Results tagged ‘ Brandon Crawford ’
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!
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.
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.)
I just got off the phone with Ryan Theriot. The guy really makes me laugh. He’s home in Baton Rouge and keeps in touch pretty regularly. He had looked at the box score and saw I was still hitting well. He didn’t notice the errors.
“Three in the last three games,’’ I told him. “Kind of weird. I had three errors total before that.’’
They were all kind of dumb errors. On a steal attempt, the ball tipped off my glove because I tried to be too quick on the tag. The runner was probably safe anyway, so it was just dumb.
On a cutoff throw, I tried to see where the runner was at first. I took my eye off the ball at the last second, it tipped off my glove and the guy went to second. Another error.
Then yesterday on a double play, I didn’t think Zito was looking at me as he ran to cover first. I was trying to hold onto the ball, but it was already too late and I threw it 20 feet from first base. Another error.
Theriot and I were talking about what’s worse –the booted grounders or the weird, easily preventable errors. I think weird ones are worse because you just want to kick yourself. A ground ball might take a bad hop and there’s not much you can do about it.
Anyway, it was great to talk to Theriot and be able to see at least a little humor in the stupid stuff you still find yourself doing sometimes – even after you’ve played baseball for so long.
Having said that, I’m going out now to take extra ground balls before batting practice.
It was great to get home last night. The plane was maybe a little quieter than usual, but we’re not a team that pouts or panics. It’s May. We have three-quarters of the season left. Once in a while you just don’t play good baseball. Midway through last season, we had that terrible road trip, losing five of six games to Washington and Pittsburgh, I think. Then we came out the second half and did what we did.
And remember we took three of four from Atlanta. That was just a little over a week ago. It’s just the way baseball goes sometimes.
When we landed at SFO, I rode the team bus to the park, picked up my car then crossed the bridge to pick up Jalynne and Braylyn at the Oakland Airport. They came in from LA where they were visiting Jalynne’s parents. The timing was perfect. Braylyn was fussing a little when they got off the plane. When she saw me, she broke into a big smile.
Nothing better than that. Puts everything in perspective.
I was happy to get two hits yesterday, given the skid I’ve been on. But I’d rather have an 0-fer and win than get a bunch of hits and lose.
I started the year so well at the plate, then the hits just stopped coming. You try everything to figure out what you’re doing wrong. I’ve put videos ofmy swing from the past week side-by-side with my swing from the first few weeks. My mechanics are exactly the same.
I was particularly stumped by a fly ball I hit recently to left field for an out. An identical swing on an almost identical pitch resulted in an opposite-field home run last month. What was the difference? I saw it on a slow-motion replay. On the home run, the ball hit the bat square. On the fly ball, it hit a few millimeters off center. A fraction of a fraction of an inch. That’s how thin the line is between success and failure at the plate.
The toughest part of going through a slump is maintaining your confidence and keeping a consistent mental approach. Hitting is all about that. The thing is, almost any kind of swing can be successful. Look at Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro. They have completely different swings,but they’re both good hitters. And they’re both confident in the swings they have, so it works for them.
I think maybe there are certain times when I’m trying to do too much instead of just seeing the ball and hitting it like I was earlier. Maybe I’m overthinking what the pitcher might be throwing.Or I’m trying to pull the ball in certain situations instead of just staying up the middle.
During the game, your teammates aren’t going to offer too many suggestions. They’re busy with their own stuff. But the other day in batting practice, Buster said I was pulling my front shoulder off the ball a little bit. So I tried to incorporate that into my batting practice, keeping the shoulder closed and putting the ball up the middle or the opposite field.
I never lose my confidence on the field. Even when I was getting criticized early last season for errors, I didn’t lose my confidence because I have no doubts about defense. If you can play defense in the minors, you can play at the Major League level. A ground ball is pretty much a ground ball.But hitting in the Major Leagues is different from the minors because the pitching is better. It’s an adjustment. It takes time to develop the same sense of invincibility at the plate that you feel in the field.
A blog reader asked about “the weird pad’’ on my left hand when I’m batting. I think he’s talking about the thumb guard (see the photo). A lot of guys wear them. It keeps the handle of the bat from sinking into the webbing between your index finger and thumb. I think it makes for a quicker bat. And you don’t feel the sting as much when you get jammed. I’ve been using it my whole pro career.
Then when I get on base, I take off the thumb guard and gloves and put on a different thumb guard. I sprained my thumb at the beginning of last year so I wore it all season to protect it when I slide headfirst. This year I jammed the thumb again putting down a tag at second on Carlos Gomez, so I’ve put the thumb guard back on.
A follow-up from the previous blog post. We ended up not going to Sea World in San Diego. One of Jalynne’s nieces was sick. So we walked along the coast to Seaport Village with the dog and the stroller. It was great – and we didn’t have to pay $150 or whatever to watch a sea otter show that Braylyn won’t even remember.
