Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category

A Few Nice Words for, Well, a Couple of Dodgers — Brandon Crawford

Some of you might have seen Jalynne’s instagram a few days ago of the sonogram: We’re expecting our third child. Jaydyn has no clue what’s going on, but Braylyn understands there’s a baby inside Mommy’s tummy. Or at least she pretty much understands. When you ask her who’s in there, she says, “Baby Buzz!’’ (She’s been kind of obsessed with Toy Story lately.)

She’s funny, though, because when Jalynne told her that she had been in Mommy’s tummy, she seemed kind of appalled. She was like, “No, Mama!’’

The baby is due in mid-January, right around my birthday. We’re all really happy and excited.

I’m still smiling about being part of the All-Star Game. It was an honor, first of all — something that no one can ever take away from you. You grow up playing the game and being on Little League All-Star teams, and then you make it to the MLB All-Star team — representing the San Francisco Giants, your hometown team. I don’t dwell too much on the unbelievable good fortune I’ve had, but I couldn’t help it this week. Playing with the Giants. Winning two World Series Championships. And now playing in the All-Star Game. Even I couldn’t dream that big.

Besides being an honor, the All-Star Game was one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had. When you play against guys, you form an impression of what they’re like. Then you get to spend a little time together and you sometimes see another side. For instance, Adrian Gonzalez. I could never get a read on him because he never really talks to you at first base, unlike some other first basemen. But I talked to him a bit in Cincinnati and he seemed like a really good guy. He was loose and having a great time in the dugout.

So was Kershaw. When the first-base umpire called a foul ball against us, Kershaw yelled in a high-pitched voice, “C’mon, Jerry! That was fair!’’ Then he turned to Dee Gordon next to him and in his own voice said — real loud — “Yeah, Dee! You tell him!’’  He was really funny, which is not what I think of him when I’m standing in the batter’s box.

A.J. Burnett is another one. He has this angry face when he’s pitching and so he doesn’t come across as the nicest guy. But as soon as we crossed paths in Cincinnati, he introduced himself and his sons. He couldn’t have been nicer. After the game, even though everyone was kind of rushed with packing up and figuring out where the buses were, he made a point of coming up to me. “Hey, nice to meet you. Good luck the rest of the way,’’ he said. “Remember I’m coming after you.’’ We both smiled: He hadn’t forgotten my home run off him earlier this year.

During batting practice, I introduced myself to Kris Bryant because we hadn’t played against each other yet, and I talked to guys like A.J. Pollock and DJ LeMahieu who don’t really talk much when you play against them.

Bum was great. He was actually a little social butterfly. He went around talking to everybody. He was especially giving Kershaw a hard time. It started the first moment they saw each other and didn’t stop.

My only regret is that I didn’t get more autographs. The clubbies set out boxes and boxes of baseballs that we all signed. Every player received one signed ball, and you could buy more. I bought six National League and six American league balls. But I wish I had gotten certain individual guys to sign balls. I have a display case in my house here in the Arizona with balls signed by future Hall of Famers (or just really good players). I started it a few years ago when we played the Yankees in New York and I got one of the clubbies to get autographed balls from Jeter and Rivera for me. (That’s how players usually get other players’ autographs: tip a clubbie to do it. It could be weird if you just walked up to somebody.) I was thinking after I left Cincinnati that I should have gotten Pujols, Trout and Harper while I was right there with them. Once a fan, always a fan.

Another thing about the All-Star Game: They actually played our walk-up music. That surprised me. I noticed it with Bryce Harper in the first inning because I remembered his walk-up music from just playing them in Washington. Then when I walked up to the plate, I heard mine. That was pretty cool.

Two other cool things:
One, my dad made a last-minute decision to fly out to the game. He had been my coach on Little League All-Star teams, so it was great that he was there. And he flew home with us on the Giants’ charter.

Two, my sister Amy finally could root for both me and her boyfriend, Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole, at the same time. During the workout on Monday, Gerrit told he was going to propose to her. He showed me the ring and described his plan to surprise her the day after the All-Star Game. I guess he nailed it because Amy looked pretty surprised in the photos she tweeted out on Wednesday. I’m really happy for them.

We flew back to San Francisco right after the game. Jalynne, the girls and I got to our house in the East Bay at around 5:45 Wednesday morning. Jaydyn, of course, woke up at 9. So we didn’t get much sleep. We flew early in the evening down to our house in Arizona, where I had a great night’s sleep.

I’m looking forward to starting the second half of the season, so I guess I have to put the All-Star Game behind me. But I’ll tell you this: I wouldn’t mind going back.

Hoping for Some Fireworks in DC — Brandon Crawford

Rough series in Miami. We never seem to play the Marlins very well. I’m not sure what it is. A lot of people asked me about Carter Capps, the Marlins reliever who drags his foot off the rubber before he throws the pitch. And he throws 100. I’ve hit against him twice and seen six pitches, all strikes. I swung at five. Didn’t make contact once. It’s hard to pick up the ball. In my last at-bat, I swung at two sliders that I think bounced in front of the plate. His strange delivery is legal, I’m told, because he doesn’t push off again after he leaves the rubber. It’s all arm. I don’t know how you learn to pitch like that or how stressful that must be on an arm.

