Still Looking Good (except when they spit)

I’ll start out by mentioning that I have three spit counts for you today.  I’ve decided to put them in at the end of the blog because I found out that my brother, Nick, skips over them.  This will make it easier on him.  Nick, I’ll warn you when to stop reading, OK??

So the hitting has not been as outstanding as it was at first, but it’s hanging in there.  There are six guys right now hitting .295 or above, and one of those is a pitcher!  Could you believe Madison’s grand slam the other night?  Way to help yourself out!  The other guys who are hot with the hitting, in decending order of batting average, are Angel, Brandon Hicks, Michael, Brandon Crawford, and Buster.  Crawford’s stats stand out in that he is hitting .500 against lefties, whereas he hit less than .200 vs. lefties last season.  And what about that walk-off splash homer today vs. a lefty??  Still waiting for Hunter’s and Pablo’s bats to come alive, but Pablo has shown some improvement in the last couple of games.  It’s nice to have some offense since the pitching has been kind of scary.  But even that has gotten better, as Madison and Tim Hudson have been solid and Matt had a great outing yesterday (but didn’t get the win as the boys, once again, couldn’t give the guy any run support).  As it stands right now, we’re one game behind the Dodgers in the NL West, so I’m hoping we can at least win the series we have against them this week and tie for the lead.  Of course, sweeps are always nice!

I went to the game on Wednesday night vs. the D-Bags with my sister, my brother Nick, and my mom came with us.  This was only her second game at AT&T.  For the previous one, we sat in the sky, so we promised her we would get better seats this time.  They were amazing – Field Level section 110 – close to the best seats I’ve ever had.  So what happens at the start of the game?  They announce our pitcher, and she says, “No, not him!”  It was Timmy!  Poor Timmy!  He’s not getting any love from Mom.  Unfortunately, her concerns were legit – he gave up three runs in the first inning!  Then he gave up another four in the next three.  So much for Mom having a fun night out at the ballpark.  Even after that, she did say she would come with us again.  But what are we going to do about Timmy?  I have to agree with Mom that I am sort of dreading his starts.  I hope he gets things figured out, and quickly!  I’m going to the game on Tuesday vs. the Dodgers with my hubby, my sister, and my niece, and as luck would have it, Timmy’s pitching again.  Gonna wear my Lincecum shirt this time to try and bring him some luck.  He did great on the starts he had when my sister and I were in attendance last year.  Maybe we can get the magic back!

Something happened at the game that night that made us all crack up.  And I don’t know if it’s ever been done before, but I never noticed.  It seemed like the seagulls came in awfully early that night, like during the 5th inning.  And it seemed like there were way more than usual.  The guys in the outfield kept looking up at them like they were surprised, too.  At that point, over the speakers came the command, “Everybody clap your hands!”  They do this during the game to get the excitement level up.  But on this occasion, as we clapped and kept on going, the seagulls started to take off until there were none left!  Then I noticed huge pictures of seagulls on either end of the scoreboard.  So it was planned!  What a great idea!  Am I just clueless, or has anyone else seen this happen before?  Someone who called in to KNBR suggested that the answer to the seagull problem would be to set off fireworks every night cause they hate the loud noise.  Might be worth a try.  That clapping sure worked!

I had an epiphany the other day.  I always get ticked off when guys don’t hustle to first base.  Then the other day I heard on KNBR (my source for so much new baseball knowledge) that there could actually be a reason for that.  If it’s pretty obvious that a guy is going to get thrown out, they don’t want to go all out and risk pulling a hamstring for nothing.  Interesting.  They said Barry Bonds used to do this all the time (then they also made a snarky comment that he was so juiced up, his hamstrings were tighter and more prone to pulling!).

I also made an observation about guys during interviews, especially Brandon Crawford and Buster.  They both say “I mean” a hell of a lot at the beginning of their sentences during interviews.  I estimate each does this at least five times during a single interview.  Brandon even snuck it into his blog the other day!  I think I’ll do an “I mean” count next time one of them speaks on camera.  Brandon did it at least once today after he hit the walk off homerun.  I swear they have a bet going to see how many “I means” they can sneak in.  It would be just like those crazy guys to do something like that.

