With kids going back to school, someone suggested Belt, Blanco and I answer the same three questions in our blogs this week.
- What’s the best advice you ever got?
- What do you wish you knew back in high school that you know now?
- If you had never become a pro baseball player, how do you think playing sports as a kid would have helped you in life anyway?
The best advice:
I could say “work hard’’ and “stay in school,’’ but I’m going to be more specific to sports. A coach – I’m sorry I don’t remember which one – told me this when I started high school: “While you’re sitting at home and not working out, there are 10 other guys at your position outworking you.’’ I still think about that, especially in the off-season when maybe I wake up one morning and really don’t feel like working out. I say to myself, “There are 29 other shortstops working out and probably trying to take your job.’’
Talent alone doesn’t get you far in sports. At each level, you realize there are players who are just as good as you or better. Every player in college was the best player on his high school team. Every player in the minor leagues was the best player on his college team. Every player in the Majors was the best player on his minor league team. So how do you not only keep up but get an edge? By outworking everyone else. Taking more grounders, taking more swings, hitting the weights in the gym.
This relates to Question Number 3 about how playing sports as a kid teaches you important lessons that help in all parts of your life. I think working harder than everyone else gives you an edge in whatever you do. Everybody’s competing to move up the ladder. The world is a competitive place. Sports helped me learn HOW to go about being competitive and not just rely on my natural competitiveness. (I had three younger sisters, so I was always competing – for the bathroom more than anything.)
From playing sports I also learned how to stay on an even keel, which is important in everything from raising kids to driving in traffic. That’s a strong part of my game – the ability to wipe off whatever bad thing has happened and go out there the next day. Patience is a part of that, too (which I also learned from having three younger sisters.) Let’s say I go 0-for-20. You have to keep working hard and be patient because you know you’re eventually going to get a hit. You can’t panic. Patience also is important in waiting for your career to move forward. Things are going to happen on your time line.
For example, in 2011, I broke my finger in spring training. I was supposed to go to Triple A but ended up having to stay in Arizona 6 weeks to heal then went to Single A San Jose to rehab. I thought I’d go quickly up to Triple A. But for two and a half weeks, I played in Single A with no word about Triple A. I stayed patient, and one day I got a call from Bobby Evans asking how quickly I could get to Fresno (Triple A). Finally! We were playing in Bakersfield, so it would not be an easy thing to get to Fresno. “Never mind,’’ Bobby said. “We’re flying you out of Bakersfield tomorrow. You’re coming to San Francisco.’’
It was my Major League call-up. You never know what’s in store. One of the best stories along these lines is about Daniel Nava, who started in left field against us Monday night for the Red Sox.
Nava played in high school but didn’t make the baseball team at Santa Clara as a walk-on. So he was the team’s equipment manager for two years. Then he had to leave Santa Clara because he couldn’t afford the tuition and went to San Mateo Junior College. He made the team there and became a JC All-American. Then he was invited back to Santa Clara on a full baseball scholarship for his senior year. He didn’t get drafted so he played for the Chico Outlaws, an independent league team, where he was discovered by a Red Sox scout. The Sox bought Nava’s rights from the Outlaws for exactly $1 (with $1499 extra if Nava was still with the Sox after spring training). He made his Major League debut in 2010, hitting a grand slam on the very first pitch he saw. (He and I are among the six Major League players to hit a grand slam our first time at bat.)
I love his story because it shows that just because success doesn’t come immediately, it can still come – and sometimes in a really big way.
So what do I wish I knew then that I know now?
In baseball, it would be my hitting approach. I’d go up to the plate and just see the ball and hit it. Obviously, I’m smarter now in thinking about what a pitcher is trying to do.
But outside of baseball, I wish I hadn’t worried so much about what people thought of me, especially in seventh grade. I was such an awkward kid – not like Belt awkward, not that bad – but pretty bad. I had acne and took this medication that I guess dried out my skin so bad that my eyebrow hair started to fall out. So not only did I have acne but now my eyebrows were all weird. I look at pictures and can laugh now. But back then I didn’t want to look people in the face or even talk to anyone. I wish I knew then that the acne was going to go away and that my eyebrows were going to grow back. I wish I knew that it doesn’t really matter what other people think. You are who you are. If other people don’t like you because of it, they were never going to be real friends.