One of the things that’s special about this Giants team — and you’ve heard me say this before — is no matter how things are going for us, we stick together. Staying connected is really important for the type of guys we have on this team. For instance — and I’m not sure when it started — but before every game I shake hands or fist-bump every player and coach on the team, including the relievers heading out to the bullpen. We have all kinds of crazy handshakes. One isn’t even a handshake. Shawon Dunston, one of our coaches, once came up to me and clapped me simultaneously on the chest and back, so that’s our thing now, with him saying, “Let’s go, Barry Larkin!’’  (his nickname for me.) You have to be a little cautious with the starting pitcher, especially if it’s Vogey. I might give him just a light fist tap, which he’ll accept with a kind of “don’t bother me’’ look. (I have no crazy handshake with Buster. He’s not into it.)

The point is we make an effort to remind each other that we’re in this together. On the road, when we have time for dinner, a bunch of us end up going out together. I’m sure we’ll do that tomorrow night for July 4th. We play here at 11 a.m. so we have plenty of time to meet for dinner. No definite plans yet but usually somebody will start inviting people and it ends up being most of the team. Maybe even Belt will come. Sometimes he goes off on his own to a movie without telling anyone. We’ll probably watch fireworks from the hotel.

Answers to your questions!
When you are on the road, who watches the kids when you and Jalynne go out? Do you have help on the road? The only time we’ll go out is if family comes with us to watch the girls. But even then, usually we don’t go out. Jalynne brings the girls so I can see them, which means I want to have dinner with them. Jalynne’s twin sister, Janelle, and her husband and baby joined us in Miami because we had an off day there on Monday. But we all ate together. Jannelle and her family are going to move in with us this month and stay for the rest of the season to help with the girls and keep Jalynne company.

Do you guys eat out every meal, or do they feed you in the clubhouse when you are on the road? They feed us in the clubhouse — and we eat out. Depends on the time of the game. Today we have a 6 p.m. game, so I went to the mall next to the hotel for lunch with Buster. Then we’ll eat something in the clubhouse after the game.

Any outstanding restaurants you would recommend? Capitol Grille is always a good spot. There’s one of those in almost every city we go to, it seems. The truth is I’m not very picky.

I saw on Strickland’s Instagram that Heston bought a bottle of Blue Label for everyone on the team after his no-hitter.  . . . Are you a big whiskey guy? Blue Label is definitely a treat for a whiskey fan. I’m not a big drinking guy in general. I’ve never tried Blue Label, but I might have to now for Heston. Cain got us watches for his perfect game in 2012. It’s nice of the pitchers to acknowledge us.

How early are players supposed to get to the park before the game? For a 7:15 game I get to the park at 2:15 so there’s time to get treatment in the training room and work out before batting practice, which is around 4:30.

Did Morse get any flack for his plaid jacket? He doesn’t really surprise us with any of his outfits, so I don’t even remember the plaid jacket.

Has Jalynne ever taught you some gymnastics moves? With some of the amazing plays you make at shortstop, I joke that, “Well, his wife was a gymnast at UCLA, he probably picked up some moves.” lol! She’s told me the names of a couple of the moves that look like something I’ve done on the field. She didn’t teach me any of them, though.

Do you, Belt, and Panik (I suppose Duffy too!) hang out at all outside of games/practice? Seems like you three are pretty close, especially with the Crawnik infield, chemistry-wise. We’re all close, and we do go out on the road when there’s time. I’m not sure it adds to our chemistry. Marco Scutaro and I had great chemistry and we never hung out off the field. I think we all know each other pretty well just by being teammates. Maybe we hang out because we’re all in the same age range, though somebody reminded me earlier this season that I’m oldest of the infielders. I’m 28. Belt’s 27, Joe’s 25 and Duffy’s 24. And Buster’s 2 months younger than me.

I was curious of how you got to the Oracle Stadium so fast after just finishing a game, get cleaned up, drive over. Good maneuvering through traffic.

How did you get so good at hitting? Did the Giants recommend any batting mechanics changes when you were coming up the farm system? Is there a Giants Way for hitting? There were definitely a lot of recommendations, which happens with anybody who struggles in the minor leagues. I’m sure even Buster got recommendations a couple of times, though nothing drastic, I’m sure. But I got plenty. I changed my batting stance a few times, for example. You just kind of have to find what works for you. You piece everything together and just make it your own because there’s no single approach that works for everybody. There’s no Giants Way. The coaches are really good at recognizing that every player is different, every swing is different.

I use video to watch pitchers before facing them. You can look at a scouting report and see he’s got a fastball, slider, change-up. But you want to see what his pitches are doing. And you want to look at what he throws in different situations. Once the game starts, you don’t think about it a whole lot. You just kind of react. But at least you have a better plan going in.