Brian Sabean announced on CSN that negotiations have stopped with Pablo for the time being.  Apparently the Giants and his people were so far apart in their numbers that it wasn’t worth pursuing.  Plus Sabean said he didn’t want Pablo distracted over the negotiations.  There were rumors that Pablo’s starting point for negotiations was Hunter’s offer last season of 5 years, $90 million.  He better get that average up and make less errors if he wants to garner that.  Wonder if the negotiations were distracting him.  I love Pablo, but his approach at the plate can be so aggravating at times.

I asked for your predictions for this season a couple of blogs ago, and I actually got one response.  It was from my cousin and godson, Joey.  Joey writes, “My prediction: Pence, Morse, Sandoval, Belt, Posey, and Pagan all hit 20+ home runs. They would tie the NL record for a team with most 20 home run hitters. I don’t think Pagan will hit 20 homeruns this year, maybe more around 12, but I am going big. It has been fun to watch the Giants this year. It hasn’t been torture in anyway… ; )”  Sounds good to me!  And I agree – so much less torture this season so far.  Thanks for the predictions, Joey!  Hope they all come true!

I sent out the spit certificates from last season the other day.  I learned the hard way to wait until the beginning of the next regular season to do this.  The first year I sent them out during the off season, and they were returned to me.  The only reason that I bring this up is that they went to some interesting places this year.  Gregor Blanco’s (non-spitter), of course, was sent to AT&T Park.  Kensuke Tanaka’s (non-spitter) was sent to Round Rock, Texas.  He’s currently playing for the Round Rock Express, the Triple-A affiliate for the Texas Rangers.  And Guillermo Moscoso’s (spitter extraordinaire) was sent all the way to Yokohama, Japan.  He’s playing for the Yokohama DeNA BayStars.  You never know where a guy will end up.  Hope the Japanese are putting the pressure on Guillermo to knock off the spitting.

On that note, Nick, you can stop reading now.  Spit counts are coming up.  Thanks for reading this far.

Since I was on Spring Break last week, I was able to do three spit counts.  And one actually made me happy:

April 8th

Giants:

-          Sandoval 6

-          Hudson 4

-          Pagan 3

-          Hicks 2

Diamondbacks:

-          Hill 3

-          Cahill 1

-          Montero 1

-          The Goldschmidt 1

-          Perez 1

Game Spit Master General = Sandoval at 6

That’s a total of 22 spits during a 2 hour and 40 minute game for an average of 1 spit every 7.3 minutes.

That’s the lowest game spit average since I’ve been doing this!  YAY!  However, I can’t get that excited about it.  During this game, I noticed that Tim Hudson is definitely chewing tobacco.  So disappointed.

April 11th

Giants:

-          Sandoval 8

-          Sanchez 6

-          Bochy 5 (all seeds)

-          Bumgarner 3

-          Hicks 2

-          Lopez 1 (seeds)

-          Lefebvre 1

-          Gutierrez 1

-          Perez 1

Rockies:

-          Pacheco 9

-          Lemahieu 3

-          Arenado 2

-          Bettis 2

-          Blackmon 2

-          Tulowitzki 1

Game Spit Master General = Pacheco at 9

Giants Game Spit Master General = Sandoval at 8

That’s a total of 47 spits during a 3 hour and 15 minute game for an average of 1 spit every 4.1 minutes.

I noted that all the Bochy and Lopez spits were sunflower seeds because even though it’s still disgusting, spitting seeds isn’t nearly as bad as spitting spit.  I remembered our Game Spit Master General, Jordan Pacheco, from a previous spit count due to his habit of spitting into his batting glove before ever pitch.  Of course, since this was a Bumgarner start, I did a snot rocket count.  He racked up 7 snot rockets today.  One of the 7 was a celebratory blast after he hit his grand slam!  Kruk even commented on this when it happened!