I’m kind of re-learning that lesson now. Since I was called up to the Majors, I’m hearing from all kinds of people who want to be my friend. The other day I got a call from this person I haven’t talked to since high school, now all of sudden he wants to hang out. I don’t think so.
Hope at least some of this might be useful to someone out there!
See you at the park.
With kids going back to school this month, Crawford, Blanco and I – your Giants bloggers –are answering three questions this week:
1. What’s the best advice you ever got?
2. What do you wish you knew back in high school that you know now?
3. If you had never become a pro baseball player, how do you think playing sports as a kid would have helped you in life anyway?
OK, Number 1.
One thing my dad used to tell me all the time, “If you’re going to do something, do it right the first time.’’ Don’t jack around or drag it out, whether it was about cleaning the garage or doing schoolwork or playing baseball. He also drilled into me that if you’re going to make a commitment to something you’re going to finish it. You do it 100 percent. So for instance, when I finally made the decision to make those mechanical adjustments up at the plate, I wasn’t going to do it a couple times and if it didn’t work, just give up on it. I’m going to do it ‘til I get it. That really does help when you get into a competitive world. You just have to stick with stuff.
I’ll answer Number 3 next because it’s related to Number 1.
My Dad was a football coach, so I was getting lessons about sports both at home and on the field. One lesson was: Life’s not fair. It’s not going to go your way all the time. Sports is great because it presents you with a ton of problems that you have to face and have to figure out how to overcome.That can help anyone in any walk of life because everybody is going to have problems. You just have to suck it up and figure out a way to get past it. And along the way you’ll realize you’re stronger than you thought. If every time you’re presented with a problem and you shrivel up and go hide, how are you ever supposed to know what you’re capable of doing? The other thing you learn in sports is you can’t go around blaming everyone else for your own problems. The quicker you can look in the mirror the faster you’re going to improve yourself. I’m still working on this myself, to be honest. I want to find somebody to blame sometimes. But eventually I look at myself and figure it out.
Now Number 2.
I was really nervous about going into college and into the real world. I had it in my mind that there would be so much work and so much stuff I might not be able to do. That scared me to death. I wish I knew that what seems scary now is going to be your normal later on. You’re going to learn how to do what you need to do and it will just become second nature.
If I had known that, I probably would have gone to a four-year university right out of high school instead of going to junior college first. I found out the main thing about college is going to class. If you go to class and just do the work, you’re going to be fine. It’s the uncertainty that scares people.
Now on to baseball.
I had forgotten what it’s like to play in the kind of humidity we had in Florida. That’s what I grew up with, but I got to tell you it’s good to be back home in San Francisco. I’m acclimatized to this weather now. That first game in Miami was four hours, and that takes a toll on your body. Even though the field is indoors, you can’t get away from the humidity. We have one more trip to the East Coast, so I’ll make sure I get more rest and stay off my feet as much as I can. And hydrate. At the end of the season, when your body is tiring out anyway, you really have to be conscious about taking care of yourself so you can finish the season strong.
Now to the movie reviews. I got two for you.
Elysium: It was a good movie as far as the action and visual effects. Matt Damon is pretty good, and the story itself is pretty good. In the future they’ve built this thing that’s a perfect sanctuary. All the rich people live there and there’s no cancer or crime or anything. Everybody else is left on earth to fend for themselves and everybody’s poor and there’s lots of crime. It’s about the haves and have-nots, but it goes a little bit overboard. The rich people have no sympathy, no compassion at all to anybody else. I think it’s trying to be a little too political. Maybe it’s not good to admit this, but I just want to be entertained when I go to the movies. If I want politics I’ll watch the news.
We’re the Millers: It stars Jennifer Anniston and Jason Sudeikis. He’s a small-time pot dealer and his boss wants him to pick up a huge shipment of weed and bring it back to the United States. The story is about his journey down there. He pays this fake family to go with him because he figures nobody’s going to think this All-American family is bringing weed back into the States. So they put on this act the whole time. He has a fake daughter who’s like a runaway street kid. Jennifer is the fake wife. And the fake son is a sweet kid who’s a real goody-goody. It’s funny to watch the stuff they encounter and the trouble they get into.