It was also great to go back to our new home in Arizona when we played the Diamondbacks. The best part was sleeping in my own bed. My bed in Arizona is a lot more comfortable than the one here. The bed here is the same cheap one we bought when I was called up from the minor leagues. It might be time for a new one.
A few thoughts on the Dodger series and our tendency to play close games. I think it was Hunter who said we’re addicted to one-run games. We do our best to make sure it’s a one-run game whether up by a lot of runs or down by a lot of runs. That Saturday game, we were up 5-0 and thinking maybe we’d make it 10-0. Then all of a sudden we’re losing and have to come back and win 10-9.
Flan jokes that maybe it has something to do with the yin/yang, fiery/laid-back pairings in our batting lineup. You start with Pagan and Scutaro, then Pablo and Buster, then Hunter and either me or Belt, then Blanco and either me or Belt. It’s an interesting observation, isn’t it?
OK, I’ll be late to the park if I go on any more. Let’s hope for a better game today than the first two against Philly.
I loved giving Pablo a hard time when I had more home runs than he did.
“Yeah,’’ he’d say, “talk to me in September.’’
I had to get my shots in while I could.
It’s great hitting home runs, believe me. I had four all last season and have three already this year. But to tell you the truth I take just as much pride in laying down a crucial sacrifice bunt, like the one last night in the ninth inning.
Sacrifice bunts might not get the scoreboard flashing and the water spouting, but they are noticed by your teammates. They know you did your job and that it was a key to winning the game. My job last night was to move Torres into scoring position, just as in the fourth game of the World Series it was to move Theriot into scoring position. In each situation, the next batter got a hit that scored the runner. If the runner is still at first, he doesn’t score.
OK, so laying down the sac bunt isn’t as much fun as getting the winning hit. You’re not in the newspaper the next day or on the highlights that night. But you know what you did. Last night, after everyone punched Belt in the ribs a few times, my teammates congratulated me on the bunt. I point this out to make the point that winning is a team effort. When you stop playing as a team, you stop winning.
I was really happy for Belt getting the big hit after scuffling the way he has. He was definitely due for a good rip.
People have been asking me why I’m hitting better this year. I made an adjustment in the spring. Former Fresno manager Steve Decker, who’s now the organizational hitting coordinator, was in the batting cage with me down in Arizona. I was warming up as I usually do by hitting off the tee, and Decker was placing the balls on the tee. I think I’ve written about my routine before, about how I position the tee in nine different locations so I practice my swing as if the pitch were in different locations – high, middle, low, inside, over the plate and outside.
Later during batting practice, Decker told me to swing as if I were hitting off the tee at its highest point. That meant I stood taller. My hands were higher. My front shoulder, which usually turned in toward the plate, now stayed more stationary. It was a simpler and shorter approach. It allowed me to have a flatter swing, so I got more backspin, which meant the ball had more of an upward trajectory.
Soon after that, Hunter and I were working on our hitting in Scottsdale while most of the team were playing on the road.
“You’re getting your hands up really well,’’ Hunter said.
We talked about mechanics and why this tweak made a difference.
And it has. I would not have hit an opposite field home run, as I did in Milwaukee, with my old stance.
In Chicago, a group of us went out to dinner – Affeldt, Buster, Hunter, Nick Noonan, Bumgarner, Javy, a couple more, I can’t remember everybody. (Belt didn’t go. He went to the movies by himself. He claims he didn’t know about it.) One of the highlights of any meal is watching Bum eat. It’s entertaining to marvel at the amount and the speed.
When it was time to pay, we considered the old “throw your credit card in’’ game. I quickly pulled an old hotel key-card and tossed it on the table. But in the end, Buster and Hunter split the bill. The one advantage to making less money is you don’t pick up too many checks. But I got Starbuck’s for Buster one day. I think we’re even.
Jalynne, Braylyn and I are flying down to San Diego right after the game tomorrow. We’re going to spend the off day at Sea World with Jalynne’s sister and her two little daughters. I don’t know how much Braylyn will appreciate the killer whales and sea otters, but I know she’ll enjoy herself. She lights up at the smallest things these days. I hated to leave her today to go to the ballpark because she was laughing at everything and having such a great time. Glad she and Jalynne will be on this road trip!
Haylee made me a great cake for my 25th birthday on Saturday. Chocolate and vanilla. I was so hungry when I got home from the game that night I ate a huge piece while we waited for our pizza to arrive. I love chocolate. I’d have an all-chocolate cake with chocolate ice cream and chocolate sauce. But Haylee’s cake was really, really good. There’s nothing like a homemade cake. I think she spent about two hours making it, so I restrained myself from asking why there wasn’t ice cream.
We had an official birthday dinner Sunday night after the day game. We went to Bobo’s on Lombard and Van Ness. Stopped for a milk shake at a burger joint then went to see the new Tom Cruise movie. Just the two of us. Nice night.