I also watch my own at-bats sometimes, though at this point there isn’t anything drastic I’m going to see. Every now and then you’ll see something small you need to adjust. Fortunately there hasn’t been a whole lot of that this year. Recently, though, I’ve been doing something that Bam-Bam found on film that I didn’t see. It’s great to have another set of eyes.

Can you confirm Baggs’ statement about Belt never wearing a protective cup?
It’s true. Not all players wear cups. Most outfielders don’t because they don’t get ground balls that are going to take a bad hop. The infielders who don’t wear them either REALLY trust their hands or they’ve never been hit there.

I’ve always wondered if the bat boys traveled with you? No. The home team provides bat boys.

Was the team surprised that there seemed to be as many Giants fans as there were Mariner fans when you played in Seattle? Yes, we were really surprised. We never get that kind of applause in batting practice — even at home! We were walking out to stretch and getting a standing ovation from half the crowd. It was crazy. We don’t go to Seattle very often so maybe all the Giants fans in the area came out.

The Good (Greyson), the Bad (Blanco’s concussion) and the Ugly (Jurassic World) — Brandon Belt

Let’s catch up on a few things now and I’ll answer questions in the next post. I’m hoping to get this out before game time. There’s no batting practice but I’ve already been out in left field taking field practice. I’m starting out there today. The baseball commissioner is coming to the clubhouse before the game for a short Q&A. So not sure I’ll get this finished.

First, Greyson. He now has six teeth with two more coming. He’s eating more real food. We went to Chik-Fil-A yesterday and we gave him a little bit of chicken. He loves chicken. He loves applesauce. I’m not sure we’ve found something he doesn’t like. We give him one of our french fries now and then. If you don’t give him something we’re eating, he gets mad at us. So we have to give him what we’re eating. I know — great parenting strategy. I don’t do it if we’re at home. I just let him get mad. But if we’re at a restaurant, I’m like, “Here take anything you want. Just be quiet.’’

I haven’t written since I hit Gregor Blanco with a ball. I still feel terrible about it. I can’t believe it even happened. Outfielders are running through all the time when we’re throwing the ball around the infield. Gregor usually looks in at me, and sometimes he’ll catch the ball on his way to the outfield. Or he’ll wait for me to throw then run through. For some reason he didn’t look in, and for some reason I threw the ball thinking he was through, and it just hit him.

Oh, I can’t tell you how terrible I felt. I had flashbacks about when it happened to me. He shook it off and played. But he told me later he felt dizzy and didn’t want to say anything because he didn’t want me to feel worse than I already did. That was nice of him, but I want HIM to be OK. We had a day off the next day and the day after that, Gregor came up to me in batting practice and asked, “How did you feel when you had your concussion?’’

Well, that’s a sign right there. You know he doesn’t feel right. I said, “You need to tell the trainer, so he can properly treat you for this.’’ A concussion is something you don’t want to mess around with. It’s your brain. You take another shot to the head after you’ve had one concussion and bad stuff can happen. Just to make sure, I went to the trainer myself. I just wanted to make sure they knew something was going on with him and he needed to be checked. So he went through the tests, and they realized he did have a mild concussion. I hated that so much. Fortunately, it didn’t take him too long to get back.

I hate to admit I did it one other time in my life. Little League practice. I was playing shortstop and taking relays from the outfield. I just turned around and chucked it home, and I hit my best friend in the head. He was halfway to home plate. He was fine — although we didn’t pay much attention to concussions back then. He had a big knot on his head. I think I’ve reached my lifetime limit on hitting others in the head and getting hit in the head myself.

Movie Reviews!

Jurassic World. I watched it after we got to Seattle last week. A group of us — Maxwell, Duffy, Romo, I think  — had all planned on going at 9. But I had something to do, so I went by myself at 10. I had asked Chad Chop (our batting practice pitcher and video replay analyst) if he wanted to go but he said, “No, it’s the same thing they did before.’’ He was right. I thought I was going to love it because I love Chris Pratt. He’s one of my favorite actors. I loved him in The Five Year Engagement. That’s a sneaky-funny movie. So Chris Pratt is still pretty funny in Jurassic World, but the overall acting wasn’t very good. Maybe it was the writing. There was a lot of cheesy writing in there. The story is they have this theme park based on their dinosaurs where fans can kind of interact, like in a petting zoo for the baby dinosaurs. The main part of the story is they made an animal with a genetic mutation. Basically if they put this hybrid animal next to a T-Rex, you can’t tell the difference. But supposedly it’s bigger and has more teeth. And of course this thing gets loose and it’s running through the park filled with 20,000 people. It’s just the same plot they’ve done before. Nothing different. Completely predictable. You knew the guy and the girl were going to make out at some point, and they did. You knew they were going to catch this animal, but that people were going to get eaten along the way. Towards the end, I thought, “Is this all that’s going to happen? I’m bored.’’ It’s a really lazy script.
Grade: D+

Spy: This was a much better movie. I really like Melissa McCarthy, except in Tammy — I walked out of that one. But everything else she’s really funny. In Spy, she’s a spy’s assistant back in the office looking at satellite video and saying “There’s people coming down this hallway, so take that hallway,’’ telling him what to do. The spy ends up dying out in the field, and she goes out and does all this spy stuff. At first I thought they were trying too hard to be funny. Then it got better as the movie went on. Jason Statham is hilarious in this movie. I didn’t even know he was funny. He always does the action movies. I was pleasantly surprised.
Grade: B+

Thanks for reading. Next post: Answering your questions.