Three stars. (Haley would give it three, too.)
Thanks for reading and for supporting the Giants!
You might not be surprised to learn that Sunday’s game wasn’t the first time I’ve been hit in the head by a pitch. OK, the 90-something-mph pitch hit the brim of my hat Sunday, but it freaked me out for a second because I remember that day in college when a pitch hit me smack on my ear. When I watched pthe TV replay later, I threw off my helmet with both hands and fell to the ground. The next thing I knew I was waking up with the trainers around me. I was out maybe a few seconds.
I had a concussion and a cut ear that required stitches. When I left the hospital, I had to look down at my feet to watch myself walk because I thought I was going to fall over. And I played the next day with a numbing agent on my ear so it wouldn’t hurt when my helmet rubbed against it. It was very dumb to play, but I guess there were no rules about concussions.
That same year I was practicing my bunts with a pitching machine throwing 90. The balls were terrible so they moved all over the place. The ball cut in on me, glanced off the bat and hit me square in the eye. No bone or anything. Just the eyeball. I had a blood clot in my pupil and had to sleep upright for a week so the blood would drain out of my eye.
I feel lucky to have escaped Sunday’s near-hit with just a scare.
It seems good things are happening for me at the plate overall lately. It began in Philly. Bochy sat me for the series (except for one PH appearance) so I could work on some things. For a long time, the Giants hitting coaches here have suggested I move back in the batter’s box so I’d have more time to see and react to the pitch. And to hold the bat in my fingers rather than in my palms. The lighter grip loosens your whole body. But I was stubborn. I’d been successful my whole life with what I’d always done. Then Buster talked to me about it. Several players did, including one from another team. He said, “Hey I was in the same position you were. I changed where I stood in the box and held the bat with my fingers and it made all the difference in the world.’’ And he said it only took a couple days to figure it out. I thought, “OK, I have a couple days.’’
I saw results immediately.
When Bochy put me back in the lineup Friday night in Tampa, I had three hits, one short of the cycle. I saw the ball better, didn’t feel like I was rushing and I wasn’t getting in my own way anymore. I felt I was really tapping into my ability, like I did in spring training. I could just do what I feel I was born to do. What I can do. Even Sunday when I didn’t have a great game, I still saw the ball better and got on base twice. Obviously there’s going to be a little bit of an adjustment period to get consistent, but I’m committed 100 percent to making it work. If I can be consistent, I can be a huge contributor to this team for years to come.
Now for the movie reviews.
“The Conjuring’’: This is a good horror film that’s supposedly based on a true story from the 1960’s or ‘70s, I can’t remember. This family moves into a house that’s demon-possessed. They hire some people who study demonology to come in and try to fix the situation. Sometimes horror films are cheesy and dumb and basically stupid. But this one was done right. It’s genuinely scary — none of those stupid creatures where their hands are turned backward. In “The Conjuring,’’ you’re thinking, “That could be real. I don’t want to sleep by myself tonight.’’ It stars the same guy who’s in all these same kind of movies.. He’s in “Insidious.’’ You know who he is. And Vera Farmiga, the one in “The Departed,’’ is really good in this.
Belt Rating: Three stars.
I had to trick Haley to go see it with me in Philadelphia. She won’t see a scary movie. I told her we were going to go see “Pacific Rim.’’ When we got to the theater and I bought “The Conjuring’’ tickets, she was so mad at me. Soooo mad. Beyond mad. But I had to lie to her or she wouldn’t go with me. She won’t say she liked it, but I think she did. She covered her eyes a lot, but so did I. You’re just waiting for something to leap out.
I think a lot of athletes like horror movies. I have a theory that as athletes we get an adrenaline rush from playing on the field and when you’re not on the field, you have to find another way to get it. Scary movies do it. Roller coasters do it. I draw the line at sky diving and bungee jumping. Never going to happen. I’m scared of heights. Out-of-my-mind scared. I can’t look out the window of a plane. I just can’t stand.
“R.I.P.D.’’: It stars Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges, who plays kind of the same character he did in “True Grit.’’ He’s hilarious. It’s a weird kind of “Men in Black’’movie. It got terrible ratings, but I thought it was a feel-good movie.Yes, it has all this alien, sci-fi crap, but it’s got Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges, both good actors in my opinion. It probably didn’t have enough artistic value for the critics, but it had a lot of entertainment value. I would recommend it. I don’t think you’d be wasting your money.
