout at AT&T. Everyone looked pretty good considering we got in to SFO around dawn. Jalynne and I got back to Walnut Creek – where we are now staying with friends; the lease on our rental was up – around 7 a.m. I fell right to sleep and woke up around noon. Practice began at 4.

​We had checked out of our rooms yesterday afternoon (after another visit to Chipotle for lunch) and the team and staff watched about half the Cardinals-Nationals game in a hotel ballroom. Then we boarded the charter plane, waiting out the final innings until we knew for certain where we were going. The pilots apparently were anticipating D.C.: the TV screen at our seats showed a map with our route: a line heading east. Jalynne and I followed the play-by-play of the game on her cell phone. But by the ninth, half the team was draped over Matt Cain’s seat to watch the telecast of the game on his iPad. We were hollering and cheering like every other baseball fan in America.

​When the Cards completed their amazing comeback, a huge cheer went up through the whole plane. We were heading home.

​Except we weren’t, at least not right away. Mechanical problems kept the plane on the ground another 2 1/2 hours. While Jalynne stretched (uncomfortably, given that she is seven months pregnant) across the seats with her head on my lap, I played games on the little TV screen then watched The Matrix.

​Here’s what I’ve learned so far about the postseason: Between our series, the Cardinals last night, the Yankees-Orioles game, the A’s coming back to win Game 4 against Detroit — anything can happen at any time by any player. For us in Game 5, you wouldn’t expect Gregor Blanco and me to be the guys to start the key rally – Gregor with a single and me with an RBI triple – but that’s what seems to happen.

​It not only was my first hit of the postseason, it was the first time I had hit a ball with any pop. When it got past Votto, I felt a great sense of relief. Then when I got to third, I was pretty fired up. You want to contribute. I had heard from guys like Theriot and Huff that in the postseason it’s not about the number of hits or plays you make, it’s the timing of them – coming through when it really matters.

​That catch I made in the eighth inning is another example of timing. I can make catches like that all season and they don’t mean a whole lot. But at that moment – with one runner on and nobody out – making the catch is big. It really matters.

​One thing I’ll remember from that inning, of course, is Buster’s grand slam. The hit itself was epic but something happened that I had never seen before. With bases loaded and two strikes on Buster, the crowd – a sold-out stadium of 44,000 people were on their feet, roaring and waving red rally towels. Then Buster swung  – a huge, fat, swing that rocketed the ball out of the park. The entire crowd fell suddenly and completely silent. It was unbelievable. You could hear the ball hit off the scoreboard. It was one of the weirdest things.

​It happened again at the end of the game. Down by two, the Reds had two on and two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Again, the crowd roared. Then: Strike three. Silence. It was so quiet that we almost didn’t know how to react. It was like, “Oh yeah, three outs. We won.’’

​I have a confession to make: I didn’t know we were supposed to wear the same clothes the second and third game in Cincinnati that we wore the first game. I happened to wear the same jeans to the second game, so I wore them again the third game. That was my contribution. But we had another good luck charm.

During the first few months that Jalynne and I were dating, I traveled to Cuba with the USA team. We went to a flea market in Havana where I bought a necklace for her with a little frog on it. She says when she wears it that I have a good game or the team wins. After the first two losses in San Francisco, she said, “I forgot to wear the frog!’’

She brought it to Cincinnati and hasn’t taken it off.

​Thanks for reading!

-Brandon Crawford

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