April 12th

Giants:

-          Sandoval 8

-          Pagan 6

-          Sanchez 4

-          Bumgarner 1

-          Hicks 1

-          Cain 1 (spat out his gum as he came into the dugout)

Rockies:

-          Arenado 4

-          Blackmon 3

-          Lemahieu 3

-          Rosario 3

-          Gonzalez 2

-          Tulowitzki 2

-          Hawkins 2

-          Kahnle 1

-          Culberson 1

-          Wright 1

-          Morneau 1

-          Brothers 1

Misc.:

-          Umpire 7

Game Spit Master General = Sandoval at 8

That’s a total of 52 spits during a 2 hour and 50 minute game for an average of 1 spit every 3.3 minutes.

The home plate umpire for the game, Marvin Hudson, was responsible for all the umpire spits.  I made an interesting observation during this game.  Some of the guys have started chewing gum more on the field, and it causes them to spit less.  Most notably Matt Cain, Buster Posey, and Brandon Belt have been chewing gum and spitting less.  Spread the word!  Please!

Also, today I noticed a new player has been absent thus far from the spit tally.  MICHAEL MORSE!!!  Will keep my eyes on him (which won’t be difficult!), but I’m so hoping that I can add another name to the list of non-spitters.

Keep your fingers crossed that Timmy can come through for us on Tuesday.  Don’t want to witness another blowout.  We need to stick it to the Dodgers any chance we get this season.  Until next time, GO GIANTS!!  BEAT LA!!  BEAT LA!!  BEAT LA!!

 

2014 Spring Training and Opening Day Trip

I tagged along with my brothers (Nick and Paul) again on their continuing quest to attend a game at every MLB ballpark.  This trip was extra special because we realized that since Opening Day for the Giants was in Arizona this season, we could not only knock off one of the parks on their list but we could also catch a couple of Spring Training games on the same trip.  So we headed off to Arizona to have our first Spring Training experience (none of us had ever been) and to attend a game at Chase Field.

The first Spring Traning game we attended was an away game at Maryvale Baseball Park, home of the Brewers.  The Spring Training parks are so much smaller (seating about 10,000) and you can get much closer to the players.  We got there 2 hours before game time so that we could check things out and watch them warm up.  This day was the hottest of the trip, with temps in the high 80s.  They were giving out bobbleheads, and I got a Corey Hart.  Not so exciting since he’s an ex-Brewers player, but it was a nice souvenir of the day anyway.

I headed down as close to the Giants dugout as I could get in the hopes of getting some autographs.  I was right down on the railing.  Unfortunately the only one signing was Gregor Blanco, and he stopped before he got down to me.  Sigh.  But it was still fun watching the boys warm up up close and personal (even though I could feel the sweat rolling off of me – my boys are worth it!).  Before the game started, I went back to our seats – they were 3 rows behind the Giants dugout!  Great view of my boys during the game.  For frame of reference, these tickets cost us $26.75.

I had made myself an orange and black rubber band bracelet (very popular amongst middle school kids right now), and I also made them for my brothers who actually wore them!  I decided to make some extras to give out to random fans at the game.  It turned out that we had really nice couples on either side of us that day, all Giants fans.  One couple was from Texas and one was from Arizona, but both were originally from California.  I ended up giving a bracelet to each of the wives.  They seemed to really appreciate them.  My good deed for the day!