Belt rating: Two stars.
Haley didn’t see this one. She doesn’t like going to the movies in general. She doesn’t like anything. She’s never even seen “Armageddon’’! Everybody has seen Armageddon. You talk about all these movies that everybody has seen, and she hasn’t seen any of them. Her favorite movie is “Sound of Music.’’ I watched part of “Sound of Music’’ and I about killed myself.
All right, got to get out to BP. See you out here.
It’s boring and a cliché and I feel like I say it all the time — but as players you really do approach a season one game at a time. You can’t worry about what happened before – that we lost three out of four to the Reds and a tough one last night to the Cubs. It doesn’t matter. Today we’re playing another one against the Cubs and we have to win today.
There is so much failure and negativity in baseball – the best hitters fail seven of ten times, etc. etc. – that the ones who make it to the Major Leagues are the ones who have not let failure crush them.
I let go of things pretty well, though that slump I was in for a while challenged my best coping skills. It was difficult because I was doing poorly AND our team was doing poorly. If you’re not doing well but the team’s winning, it’s a lot easier to stay positive. Whatever bad stuff might be going on at the field, I try to let go of it on the ride home. I’ll listen to music. Or I’ll go over what I could have done differently. By the time I walk in the door, I’ve put it all away and am ready to enjoy my family.
Braylyn is seven months old now. For the longest time she was doing The Scoot. She’ll get up on hands and knees and just kind of fall forward. She’d do this over and over, inching a bit farther each time. We called it the Inchworm. We were down in San Diego a couple days before the All-Star break. I returned to the hotel after a game one night and Jalynne said Braylyn had crawled that day. I was thinking, “Sure. She’s just doing the Inchworm.’’
Then, as if she could read my mind, Braylyn promptly crawled across the floor. The Inchworm was gone, just like that. Braylyn hasn’t looked back.
Jalynne is bracing for her first trip without Braylyn. Our families are invited along for our visit to the White House on Monday, so Braylyn is staying with Jalynne’s mother in LA. Jalynne will be with me in Washington, D.C., Sunday and Monday and in Philadelphia Tuesday. She’ll fly back to LA Wednesday. We’re both nervous, even though we know Braylyn will be fine with her grandparents. Still, you worry about how a baby feels when she’s separated from her mom for the first time.
I think this trip to the White House will be more meaningful than in 2011. I wasn’t on the World Series team, so this time I’ll feel more a part of things. Also – that White House trip in 2011 was part of my last road trip of the year (until I returned with rest of the September call-ups). We went from the White House to Philadelphia then Cincinnati. I got sent down in Cincinnati. I’m feeling a little safer this year.
That’s it for now.
I’ll try to post more regularly. Thanks for reading and for always supporting us no matter what. Everyone here in the clubhouse knows how lucky we are to have fans like you.
The good thing about the rainout in Cincinnati is that we got to come back to San Francisco earlier. Nothing like landing at SFO and riding the bus back to the ballpark after a miserable road trip. Haylee was still out of town visiting family back in Texas. And Bumgarner’s wife, Ali, wasn’t back yet either. So me and Bum had a date.
We took scooters down the Embarcadero to the Ferry Building. He hasn’t gotten his scooter yet, so he rode Haylee’s little baby-blue one. He looked cute. He’s huge and the scooter is tiny. He had to hunch way over to reach the handlebars. We went to Gott’s but the line was too long. So we went to a great Mexican place on Howard – and I can’t remember the name! They’re always so nice to us. I’ll pass it along when I remember.
As usual, I saw a few movies on the road. There’s a little movie group now, so I don’t go alone as much. It’s mostly Kontos, Javy, Hunter, Crawfordand me. When you’re on the road, you can go a little stir crazy because it’s just room/baseball field, room/baseball field. So you want to just get out of your room. If we have an off day, we’ll plan what we’re going to see. Otherwise, it’s just whoever’s around when you’re thinking about going.