Maybe the cake and milk shake will help put some weight back on me. I only gained back 3 or 4 pounds of the 11 or so that I lost when I was sick at the start of the season. It’s hard to keep weight on during the season, much less gain weight, because you’re playing every day. I’m drinking more protein shakes when I’m at the field, so I’m sure I’ll eventually get back to normal.
Bochy is giving me time off against left-handed pitchers, hoping to help me recapture the good rhythm I had in spring training. I know people make a big deal when you start the season slowly. They look up at the scoreboard and see your average is below .200 and kind of go a little nutty. But as a player you have to ignore the numbers. All you have control over is your current at-bat. You have to approach each one the same way, with the same confidence. You don’t have control over the results. You know that the balls will start to fall and the numbers on the scoreboard will start to creep back up.
This doesn’t mean that you completely ignore your struggles. I’m working with Bam-Bam and Joe in the cage and watching video. But in baseball especially, you have to take the long view. There are still more than five months left in the season. We’ve played only three weeks! So it’s crazy to get all panicky. I’ll be fine.
In the meantime, Crawford is hitting well enough for both of us. He’s seeing the ball really well. He’s so comfortable at the plate. He’s in such a good groove I think he’ll be hitting the ball well for a long time.
It seems to work out that way on this team. When one person’s down, the next guy picks him up. You never know on this team who’s going to be the guy who comes through with the big hit or the big play. Even though I’m scrapping right now, or maybe especially because I’m scrapping, I’m having a great time watching Crawford crush home runs.
Believe me, I’m not excited to be sitting on the bench. Nobody likes sitting. I’d like to play every inning of every game. As long as we’re winning, I’m happy.
I spoke to a group of Little League players before Sunday’s game, and one of them asked if I missed pitching. I grew up as a pitcher. I wanted to be Randy Johnson, another tall lefty. So I said I hoped that someday we’ll be going into the 27th inning and Bochy will be out of pitchers and I’ll get the call. That would be awesome.
Another kid asked what I ate before games. I said, “Anything that’s put in front of me, plus a Red Bull.’’
And someone else wanted to know who was the funniest guy on the team. “Bumgarner,’’ I said, “even though he doesn’t try to be. If you can understand what he’s saying, he’s pretty funny.’’
See you out at the ballpark.
Marco Scutaro returned to the team this morning from the World Baseball Classic. So great to have him and Pablo back. The clubhouse is always a bit louder with Pablo around. He was there this morning playing cards with some of the Latin players at the round table near his locker. I don’t think there is ever a moment when Pablo isn’t finding a way to have a good time.
While Marco was gone, different guys played second, including Tanaka who speaks very little English. Communication is probably the biggest thing between a shortstop and second baseman so it’s something we work on in spring training.
If a ball’s hit to right-center, for example, you have to communicate who’s the cutoff man and who’s going to trail. With Scutaro I already know that I’ll take the cutoff because I have a stronger arm. But if Joaquin Arias is playing second, he’ll take the throw. A shortstop has to work that out with every second-baseman.
Or if I’m expecting a hit-and-run — let’s say there’s an average runner at first and a good contact hitter at the plate — I’ll alert the second-baseman that I suspect a hit-and-run to the right side and that I’ll be covering second.
Of course the other team can’t know what you’re saying. So there’s a lot of nonverbal communication. Before a pick-off play, I’ll point to the second-baseman if he should cover the throw, or I’ll wiggle my glove if I’m going to take it.
If we’re expecting a runner to steal second, I’ll signal with my mouth to the second baseman who’s covering the bag: If I open my mouth, he’s covering; if I close my mouth, I’m covering. I do this, of course, behind my glove so the the opposing team can’t see.
Yesterday all the fielders worked on taking cutoffs. You might think, “What’s there to work on? A cutoff’s a cutoff.’’ But Bochy had us doing something different. He noticed that when outfielders had to retrieve balls all the way to the wall, their throws weren’t as crisp and strong. The reason is they had to basically stop to pick up the ball before throwing, which means they had no momentum. The throws sailed in on an arc, and we’d have a tough time making the play.
Bochy had the infielders position themselves about 15 feet farther out than usual to receive the throws. The result was that the outfielders’ throws were stronger and faster, and so the cutoff men got the ball back to the infield more quickly. It should give us a better chance at nailing runners at third and home.
We also worked on bunts. I’m pretty good at sac bunts — I hit the best sac bunt of my life in Game 4 in Detroit to put Theriot in scoring position at second base. But I need to get better at bunting for base hits. I always bunt too hard, and the third-baseman throws me out easily. You have to deaden the ball so the third-baseman can’t reach it. And the trick to that is to almost catch the ball on your bat. It’s really an art to get the timing just right — to pull the bat back just as it’s meeting the pitch. And you have to make sure you take the pitch at the top of the zone and push down so you don’t pop it up.
I’ll keep working on that and a dozen other things through spring training. We’re having a great time just being together. And the weather is perfect right now. But I’m a Bay Area guy, so I’ll be happy when we go north, back to AT&T and 40,000 cheering fans.
See you there.