February 2013

New Baby, New House, New Season – Brandon Crawford

It rained all day today but that doesn’t mean we didn’t work out. We took turns in the batting cages and weight room and most of us got finished a little bit earlier than usual. I just got back to the clubhouse so I’ll catch you up on the off-season and the start of spring training.

As you probably know, we had a baby December 18th, a girl we named Braylyn. It’s a name we decided on two years ago — a combination of  both our names. (We had a boy’s name, too: Jaydon.) Braylyn did not arrive easily. A week after the due date, Jalynne was induced but after two days she had to undergo a C-section. Braylyn had a little cone head from trying to come out but it went away after a day.

Braylyn is two months old now and smiling and even kind of laughing once in a while. She’s already developing a personality. And for the past week and a half she has been sleeping through the night. I have become very quick and dexterous at changing diapers. Who knew that fielding all those grounders would prepare me so well for fatherhood?

We recently bought our first house. It’s here in the Scottsdale area – a four-bedroom place with a yard and a pool that costs about half of what it would in California. We move in on Friday. Jalynne’s parents are driving out from California with the stuff we had in storage, but we pretty much had to buy all the furniture. We hope that will arrive on Friday, too. We’re pretty sure this is where we’ll live in the off-season. It’s easier for me to work out at the Giants minor-league complex because there are always players here. Cain and Romo live here, plus a bunch of other guys. And it’s pretty accessible to both sets of grandparents.

As for baseball, it’s great to be back with everyone again, though the first week or so are pretty, well, I won’t say boring – how about basic? If you came to the first few days of workouts here this week, you might be surprised at our drills. They are as fundamental as a Little League practice.

Jose Alguacil, the minor league’s roving infield instructor, literally rolls the ball to us. The point is to work on footwork and on exchanging the ball from the glove to the throwing hand, though we don’t throw. It’s not like we forget how to do any of this. But we’ve been off for three months, so you want to regain your form one step at a time to make certain you’re doing everything the right way.

For batting, we start by hitting off a tee. You can set the tee at different locations. First thing I do when I get to the park in the morning is  take five swings at nine locations: up and away, up middle, up and in, middle away, middle middle, middle in, down and away, down middle and down and in. That takes about 15 minutes.

Then a coach tosses balls underhand to me, and I’ll hit for another 15 minutes doing that.

Yesterday, our third base coach Tim Flannery had a session on base-running. He gathered all the position players at first base. He reminded us that a player who gets 200 hits in a season spends only 42 minutes on base. “There’s no reason you can’t stay focused for 42 minutes!’’ he said.

He also reminded us that in the park we play in and with the pitching we have, we play a lot of close games so good base-running – getting that one run — often is the difference between winning and losing. “If we score three runs, we win 75 percent of the time,’’ he said. “If we score four runs, we win 80 percent of the time.’’

After going over the fundamentals of running from first base, Flan walked us all to second base and went over the basics of that. Then we went on to third. Then he had us run from home to first, then first to third, home to second, second to home, home to third, then he had us tagging up at third.

Yes, it can be a little boring and repetitive. We’ve all done this a million times. But baseball is so much about fundamentals. The basics. One lapse can lose a game. So if you play Little League, guess what? You’re going to keep doing the same drills for as long as you play ball.

I’m loving it, though. I’m more relaxed and confident than I was at this time last year, though I don’t take my job for granted. There are great players here in camp. You always have to earn your job.

Hope to see some of you down here. Games start Saturday. If you can’t make it here, I’ll see you soon at AT&T.

-Brandon C.

From Hudson to Amarillo to Scottsdale – Brandon Belt

I just finished working out in the weight room after practice and am now sitting down in our lunch room for steak, salad and orzo with roasted red peppers. We eat pretty well here. That’s one of the things you love about big-league camp when you’re first invited. The food is way better than it is down in the minors. I remember my first big-league camp, which wasn’t too long ago, and thinking how great it was that someone else cleaned my spikes and hung up my uniform real neatly in my locker every day.

I have an ice pack on my back but it’s nothing serious. I think I’m still stiff from driving 17 hours in one day from Texas to Scottsdale last week. We left Hudson at 6 a.m. last Monday and arrived around 10 pm. Arizona time. I drove 16 of the 17 hours. Halee took over around Amarillo so I could sleep for an hour. But I like driving because I like to be in control. I think it’s a guy thing. This year, we took a slightly different route, going through Holbrook in northeastern Arizona because on the map it looked a lot shorter. But it goes through high plateau country which at this time of year was covered in a foot of snow. The temperature was about 10 degrees. We ended up practically crawling along the icy roads for the last few hours of our trip. Not what we were expecting.

Our Yukon SUV was packed mostly with our clothes because we moved out of the small house I bought when I first turned pro. We did the vacuum-pack thing so all our clothes were shrunk into these flat little packs. We’re moving soon into the house we bought in 2011 that my dad has been renovating for us. It should be ready by June or July. In the meantime, my brother’s girlfriend is renting our old house.

We also brought pillows and bedding and what is, to me, maybe the most essential sleep aid: my big box fan. I can’t sleep without the hum of the fan. It is especially useful right now because we’re sharing an apartment in North Phoenix with former Giants Charlie Culberson and his wife. And they have a newborn baby. They get up at last twice a night with the baby, and I don’t hear a thing. It’s great to share a place with them. The baby is so cute, and we sometimes cook for each other and all eat together.

We’re not sure yet where we’re going to live in the Bay Area. We loved Walnut Creek but I think I want to be closer to the city. The drive to Walnut Creek is only 30 minutes but it felt like forever after a long game.

It is so much fun to be back with everybody. Usually in spring camp you spend a lot of time introducing yourself to new people. There’s some of that, of course, because we have 70 guys in camp. But mostly we were going around hugging everybody because almost the whole team is back. It’s so much fun to be with everyone again and to back out on the field against live pitching.

Hope to see you down here or back at AT&T.

Thanks for reading.

-Brandon B.