In Colorado on the off day, I went to see “This Is the End’’ again with Crawford and Kontos. There’s a part in there that might be the funniest movie scene ever, though it might just be funny to guys. I don’t know. I can’t really describe it tastefully. But it’s between Danny McBride and James Franco. They’re yelling back and forth at each other, and you literally start laughing at the beginning and it goes on for at least a minute and you’re laughing so hard for at least a minute straight and it hurts. I laughed so hard I could barely breathe and tears were coming down my face and I almost fell on the floor. I’ll say this: It’s about what guys sometimes do when they’re by themselves and the result of what happens when they do that. I’ll leave it at that. It is just so original. I wish I could find it on YouTube and play it on a loop all day.
That scene is right up there with a scene in “Wanderlust’’ with Paul Rudd and Jennifer Anniston. It’s the one where Paul Rudd is talking to himself in the mirror. I pretty much consider those the funniest scenes of all time.
In Cincinnati I went with Kontos and Hunter to see a film of stand-up comic Kevin Hart. And on Thursday when I got home I saw “The Heat’’ with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. I think this is Melissa McCarthy’s best movie. Better than Bridesmaids. Haylee got home Friday before our game, and she wasn’t real happy when I picked her up at the airport and told her that I went to see it without her — even though she had told me it was okay. I think she was just grumpy about leaving her family and so it probably wasn’t the best time to tell her I had seen the movie. She’s fine now.
It was great to see Bum pitch so well yesterday and get us the win. Obviously we really needed it. It’s not like we were in this dungeon of doom and we were never going to get out of it. But it’s not been very fun the last few weeks. There’s no doubt in this clubhouse, though, that we can win the World Series with this team. You realize you’re going to have times when you’re not playing well. Everything usually averages out — as bad as this is, we plan on having a run where we’re just as good on the other side.
When you see a light at the end of the tunnel, like we did with our win yesterday, then things start to click. You don’t know who it’s going to be to get it going. Last year, somebody different stepped up every day. Yesterday it was Bum.
Who’s it going to be today?
Thanks for reading!
There’s no explaining what’s going on right now. Usually what’s contagious is winning. Like what we did last year. What the Cardinals did the year before. A few guys start going good. Then a few more guys. And soon everybody in the lineup is a threat to break the game open at any time. I don’t know the science behind it. Maybe you’re feeding off each other’s energy. All I know is the domino effect exists because we’ve lived it.
But I’ve never seen the flip side, what’s been happening the last few weeks.
The truth is we actually feel as confident as ever. I was 0-for-whatever when I went up to the plate in the ninth inning with Homer Bailey throwing a no-hitter. I was certain I was about to break it up. Absolutely sure. Well, you know how that turned out.
The point is we’re as confounded as you are. We had a hitter’s meeting with Bochy and Bam-Bam in Colorado. We’re doing everything we can. I watched video of myself comparing recent at-bats to ones earlier in the season. I noticed I was lifting my hands too high during my load, which caused my shoulders to go up, which meant I used my shoulders to swing instead of my hands. I worked on it and felt better at the plate in Cincinnati. My first at-bat there I hit a line drive into center. I thought, OK, finally! I thought it was a double. I’m rounding first, look over and see Choo running it down. Another 0-for day.
That’s baseball. When it’s not going well, it’s really not going well.
Very glad to get a hit yesterday to break the streak, but obviously we need to string a few together.
Away from the field, I take a break from the game by playing PSP. Of course, I’m playing the MLB game. I don’t keep precise track of my record in PSP but I have not lost 10 of the last 11. Baseball is a lot easier when all you have to do is push a button.
I also relaxed on our off day in Colorado by going to see “This Is The End’’ with Belt and Kontos.They’d already seen it but thought it was so funny they wanted to see it again. It was hilarious. A good escape for a few hours.
We have Bum on the mound today against the Dodgers. It’s amazing that as bad as we’ve been going we’re still only five games out of first. Anyone can win this division. It’s going to be a great second half with everyone contending.
A lot of people ask me about Puig. As a fan, which I still am, you always like to see players like him. He reminds me a lot of Mike Trout. He even runs like him. I was on the bench (when I jammed my fingers sliding into second) when he had his first at-bat against us. He swung what looked like a protection flick on a change-up to send the ball foul. I thought, “Wow, that’s going pretty far for flicking it foul.’’ Then it sailed fair into the stands for a home run. I was like, check that guy’s bat. I couldn’t believe it.