Steph, LeBron and Talking Turkey — Brandon Crawford

I started this post yesterday and didn’t get back to it. So I’ll try to finish this morning and see if it can get posted before game time. (I don’t post them myself.) Day games after night games are kind of rushed. Always such a fast turnaround. You sleep and then you’re back on the freeway heading again to the park. BUT . . . it’s great weather today, a sell-out crowd and we’re playing baseball. No complaints.

I’m a huge Warriors fan, and Jalynne and I were lucky enough to go to the game Sunday night. Getting a hold of tickets isn’t the easiest thing, but my agent used to work with Bob Meyers, the Warriors’ GM, so that was my connection. We raced over to Oakland after our game and got there around 5. It was cool to get kind of the VIP treatment. We parked in the special access lot — pulling in right behind Floyd Mayweather. At the security entrance, he was waiting for his whole posse to get together, so he told Jalynne and me to go ahead of him. Pretty cool.

We had great seats — directly across from the Warriors bench, 20 rows up. It was fun just to be a fan — to be one of the watchers instead of a guy being watched. Curry has to be the most fun athlete I’ve ever watched. What impressed me about him is what impresses everyone about Curry — his quick ball handling, his vision on the court and then how quick his shot is — it’s unbelievable. When you don’t think he’s able to get a shot off, he not only gets it off, he makes it.

And then LeBron. I don’t know if people grasp how big he is if you’ve only seen him on TV. He’s so big and he’s so quick. I think that’s why he’s able to make things look so easy. He’s able to back you down, but if give him too much room, he can blow by you, too, because he’s that quick. At one point I looked up at the scoreboard stats and he had something like 8 assists, 20 points and 8 rebounds — he almost had a triple double at halftime! And everyone else on the team had zero assists.

We’ll be on a plane to Seattle tonight during the game. I hope we land in time to watch the second half. We’ll all have our iPads and headsets on while we’re riding the bus to the hotel. Let’s hope they clinch tonight.

OK, should we talk turkey taps? Seems to have attracted a bit of attention after our White House visit and Matt Duffy doubled over. It was from a sneak attack by Cain, who landed the punch as he passed by. Some people who saw it on TV thought it was me because I was standing next to Duffy. I’d have to have really flexible Inspector Gadget arms to reach Duffy. And the evidence is stacked against Cain. When Morse was here, Cain gave him a little reach-around on camera. I put a clip of it on Twitter. He and Belt lead the team in turkey taps. It happens a lot when there’s a big group because you can’t really tell who’s doing it. I do get Belt a lot, but he’s gotten better at blocking it, so it’s not so fun anymore. Why do we do it? I don’t know. We have a lot of characters on this team who like to keep things fun and relaxed.

Turkey tap aside, it was really an honor to go to the White House again. Not many people get to go inside and meet the president. We took a train to Philly after that. I wish we could travel more by train. We had a chartered train to Philly, which means we had a whole train to ourselves. I think it was four or five cars. One car was for players who didn’t have their wives on the trip. Another car for players with their families, then the dining car and the coaches up font.Unlike flying, as soon as everybody boards the train, we leave. On a plane, it seem like it’s an hour before the plan takes off. I’m sure it’s making sure the plane is safe, but it was a nice break to take the train. We took it from Philly to New York, too.

In New York, Jalynne and I decided to see a play on the off day, Monday, but not many theaters are open on Mondays. We went to Phantom of the Opera along with Chad Chop and his wife, and Hunter and his girlfriend. Hunter had made dinner reservations for all of us but when we found out it was a 20 minute drive there and 20 minutes back — and theater was just a five-minute walk from our hotel — the Chops and Jalynne and I decided to play it safe and just grab dinner nearby so we wouldn’t be late for the show. We ended up having pizza across from the theater. We’re not picky, so it was perfect for us. In New York, you’re supposed to get pizza anyway.

We had a hitters’ meeting before the game today. Nobody’s freaking out. It’s baseball. It’s a long season. We’ll get it going. This happened last year in June, too. Everybody wasn’t hitting all at the same time. Last year ended up all right.

Thanks for reading. Next blog: I’ll answer your questions. Keep them coming

It Always Comes Back Somehow to Hair Gel –Brandon Crawford

As we watch the weather here in Colorado this morning, I’m going to try to get a blog post written. I know it’s been a while. It was great to be back in the Bay Area even if just for a three-game series. Of course, when a series against the Dodgers turns out the way that one did, AND you start the week with an off day, you’re talking about a pretty great four days.

