Haylee made me a great cake for my 25th birthday on Saturday. Chocolate and vanilla. I was so hungry when I got home from the game that night I ate a huge piece while we waited for our pizza to arrive. I love chocolate. I’d have an all-chocolate cake with chocolate ice cream and chocolate sauce. But Haylee’s cake was really, really good. There’s nothing like a homemade cake. I think she spent about two hours making it, so I restrained myself from asking why there wasn’t ice cream.
We had an official birthday dinner Sunday night after the day game. We went to Bobo’s on Lombard and Van Ness. Stopped for a milk shake at a burger joint then went to see the new Tom Cruise movie. Just the two of us. Nice night.
Maybe the cake and milk shake will help put some weight back on me. I only gained back 3 or 4 pounds of the 11 or so that I lost when I was sick at the start of the season. It’s hard to keep weight on during the season, much less gain weight, because you’re playing every day. I’m drinking more protein shakes when I’m at the field, so I’m sure I’ll eventually get back to normal.
Bochy is giving me time off against left-handed pitchers, hoping to help me recapture the good rhythm I had in spring training. I know people make a big deal when you start the season slowly. They look up at the scoreboard and see your average is below .200 and kind of go a little nutty. But as a player you have to ignore the numbers. All you have control over is your current at-bat. You have to approach each one the same way, with the same confidence. You don’t have control over the results. You know that the balls will start to fall and the numbers on the scoreboard will start to creep back up.
This doesn’t mean that you completely ignore your struggles. I’m working with Bam-Bam and Joe in the cage and watching video. But in baseball especially, you have to take the long view. There are still more than five months left in the season. We’ve played only three weeks! So it’s crazy to get all panicky. I’ll be fine.
In the meantime, Crawford is hitting well enough for both of us. He’s seeing the ball really well. He’s so comfortable at the plate. He’s in such a good groove I think he’ll be hitting the ball well for a long time.
It seems to work out that way on this team. When one person’s down, the next guy picks him up. You never know on this team who’s going to be the guy who comes through with the big hit or the big play. Even though I’m scrapping right now, or maybe especially because I’m scrapping, I’m having a great time watching Crawford crush home runs.
Believe me, I’m not excited to be sitting on the bench. Nobody likes sitting. I’d like to play every inning of every game. As long as we’re winning, I’m happy.
I spoke to a group of Little League players before Sunday’s game, and one of them asked if I missed pitching. I grew up as a pitcher. I wanted to be Randy Johnson, another tall lefty. So I said I hoped that someday we’ll be going into the 27th inning and Bochy will be out of pitchers and I’ll get the call. That would be awesome.
Another kid asked what I ate before games. I said, “Anything that’s put in front of me, plus a Red Bull.’’
And someone else wanted to know who was the funniest guy on the team. “Bumgarner,’’ I said, “even though he doesn’t try to be. If you can understand what he’s saying, he’s pretty funny.’’
See you out at the ballpark.
Like everybody else, I couldn’t go to sleep last night. I think I watched the replay of the final out fifteen times. Then I kept replaying the game in my head.
And what I was thinking when I woke up this morning was just how unbelievable it was to be a part of history.
I’ve been a baseball fan my whole life. And then to be on the field when a guy pitches a perfect game, it’s incredible. It wasn’t just about being IN the game but I found myself watching the game almost like a fan. Seeing Blanco make that play. That’s going to go down as one of the best plays in the history of the game. And I’m there watching it from a few yards away.
In the dugout, we all went about our normal routines. We talked about our at-bats, about the plays on the field. We just didn’t do it around Matt.
Then I did something that I will get grief about for the rest of my career, I’m sure.
It was the seventh or eighth inning, and Matt was up at bat. I was wandering around the dugout, watching the game. Matt was batting. I sat down on the bench. Usually pitchers will put a towel or their jacket on the spot. Maybe something was there and I just didn’t see it.
But suddenly Matt is standing there staring at me. I figured I was doing something wrong. I looked down and realized I was sitting in his spot. Vogelsong was giving me a dirty look, so I got out of there as fast as I could. I think Vogey was ready to kill me. I still can’t believe I did that.
As the game went on, I was as nervous as I’ve ever been on a baseball field. As Matt pitched to the last batter, I was thinking, “Don’t hit it to me. Just strike him out.’’
You’re telling yourself not to freak out: “If it’s hit to someone else and the throw’s in the dirt, don’t panic. Just do what you normally do. Let the game come to you.’’