I could do without seeing any more of that in person this season. He can save it for Arizona and Colorado and San Diego.
I’ll end this by telling you we’re working as hard as ever. We’re as confident as ever. And there’s still half a season left to play. We have too many great players to continue the way we have. This is the same team that was so good at making comebacks last season and earlier this season. You can’t make a comeback unless you’ve fallen behind. Time for the comeback.
It’s great to take two of three from the Padres and make up ground. The Marlins are coming in next, and even though they don’t have a great record, they’re not a team we can take lightly. Since nobody in our division has taken off with the lead, now’s a good time for us to make a move. When we get everybody back in the lineup, that will be a boost right there.
I did my usual movie binge on the road. On our off day in Pittsburgh, I saw two movies back to back. I saw “Purge,’’ which was disappointing. And “Now You See Me,’’ which was really good. I saw “Star Trek’’ on another day. I’m saving the Jonah Hill/Seth Rogan movie for the next road trip.
Other than seeing movies and playing baseball, I basically slept. When we’re back east, I’m awake all night and sleeping during the day. I guess it’s the time change. I don’t adjust well. I can play just fine, but my sleeping is all off. Three nights in a row, I fell asleep around 7 in the morning. I watched TV all night — movies, sitcom reruns like Seinfeld, Everybody Loves Raymond, Frasier. I keep watching and watching and I never get tired of them.
Haylee met up with me in Atlanta after spending time with Ali Bumgarner in North Carolina. She texted me a video of her driving a backhoe. I don’t know if they were building something or planting something. Looked like she was just digging a hole. It was just funny listening to her and watching her try to do it. “I don’t know what this thing does! I forgot how to do it!’’ But actually it looked like she did a good job.
She also rode a horse. I don’t know if she had ever ridden one before, to be honest with you. Other than that, I have no idea what else she and Ali did. All kinds of hillbilly stuff is my guess. But I think they had a good time.
My dad came to Atlanta. He drove up with some of his co-worker buddies. So we hung out with them. We had night games, so we went out afterward. Which was great. Less time to kill later on watching TV.
Tonight I’m attending a dinner with Haylee and a few teammates at the park here for AT&T. I think Crawford, Affeldt and Lopez will be there, too, and Bochy. It’s always better to go to these events after a win. We’re much better company.
I’ll be watching from the dugout today, only the second time this season I’ve done that. And the first time because of an injury. When I jammed my right-hand index and middle fingers trying to steal second yesterday, I couldn’t tell right away if I could still play or not. The trainers said they weren’t broken, so I went back out for the start of the next inning. Good thing nothing came to me. The pain had arrived full force. When Cain struck somebody out and we were throwing the ball around the infield, I had to chuck a palm ball to Scutaro. I couldn’t use either finger.
It kind of bothers me that some people said it wasn’t a good idea for me to be sliding headfirst. I’ve been sliding headfirst my entire life. And I’ve never been hurt until now.
There’s a good reason why I and so many other players slide headfirst. When you’re going full speed, your body is leaning forward. So the fastest way to reach the bag is to build on that momentum by diving forward – rather than leaning back to slide feet first. Also, if you have to change direction to avoid a tag, you can maneuver more easily with your hands than your feet.
I looked at the tape afterward to see how I jammed my fingers this time when I had never done it before. Like most runners, I slide with my hands open and fingers up – like a “halt’’ gesture — so that my palms hit the edge of the bag. On the tape, it looked like the fielder brought his glove down onto my two fingers before I reached the base, so they jammed into the side of the bag. Bad luck.
Maybe I’d consider holding my batting gloves in my hands, essentially creating fists, so my fingers wouldn’t be exposed. But I think the natural reaction when you’re sliding is to reach out with your hands, so I’d probably end up just dropping the batting gloves.
My prognosis is “day to day.’’ We can’t afford another injury in this lineup. But between yesterday and today there’s been no improvement. I hope the healing process kicks soon, like in the next few minutes. In the meantime: ibuprofen.