Jalynne flew up with just Braylyn — easier to fly with just one kid, and her parents took care of Jaydyn — and we went to the Oakland Zoo on the off day (Monday). We wanted to do something Braylyn would enjoy, and she loves seeing animals. The Oakland Zoo is perfect because it’s not too big. It’s just big enough that we were there for a couple of hours and then it was nap time. (For everybody.)

Somebody tweeted the next day about seeing me and Belt at the zoo. I was like, “Belt didn’t even tell me he was there! How did we miss him?’’ Then I figured it out: I had tweeted out a photo of Braylyn, Jalynne and me — with giraffes in the background.

Now we’re back on the road. I got a great surprise on the last road trip. We flew into Houston, and when I opened the door to my hotel room, there was Jalynne waiting for me. Her parents were taking care of the girls in LA. She spent two days with me in Houston before we went on to Cincinnati.

I’ve said this before, and almost every player will tell you the same thing, one of the toughest things about being a professional baseball is being away from your family. So Jalynne really brightened the whole road trip by surprising me.

It’s been great to see us turn the season around the way we have. I definitely feel good at the plate. This is probably the most consistent stretch I think I’ve had in my big league career — overall, not just offensively. I’ve had stretches where I’ve hit really well, such as April 2013 and a few other month-long stretches. So it’s hard to say if this is the best I’ve ever hit. But I do feel good at the plate.

Now it’s a matter of continuing to stay consistent throughout the whole season, just for one month at a time. The way to do it? One game at a time. It’s a cliche, but really it is as simple and as difficult as that. It’s a day to day game. You can feel great one day and then feel like you can’t hit anything the next. That’s just the way that game is.

It happened recently to me. When we were playing the Padres here, we were facing Cashner, who throws in the mid 90s with good off-speed stuff. For some reason, I just felt locked in against him. The next night we faced Kennedy, who I’ve faced a bunch of times, and for some reason I could not play off any of his stuff in the dirt, and I was just mis-hitting his fast ball. That was just one game to the next.

But unlike when I was younger, I don’t worry about how I hit the night before, or how I hit the past week. I just think about, What I can do tonight? If you’re on a good roll, you can start thinking, Oh, I don’t need to work on anything. But this game will humble you if you take that approach. You can never take anything for granted.

One of you asked if I have a preference of where I hit in the lineup. I think second is the best spot to hit. Here’s why. If you come up with a runner on base, it’s usually the lead-off guy — who’s going to have some speed. So the pitcher is worried about him, which means he might leave an off-speed pitch up, or throw more fastballs in order to give the catcher a better shot at nailing the runner if he steals. Off-speed pitches can end up in the dirt, and they’re slower getting to the plate. In the two slot, you also get pitched to more because the three-four-five hitters are hitting behind you.

I hit second a lot in the minor leagues, and I liked it. But we have a strong No. 2 in Joe Panik. At this point, I don’t really care where I hit. I just try to have a good at-bat.

Another reader asked if I had fun shooting the TV commercial with Ahmed Fareed and Dave Feldman. I really did. I’m not a big commercial person or someone who tries to get in front of the camera and do any acting. But that was probably the most fun I’ve had doing a commercial.

The ad guys had an idea of what they wanted do, but we could kind of ad lib however we wanted. Ahmed and Dave are really funny guys. In one commercial, which I don’t think has aired, they’re working on a handshake like the players have with each other. We did three or four takes, and each time they had a different handshake. I can’t remember if it was Dave or Ahmed, but he ended one handshake by tapping the other guy on the nose. I was supposed to be serious and say something like, “Oh, that’s terrible.’’ But I couldn’t get it out because I was laughing so hard.

We shot the hair gel ad last. I’m telling Ahmed that he needs more gel in his hair. We could do just one take on that one because once the gel’s in his hair, you can’t take it out and do another take. It was hard to to keep a straight face on that one, but I knew I had to.

Someone else asked if my production at the plate has earned me new respect in the clubhouse. I hope not. I hope my teammates have always had a lot of respect for me. We’re getting word we’re starting soon. This is going to be a long day! Thanks for reading!

The Answer Man — Brandon Belt

I’m still getting jabbed about my around-the-horn throw that went between Crawford and Panik and sailed into left field in Cincinnati. They both just stood there. Watched it go by. Making me look like an idiot. I have to catch every ball they throw, no matter where it is. And they can’t move an inch or two? It makes me crazy that when MLB network shows one of our double plays, they cut it off right before I catch it. I don’t know why first-basemen get no credit. Not everybody can do this job.

Actually pretty much anybody can do this job. OK, so that’s probably why.