Then when I caught Arias’s throw to end the game, I put the ball in my pocket for safekeeping – and to make sure it didn’t get knocked to the ground and somebody rolled an ankle on it. I was the second guy to reach Matt after Buster. In the pile, I was kind of squished up against him, so I kind of put my head down on his chest; I didn’t want to get hit in the face. My shoulder was jabbing into Crawford’s nose. It can get pretty rough. You really have to be careful. But in the moment you’re not thinking about anything but how happy you are for Matty.
In the clubhouse, when I was about to give Matt the ball, I thought maybe I could get something out of this. I asked him for a Corvette. It’s probably not going to happen.
Seriously, though, handing him the ball was one of the coolest things. You see stuff like that on TV and you wonder how you’d feel doing that for a teammate. Honestly, it was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had playing the game. I was just so happy for him. He deserves this so much. He goes out every game with good stuff and you knew it was just a matter of time before something really special was going to happen. He’s a bulldog. He fights every day.
When I look at someone like Matt and how professional he is, how much he prepares day in and day out, I feel really inspired. You want to live up to the standard he sets. You realize what it takes to be great in this game. It’s not all about talent. It’s all the other stuff. Dedication. Courage. Focus.
I thought later about passing by Matt’s locker before the game. I thought he was asleep. He looked like he had just woken up from a nap. But I’m sure he was getting in the zone. Obviously it worked.
And I still can’t believe I was a part of it.
My in-laws arrived last Wednesday for a six-day visit. They brought all our mail – but I was hoping they’d bring Lily, our dog. She’s a three-year-old dachshund-beagle mix and she’s the sweetest thing. She’s been staying with my parents since February. We didn’t bring her to spring training because she whines whenever we leave her and we were afraid she’d bother the neighbors. Our plan was for Haylee to bring her out to Walnut Creek when she went back to Texas for a visit, but she hasn’t gone home yet. She’ll get home for sure during the All-Star break, and I’ll go, too, if I can, and we’ll get Lily then.
Anyone who has dogs knows how much you miss them when they’re not around. There’s something about having a dog in the house that just makes you feel better no matter happened in your day.
Anyway, Haylee’s parents left today. We really had a great time. Well, they had a great time. They did everything with Haylee. I joined for lunches when we played at night and for dinner when we played during the day.
No breakfasts. I’m almost never awake for breakfast.
Most players will tell you that routines are crucial in keeping focused and staying fit for 162 games. And one of the most important parts of my routine is sleep. I need my sleep, and I take it where I can get it. And most of the time, it’s in the morning because I stay up so late.
After a night game, I leave the park around 11. (The game ends around 10 or so, then I talk to reporters, eat, lift weights and shower.) By the time I drive back to Walnut Creek, it’s 11:30. And I’m wired. There’s no way I can fall asleep.
So I watch TV. Mostly Nick at Nite. I love the late 90s sitcoms like Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I watch in bed with Haylee zonked out next to me. I’ll get to laughing so much that I’m sure I’ll wake her up, but apparently she can sleep through anything. (When Lily arrives, she’ll keep me company!)
I finally fall asleep around 1:30. I’ve discovered I need about nine hours of sleep, so even when we have guests, I don’t get up until 10:30 or 11 (when we have a night game).
Once I’m showered and dressed, we have lunch. We live close to downtown Walnut Creek, so we eat a lot at McCovey’s and Cheesecake Factory. After lunch, we’ll walk around the mall area, but we rarely buy anything. We’re not really shoppers. But it gets us out of the house. I leave for the park around 2:15 and am in the clubhouse before 3.
I’m finding out that once the summer starts, you get a lot more visitors. Especially if you play in San Francisco. Everyone wants to come to San Francisco. We have more friends from Texas arriving at the end of June.
Then we’ll see my parents in mid-July when we play in Atlanta. They’ll drive over from Texas. Then Haylee’s cousins are coming to town after that. It’s a pretty busy summer.
But everyone understands my first priority during the season is baseball. This is a game of such thin margins that you can’t afford any slack whatsoever. You have to stick to your routines. Now that I’m in my second year in the big leagues, I understand that more than ever. It’s a balancing act. I want to enjoy my family and friends while they’re here but at the same time, I can’t let anything get in the way of baseball.
Thanks for reading – and thanks for the great comments about my first memory of baseball. I’m glad it sparked your own memories!