Just a note on facing my sister’s boyfriend in Pittsburgh. As you might have read, my sister Amy has been dating Pittsburgh’s rookie pitcher and former Number 1 draft pick Gerrit Cole since they were classmates at UCLA. So she was at the game when he made his Major League debut against us last week. So was Jalynne, Jalynne’s mother and Gerrit’s family and friends. Amy tried to be neutral as she possibly could. She told me the Giants could win the other two games of the series, but she wanted Gerrit to win his debut. Which he did. The first time I was up, he broke my bat with a 97-mph fastball up and in. But I got a hit off him later.
After the game, Gerrit’s parents hosted dinner at a steakhouse across from the park. He was very professional, not gloating or anything. He’s not like that. When I showed up at the restaurant, I had a gift for him: my broken bat, signed.
Hope to see you at the park. Hope I’m in the lineup.
I didn’t do much on my off days on Monday or yesterday. Just relaxed. But Jalynne and I had a great time two Sundays ago at my friends’ wedding.
Getting there, however, was an adventure.
The ceremony was scheduled for 6 p.m. We had a 1 p.m. game at AT&T. I figured I’d have plenty of time to make it to Wente Vineyards in Livermore. Cain had been solid the last month or so, and when he walked three of the first four batters, I thought, “Oh, no.’’
The game went three hours and thirty-seven minutes. When we made the final out, it was already close to 4:45.
I bolted into the clubhouse. Didn’t put any ice on my arm. Went straight into the shower. Got dressed. Went to my car, where I had my tux. Iwas a groomsman. (I didn’t want to put the tux onin the clubhouse. Would have been embarrassing.)
I drove to Livermore, probably breaking a few traffic laws on the way. I had let one of the other groomsmen know I would probably be there right around six. He said they’d drag their feet (not that any wedding starts on time anyway).
I pulled up at 5:58, got somebody to park my car for me and went in with my tux on a hanger. I had about four guys helping me get dressed with all the tux stuff. I was ready by 6:10.
Then we waited on the girls. A shocker, I know.
It was an awesome wedding. I’ve known the groom, Matt, since high school. He was the best man at my wedding. And I’ve known Ali, the bride, since middle school.
Jalynne and Braylyn were there, plus my mom and two of my sisters. They had a photo booth with a bunch of props like hats and wigs. We got into the spirit of things, and Jalynne tweeted out a photo of us being ridiculous.
Now to baseball . . .
I thought I’d share a few thoughts on facing a knuckle-baller like R.A. Dickey. I’ve been asked why a good knuckle-baller can make Major Leaguers look like fools. It’s because you have no idea where the pitch is going. I’ve always heard that when you face a knuckle-baller you look for pitches that are up because they’re going to fall into the zone for a strike. The ones that look like strikes are going to drop, so you don’t want to get suckered into swinging.
Dickey, though, can throw a harder knuckleball that just stays high. You think it’s going to drop, so you swing, and you end up flailing at a pitch sailing over your bat. But he also throws a knuckleball that drops straight down. He throws one that drops and goes away. And he throws one that drops and goes in. You have no idea where any of them are going.
You might have noticed that the Jays’ starting catcher didn’t play. I’m sure it’s because he doesn’t even know what the ball’s going to do most of the time. They put a backup catcher in there who’s more experienced – and who uses a huge glove like a first-baseman’s glove to wrangle in the pitches.
Dickey kills you with his different speeds, too. No matter what the speed, the pitch looks exactly the same coming out of his hand. Against us, he threw from 66 to about 78. That’s a 12-mph difference on the same pitch. Pretty rough as a batter. Think of a guy throwing a fastball at 88 and then 100. That just doesn’t happen.
So my mindset going up against him? I’m still trying to figure it out. I don’t have a hit off him yet.
I was asked, too, about going to the mound on Wednesday in the second inning with a runner on first. What was I talking to Zito about?
Zito had pointed to Scutaro, which indicated that if Zito fielded a comebacker, he expected to throw to Marco, not me, at second. It’s important that a pitcher establishes who’s going to take the throw so he knows who to look for. Otherwise, he could throw it to the wrong guy and the ball ends up in center field.
You might think it would be simpler to always have me take the throw on a comebacker to avoid confusion and to maximize our chances of turning the double play. But sometimes I’m positioned toward third base – for a right-handed pull hitter, for example — and might not be able to get to the bag quickly enough. So the pitcher will let us know he’ll be looking for the second-baseman to take the throw.