I returned from the road trip Sunday night to an empty house. I hate it. It’s different when you’re by yourself in a hotel room. But to go home to your house and it’s completely empty, man, that’s brutal. I’ve been sleeping all day basically. On Monday, our off day, Haylee called and said, “You didn’t just get up, did you?’’ I’m not going to tell you what time it was, but I told her there was nothing to do, so why not stay in bed? It really is like a part of you is gone when your wife and kid aren’t there. We played in Houston, near our hometown, so Haylee just stayed there. We have just a three-game homestand before going back out on the road, so it wasn’t worth traveling all the way here. I’ll see her and Greyson next Wednesday. I’ll be so happy. If Greyson’s asleep, I’m waking him up, for sure.

I try to Facetime with him when I’m away, but it’s hard because he tries to eat the phone. He says da-da-da-da-. That’s pretty much the extent of his end of the conversation. But he always smiles when he sees me, so I’m pretty happy about that.

A few of you asked for photos, so here they are.

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OK, I’m answering questions today:

What do you and the base runners talk about at first base? In Cincinnati, I asked their shortstop Zack Cozart what happened between last year and this year at the plate. He really struggled last year, and this year he’s hitting almost .300. He said pretty much what I always say: so much of performance at this level comes down to confidence. And the more experienced you get, the more confidence you get. That’s why I was able to stay confident during my slump. I’d been through it before, and I knew it would turn around. A lot of guys at first base this year said, “Congrats on the World Series.’’ I talked to Morse a lot when he was here. He was telling me how awesome it was to be back here and how much he enjoyed his time with the Giants.

Now that Vogey shaved his beard, are you next? No. I feel manlier with the beard. It gives me a better jaw line. So it’s staying.

Losing the ball in the lights on a toss from Casilla? That’s the first time it ever happened on a throw from a pitcher. I think he was testing me. He knew I could catch an easy ball thrown over there, so let’s see what ball I CAN’T catch. So he threw into the lights. Nah, I just think he was trying to be careful in his throw and it just happened to go a little high into the lights. I kind of knew the direction and just threw my glove out there. You can’t catch what you can’t see.

Who do you pal around with? Usually my family’s with me, so we might go to eat with Bumgarner and his wife, Ali. We don’t get a whole lot of time with our families so when they’re with us, that’s who we’re with.

If we’re on the road and the wives aren’t with us, I might go to the movies with Javy and Kontos. We’re the movie guys. I didn’t go to the movies on this road trip, but I watched one on the plane home and went to the theater on the off day (Monday) in Walnut Creek. My reviews are at the end of the blog.

How do you keep pressures on the field from affecting your family life? I’d say at some point everybody goes through a time when something that happens at work affects your home life. But you just try your hardest not to let it. When i go home and see the smile on my kid’s face, and see my wife again, it kind of just makes everything else go away for a while. I’m not going to lie, there are times when I might have snapped at Haylee because of something that happened here at the ballpark. But overall I think I do a pretty good job of separating. I love playing baseball. I love it as much as anything in the world. I just don’t love it more than my family. So I try to keep that in perspective and realize there’s a separation.

What did you do for your birthday? It fell on an off-day, so I did a signing in San Jose for about an hour, then we all hung out with my host mom. It was just a relaxing day. Exactly what I wanted.

Taste in music? I like everything. But I’d have to say my favorite band is Chevelle.

Most embarrassing thing you’ve done? I don’t embarrass easy. Things that might be embarrassing to someone else probably isn’t going to bother me.

Do you hear conversations between the runner and first base coach? I certainly try!

Sequence of getting your rhythm back at the plate? Once you get your mechanics back, power follows. When you’re in a slump, you go back to basics: just getting your bat on the ball. Just getting hits. You start hitting line drives. Then the line drives start to carry a little bit farther and little bit farther. You start getting extra-base hits, and those extra-base hits start turning into home runs. The last past two or three weeks, that’s exactly what happened to me.

Is there a sign when you know you have it all going? When I’m hitting line drives to all parts of the field.

Favorite city to play in? I like St. Louis. I like the ball park. Great atmosphere. I also like playing back home in Texas. That’s always good.

Favorite baseball movie? I loved, when it first came out, The Rookie. That’s right up there with Sandlot and Bull Durham.

Favorite cultural night? I’m still waiting for Texas night.

Movie reviews:

Whiplash: It’s about this kid who’s a drummer. You can just tell he wants to be the greatest drummer that ever lived. He just has this drive that’s beyond comparison. The story kind of relates to anything in life you’re passionate about. I can relate it to baseball. If you want to be the best, you have to have that drive and just beat yourself up to get there. That’s what he did. There are times in the movie when he’s drumming so much, his hands are bleeding all over the drum set. I’m not saying that’s what has to happen to be the best, but you have be willing to go through hell. You find with a lot of guys in the big leagues. The teacher in that movie is ruthless, but he’s the kind of guy you want because he demands the best. I never had a coach as ruthless as that, but I had a bunch of coaches who wanted the best of out me like that teacher did with his students. I loved the end of the movie. The kid was just going crazy on the drums, putting in one of the best solo drum performances ever. So even though the teacher tried to screw him over, I think the kid couldn’t help but see where it got him.
 Grade: A+. I’d watch it again.

