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.
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.
It’s been great to be in contact with a lot of you through Twitter (@bcraw35). Sorry to have disappeared from the blogosphere. But I’ve been busy relaxing. It’s taken up most of my time. It’s one of my favorite things, and I’m good at it.
I’m exaggerating but not much.
Today, actually, I visited Casa Colina, a rehabilitation hospital in Pomona. It’s where Jalynne’s father, John, recovered from the traumatic brain injury he suffered in Australia during the 2000 Olympics, where Jalynne’s sister Jamie was competing on the U.S. gymnastics team. A bus ran a red light and hit the taxi John and his oldest daughter Jennifer were riding in. She had minor injuries, but he suffered a fractured skull, bruised brain, two collapsed lungs, fractured left wrist, bruised vertebra and trachea injury. He was in a coma for a week. It was five weeks before he was stable enough to leave the hospital in Sydney. Then he put in18 long months of rehab at Casa Colina.
I visited Casa Colina last season during the All-Star break and, like then, I came away today in awe of the courage and perseverance of people dealing with tragedy. I met men today who had been injured in Afghanistan. One had been shot in head. I met a teenaged-looking kid in a wheelchair who can’t talk and can barely move his hands. Yet he managed to give me a thumb’s-up for the World Series. I was glad Jalynne’s father came with us. He’s a great example of the power of the human mind and spirit to heal. The brain injury prevents him from driving or working, but otherwise you’d never know what he went through.
I love Jalynne’s parents like my own. We’re living with them in Southern California for the time being. They had an extra room where they’re helping us set up the nursery for the baby, who’s due in a little over a week. We have the crib, changing table, playpen. Our plan is to spend Christmas Eve down here then drive up Christmas day to spend time with my family in Pleasanton. We’ll probably stay five or six days there. In mid-January, I’ll go to Arizona for conditioning camp. Then there’s FanFest in early February. Then spring training. Then Opening Day!
I’m learning that when you keep playing through the last game of the World Series, the off-season can go by pretty quick. So that’s why I’m relaxing really hard, trying to cram as much in as possible between movies and miniature golf. And now I’m working out, too. There’s no getting around the fact I’m in a physical business. I took two weeks off after the parade then got back into the gym.
The highlight of the off-season so far was the getaway to Ojai Sunday through Tuesday of this week. Jalynne and I stayed in a resort there to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. Major relaxing.
I was thinking about what an amazing 12 months it’s been. I married my best friend. Became the starting shortstop on the team I rooted for as a child. Won the World Series. Rode in a ticker-tape parade through my home city (with my parents and three sisters in the trolley in front of Jalynne and me). And I’m about to become a father.
Not sure I want 2012 to end.
Except that 2013 looks like it will be a pretty good one, too. We’ll have the baby. Almost all of my Giants’ teammates will be back. And I get to play in the best ballpark in the world with the best fans. Life is good.
Yes, finally a new post! Sorry for not writing anything for so long. A lot going on. Today, for example, I’ll be Grand Marshall at the annual Christmas Parade in Lufkin. I imagine there might not be as many people as the World Series parade in San Francisco. Players from the 2010 World Series had told me what the parade was like and I had seen photos. But nothing prepares you for the real thing.
It’s so big and overwhelming that you can’t wrap your head around it. I still can’t describe it to people here at home. They didn’t get to see the parade and Civic Plaza celebration on TV like people back in the Bay Area, so they have no idea how massive it was – the people hanging on light posts, sitting on the roofs of bus shelters, leaning out of office windows. Confetti everywhere. I couldn’t believe how many Giraffe hats and Giraffe signs we saw. One of my favorite sightings was a pack of people with Hunter Pence’s face on sticks with those huge bug eyes. Hilarious.
Haylee and I got a little extra attention because the driver of our convertible was 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. When I first saw him, I thought, “What in the world is going on?’’ I don’t know how I got him. I told him I was a Cowboys fan. I probably shouldn’t have done that.
SFG Productions, the Giants’ in-house production team, had me wearing a tiny camera on my chest to record the whole day. On the bus from AT&T to the start of the parade, I tried to get Bumgarner to say something incriminating but he never did.
The World Series championship has really changed my life here in Texas. Last year during the off-season, people had kind of heard of me. But because they almost never saw the Giants on TV, they didn’t really know much about what I did. I could go anywhere without anyone looking twice. This year, though, with the playoffs and World Series on national television, suddenly everywhere I go people come up and talk to me, which I really enjoy. They ask if winning the World Series was a dream come true. Yes, I tell them, it was. Then they want to see the ring. Where’s the ring? I tell them I’ll get it the first or second game of the season. I’m being asked to speak at churches and civic groups. I’m donating signed bats and balls to different charities. My wife’s cousin wants me to go to Dairy Queen with Buster Posey and get in a commercial for their double-meat hamburger called the “BeltBuster.’’ Not sure the BeltBuster is included in the Giants’ training and nutrition guide.
Haylee and I got back to Texas on the Friday after the parade. The following Monday, the Hudson school district held a huge celebration in the elementary school gym with students from first grade to 12th. Then at night, they opened it up to the entire community of Hudson, about 3,000 people. Pretty much everybody. I couldn’t believe. I saw people I hadn’t seen in years. It gave me a chance to thank everyone for supporting me through some tough times this season. They truly helped me more than they could ever know.
Then two days later there was another celebration at the Expo Center in Lufkin. And today the parade.
Next weekend Haylee and I and two friends are going to Las Vegas to attend the American Country Awards, which is airing December 10 on Fox. I met someone from Fox during the postseason and she invited us to the show. We’re huge country music fans – and we’ve never been to Vegas. So we’re making a long weekend out of it.
Another thing Haylee and I are doing is building a house in Hudson. Actually, my Dad is building it, so we’re saving money. We hope to move in by the end of next season. Now that I’m getting a bonus from the World Series, I’m adding a second story to the garage for my Man Cave with a pool table, a couple TVs for football and a big couch. And we’re probably going to put in an outdoor kitchen for barbecuing. And I want a big shower in the master bedroom. Haylee’s in charge of every other decision.
I’m not good at keeping in touch with my teammates, but there’s been a lot of group texting between Haylee, Ali Bumgarner, Windy Pagan and Nicole Vogelsong, so I’m not completely out of the loop.
The big news really is that 1.) I’m finally on Twitter (@bbelt9). I love it. I go on Twitter binges. You might regret ever following me. And 2.) I got the karaoke machine I wanted. I told my parents that’s what I wanted for Christmas but could they get it for me now? They got me one, and now we’re going to jam out all weekend. My favorite karaoke song is Bohemian Rhapsody. Second favorite is Friends in Low Places. Haylee loves karaoke, too, so we do duets sometimes. The best karaoke duo is Angel and Windy Pagan. They sang at a restaurant in San Diego this season and killed. All the girls were going crazy for Angel.
As you can tell, I’m having a great time. But you might be happy to know that I haven’t forgotten about baseball. I started my off-season training yesterday. We follow a program from our conditioning coach. Workout #1 was legs. Today I can hardly walk.
OK, I think I’ve brought you up to date. Not sure I’ll blog too much in the off-season. Twitter is easier! But I’ll be back at FanFest in February and spring training. Already looking forward to both!
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!
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.
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.
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!’’
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!
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.