In the situation Wednesday, Rasmus was coming to bat. A lefty. But because he’s hit Zito to the opposite field a few times, I moved more to the right than I normally would for a lefty. So Ziti pointed to Marco, figuring he would be in a better position to take the throw.
I went to the mound to tell Zito that I was fine to take the throw, that I wasn’t over too far. If there had been a particularly fast runner at first, then maybe I’d want Marco to cover. But that wasn’t the case. We quickly got it straightened out and I returned to my position.
Rasmus flew out to Hunter, as it turned out. But you have to make sure everybody on the field is on the same page on every single detail. One error, as we all know, can break open an inning.
OK, now that you’re all nodding off, I’ll stop here. I love all the inside baseball stuff, but I’m sure not everyone else does. Thanks for reading it.
See you at the park when we get back.
P.S. I tried to think of a good answer to island girl’s question in the comments section about prom and graduation, but I really don’t have any interesting stories. (I did not give the valedictory speech, in case you were wondering.)
We’re flying to Arizona this afternoon for the start of a long road trip. Haylee’s flying out today, too, but she’s going with Ali Bumgarner to Ali’s home in North Carolina while we play in Arizona and Pittsburgh. When we go to Atlanta, Haylee and Ali will drive down and meet us there.
So I’ll probably spend this afternoon at the new Star Trek movie. There’s an unbelievable theater next to our hotel in Phoenix, the AMC Esplanade. They serve food and have these big recliner seats. You could go to sleep if you want to. There’s a movie called The Purge I hope I can see this weekend. It takes place in the future, and for a 12-hour period everything is legal, even murder. So people are pretty much bunkering in their houses trying not to get killed. It sounds pretty interesting because you just don’t see something like that very often. When a movie comes out and it’s just not the norm, I want to see it.
On our day off Monday, I went with Haylee to Great America in Santa Clara. I’m a big roller coaster guy. Haylee’s not nearly as enthused about it as I am, but she goes. Afterward, we had dinner at Benihana with my host mom from when I played in San Jose. I always have a good experience there. It’s fun watching them flip the shrimp and the other food. I want them to flip the egg in my mouth. I didn’t ask but wish they did it. I love edamame, so I get that as an appetizer. I don’t do sushi. My wife and host mom get that all the time. I get the beef, fried rice, no mushrooms, lots of onions.
Afterward we went home and watched The Bachelorette. It’s just the second week, so we’re still sorting out our favorites. There’s a guy called Reality Steve who predicts the winners and gets it right every time. I’m sure he has someone on the show who tells him who wins. I’m waiting for him to come out with his predictions so I don’t have to watch the rest of the show. OK, that’s not true. I always tell myself I’m not going to watch it, then I do and end up liking it then watching it again. So it’s a vicious cycle.
I like The Bachelor more than The Bachelorette because I’d rather watch a bunch of girls going after a guy than a bunch guys going after a girl. But I happen to really like this Bachelorette, Desiree. I liked her when she was on the Bachelor. She was my favorite. She’s sweet as can be. I love sweet girls. I married a sweet girl.
Guess I should get a little baseball stuff in here, too. It was great getting the pinch-hit double in St. Louis. When you come through like that, you’re happy you helped the team out. We needed the win. And it gave a win to the starter, which is an added bonus.
I’ve gotten better at pinch-hitting. The key is to stay in the game mentally while you’re on the bench for two or more hours. What I do is go through at-bats with a teammate. I’m physically in the dugout, of course, but I’m mentally at the plate. I might be looking for a first-pitch fastball. If it’s not, I lay off it. Then I continue to the next pitch: What am I looking for now? Basically have the at-bat with the batter, thinking along with him strategically. I’ll also watch at-bats on TV to see what the pitches look like straight on. It keeps you in the game. Then when I think I’ll be going in, I take some swings and stretch to get my body loose.
All you can do while you’re on the bench is to prepare as much as you can. When I was standing on second base after the double, I thought, “Thank goodness I did something to help the team.’’
Heading off to the ballpark to ride the bus to the airport. I’ll let you know how The Purge is if I get to see it. I have a good feeling about this road trip. For one thing, we don’t face R. A. Dickey.