Ex Machina: Basically it’s about artificial intelligence. This guy gets chosen to go to this research facility where they’re testing these robots. He wants to see if these robots can pass some kind of test where the human interacting with the machine forgets that that it’s a machine. It’s kind of a thriller-type movie with all these twists. There were moments when I thought, “If it ends this way, I’m not going to be happy.’’ But it had a good ending.
 Grade: B+/A- I saw it in Walnut Creek on the off day. I saw by myself, which is the way i like it. Some people get weirded out going places by themselves, but i love it. I’m around people all day, so it’s nice to go by yourself and just enjoy the movie.

Thanks for reading. I might have gone on a little too long today. Sorry!

Keep the questions coming!

Always Making Adjustments — Brandon Crawford

Wish we could have kept the win streak going so Willie Mays could have had a happier birthday. But with 10 wins in the last 14 games, we’re climbing out of the hole we dug for ourselves last month.

I didn’t get a hit today, but with my 3-for-3 yesterday my batting average is higher right now than my career average, and somehow I’m leading the team in home runs and RBIs. I’m pretty confident I will not be holding that spot when the season’s over. I know my strength is defense, but I always expect to contribute at the plate, too. I know it’s in me to hit  higher than .250.

So, like every hitter in here, I’m always trying to make myself better. So last month, when — despite the home runs — I found myself swinging and missing more than usual, I needed to figure out why. I realized I was getting a lot more off-speed pitches than usual. It started with that first series on the road against the Padres. I had seen mostly fastballs in our season-opening series against Arizona. So when the Padres went with mostly off-speed stuff, I wasn’t really prepared. Then other teams started doing it, too.

Usually, about 60 percent of the pitches I’d see would be fastballs. I knew I wasn’t seeing that many, so I went and looked it up. Sure enough, fewer than 50 percent of the pitches were fastballs.

So I had to adjust. I had to get better at handling off-speed pitches. It’s tough to practice that, though, because in almost every batting practice you’re seeing only fastballs. You can program the pitching machine in the batting cage to throw whatever you want, but I don’t find it really useful. You know the pitch is coming and you can just sit on it. You get into that rhythm, and it’s not realistic. Although . . . having said that, I am sitting on the change-up or curveball more. And if I get a fastball, I can still try to take it.

Chad Chop has helped me get better. He’s one of our batting practice pitchers. He joined the Giants last year, and he’s little younger and stronger than the other ones we have. So I’ve gotten him to mix the pitches up to me. He’ll toss in a change-up or curve among the fastballs. And he’s a lefty. It’s probably why I’m hitting left-handed pitchers better.

Glad to see my fellow Brandon get his rhythm back, as he talked about in his blog post this week. He went 2-for-3 today, crushing a double and triple to the wall, and is 6-for-13 with four doubles and one triple in his last four games. He knows I carried Team Brandon (our hitting group) last month. I told him he had to step up in May. I’m happy I could give him the motivation he needed.

Thanks for coming out to all the games and sticking with us through a rough month. It’s a long season, and I think sometimes people — even in baseball — lose sight of that.

And thanks for reading!

All About Rhythm — Brandon Belt

Sorry I haven’t blogged much. When the team’s struggling, and you’re not helping to score any runs, there’s not much to say. You don’t want to sound all cheerful and happy because it wouldn’t be real. But you don’t want to make too much of a dry spell, either, because you know it’s going to pass.

Having said that, few things are worse for a hitter than opening the season and falling almost immediately into a slump. You haven’t built up any numbers yet. There’s no cushion in your batting average to absorb the dip in production. All you see is the dip. So everything just looks brutal. If you slump in the middle of the season, it doesn’t hit your average as hard.

For me, like most players, hitting is all about rhythm. When I get into a good rhythm, I can stay on a good streak for a long while. I was on a great streak coming out of spring training. The groin injury the first week of the season put me on the sidelines for a few days. You never think you’re going to be affected by an interruption like that, but hitting is such a complex thing, physically and mentally. One thing is a little bit off, and suddenly you’re struggling.

But it’s part of baseball. It happens. You know you’ll get out of it. But it’s never as quick as you want. I’m happy to be swinging the bat well again. I’m seeing the ball. I feel good out there. I know if I keep hitting the ball hard enough, good things will happen.

What matters most is that, as a team, we’re turning things around. We’re winning again and climbing up the standings, which all of us knew would happen. It’s in our DNA. And soon we’ll be getting some big guys back — Hunter, Cain, Peavy — and that will be a huge lift.

We have our batting groups again this year, and again we have Team Brandon. There are three groups, and I’m the captain of one of them. So in the draft I’m pretty much obligated to pick Crawford first. I haven’t looked at the standings for April yet, but I know he helped us a lot with his home runs. I’ll keep you posted.

I’m sorry I have no movie reviews. With Greyson, who is now eight months and desperate to start walking already, I’m not going out a lot. I want to spend every minute I can with him. I wanted to go to the movies in Colorado and just never did. I bought I Love You, Man in the hotel. I’ve seen it a hundred times and still think it’s hilarious. But I fell asleep and didn’t finish it. The life of a new Dad, I guess. Haylee and Greyson will go to Houston with me, and Haylee will head to Lufkin for a little while. She will be very happy to get some help from the grandparents.

Thanks for reading. And ask some questions so I have something to write about!

Guest Blogging — Brandon Hicks!

Just like old times. Guest blogging again.

It’s great to be back with all the guys. There’s still sort a Brandon row in the clubhouse — we’re within a couple lockers of each other but not adjoining like in SF. (I am happy to report we have not revived the Brandon handshake. It was not the greatest handshake, as the other Brandons will tell you. In fact, it kind of gives you an uncomfortable feeling when you do it.)

To refresh your memory, I was sent to Triple A in mid-July. I watched the World Series from my home in Galveston, Texas, with my girlfriend and a buddy of mine. We parked ourselves in front of the TV every evening.

I admit it was a little difficult at times. I wished I could have been there and been a part of it. But of course you’re rooting for the guys you battled with earlier in the year. What stood out for me about the team was their fight — their ability to never give up or give in. They had their backs against the wall a lot of times and kept on pushing. That’s just the type of guys that are in there.

I’m really proud to have contributed during the first half of a championship season. There’s a lot of satisfaction in that. Plus, I’ll get a ring, which is every ballplayer’s dream.

When I arrived at camp a couple weeks ago, a few guys did a double take. They didn’t really recognize me. I’ve got longish hair now. I haven’t cut it since last June. Not sure why. I’ve never really had it long, so I thought, “Why not do it now?’’ It kind of got a little curly on me, though.

I’m not comparing myself to Pagan. He’s probably got the best hair on the team. But I might be in Crawford territory. He gave me some of his product the other day to use. It turned out all right. Gave it that wet look he likes before the game.

Here’s a photo of the two of us. See if you can guess which Brandon is which. (Hint: I bulked up.)IMG_1842
Hope to see you here in Arizona. And I really hope to see you in San Francisco.

 

 

 

 

Here’s our better side . . .

IMG_1843

Nori, Casey and a Tap on the Shoulder-Brandon Crawford

Games haven’t started but there have been 150, maybe 200, people at Scottsdale Stadium just to watch practice. I guess coming off a World Series championship, we should have expected good crowds, but you’re still surprised to get that kind of support. I heard when Madison walked off the mound yesterday after pitching BP, he got a big round of applause. (I wasn’t in that hitting group, so I didn’t have to face him.)

Nori Aoki is in my group, so I’m starting to get to know him a little. His English isn’t very good, though it’s much better than my Japanese. He clearly has a good sense of humor. We’ve been hitting him fourth in the group because we tell him he has the big power. He laughs and says, “Big guy! Big power!’’

I’ve been around new third-baseman Casey McGehee since before camp officially started. We took grounders on the back practice field together. There’s not much a shortstop and third-baseman need to do as far as adjusting to each other. I just need to get a read on what his range is on balls to his left. After just a few ground balls over there, I’ll be able to read it pretty well.

Communication between a shortstop and third-baseman isn’t as involved as between a shortstop and second-baseman. Casey already has asked if I’d give him a head’s up on breaking balls. (From my position, I can see what pitch the catcher is calling, and the third-baseman can’t.) Pablo wanted a head’s up, also, on breaking balls. I alert them by just making a little noise. I don’t know exactly how it affects their positioning, but maybe they’re a little more ready down the line.

People ask if we come into spring training focused on improving any particular facet of our game. I really don’t. The only thing I want to improve, overall throughout the season, is consistency. I’ve had a lot of hot streaks and cold streaks in my career, which happens to everybody in baseball. So it’s a matter of keeping the cold streaks as short as possible.

So how do I do that? That’s the big question, right? I have to recognize more quickly when there’s something I need to change. I went through two bad months last season — July and August — before I realized I my hands were all over the place. I don’t know if I was getting tired or trying to do too much, but I would kind of lose track of where I was holding them from at-bat to at-bat. They’d get too high. Too far back. And I’d get trapped. I wasn’t as direct to the ball.

So in September, I began again to do that little tap on my shoulder, which I did throughout 2013. It reminds me where my hands need to be — lower and closer to my body. And I had a great September.

Everything’s good with the girls. Jaydyn’s walking (she’s almost 1). And Braylyn’s crazy, running around all over the place (she’s 2). She goes to the gym with Jalynne and does some toddler gymnastics. But we think she’s going to be too tall for gymnastics, though. She’s in the 80th percentile of height and weight for her age, so she’s projected to be around 5-feet-8 or -9.

Check in tomorrow or the next day for a special guest blog from the third Brandon. He has a new look, inspired by someone he admires and clearly wants desperately to emulate . . .

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