Madison pitched that day, and he didn’t have a great outing.  In fact, he gave up three home runs!  But there is always a silver lining, and there were several highlights of the day.  First off, Andrew Susac (who was catching) threw a ball into the crowd right to Nick.  He dropped it, claiming that he had a napkin in his hand.  One guy in the crowd yelled, “E5!”  HA!  Dan’s boy, Juan Perez, got a hit, broke his bat, and a foot long bat piece flew into the crowd and hit a seat about 3 seats away from us so hard that it bounced back onto the field!  Close call!  I can still remember looking at that thing as it made its way toward us, fearing for my life!  Food highlight – Paul bought these really yummy asian chicken noodles and shared them with us.  All the Giants fans were booing Ryan Braun (get ready for more of that this season!).  There was a dust storm alert near the end of the game – we got alert messages on our phones.  You don’t get that in California!  It later turned out to be nothing, but we were wondering what we would do in an actual dust storm (besides scream and run for cover!).  In the end, with the help of the kids on the team, the boys were able to come back from a 2-4 deficit to win 5-4.  WOOHOO!

The greatest highlight of that day actually happened after the game.  Near the end of the game, I noticed some of the beat writers down close to the field.  I know who these guys are because I read their stuff and they are like stars to me.  I recognized Chris Haft and Alex Pavlovic.  Then I noticed someone coming down the stairs to join them – it was Andrew Baggarly!  My idol!  I mentioned in an earlier blog that my brother Paul had attended a party with him and they had a nice long conversation.  So I told Paul to go talk to him after the game.  He begrudgingly did (my brothers are awesome and will do anything for me!).  After Baggs interviewed Bochy on the field, he walked up by us and Paul went and shook his hand.  He told him he had met him at a party and mentioned their common friend.  Baggs said, “Oh yeah,” and was really nice to him, but quickly said that he needed to leave to get over to Scottsdale Stadium to do some TV, so he left.  We thought maybe he didn’t really remember Paul and was just being nice, and then we started to leave the stadium.  Just then, Baggs came back and said to Paul, “Did you go to the poker party?”  Paul started talking to him again.  We think maybe while walking away he remembered who Paul was.  He stayed and talked to us for about 10 minutes!  So much for having to rush to Scottsdale!  Paul introduced Nick and me to him, and I was totally star struck.  What a nice guy!  Paul told him how much I admired his work, and he said, “Aw, you’re just saying that.”  Then I told him that I really did and that I would only read the post game notes if he wrote them.  I even mentioned a specific article he had written where he said at that time this one pitcher could count the number of homeruns the Giants had at AT&T Park on one hand – 6!  He was impressed and told Paul and Nick about the 6-fingered pitcher and more details about that article.  I tried to control myself, but I couldn’t help gushing.  We asked him what he thought about the Giants this season, and he said he thought they could probably make the playoffs as a wildcard behind the Dodgers if they stay healthy (sigh).  We also asked for dinner recommendations, and he recommended a place called Roaring Fork.  He said they had an amazing green chile mac and cheese.  We said our goodbyes and he told us to enjoy the rest of the trip.  What a great guy!  Wow this paragraph is long!  Sorry for the gushing!

After the game, we got ice cream samples outside the park.  Hit the spot!  We also got ice cream coupons for an entire box of these little mini drumstick-like cones or a tub of ice cream (2 coupons each).  We ended up having ice cream for dessert the entire trip!

That night we had dinner at Baggarly’s suggestion, Roaring Fork.  I asked the waiter why it was called Roaring Fork, and he said it’s the name of a river in Colorado (even though the owners are from Texas!).  We tried the green chile mac and cheese, and it was OK, but I loved my entrée (rainbow trout) and Nick ordered fried chicken that was amazing.  We kept teasing Paul because he ordered a date salad, but he said that was really good as well.  Thanks, Baggs!

The next day we attended another Spring Training game, this time at Scottsdale Stadium.  The Giants played the Rockies.  Stadium parking was $20 (WHAT?), but we found a lot nearby for $10.  The park was really beautiful.  We walked around for a bit to check it out.  Fortunately the weather was much cooler today – around 80.  There was a side field where the pitchers were practicing.  I watched Tim Lincecum and Ryan and Paul and Nick watched Madison and Tim Hudson.  Paul shouted to Hudson, “Hey, Huddy!” and he turned around and shouted, “Hey, guys!”  Then Brandon Belt walked by them and he shouted, “Hey, Belt!” and he shouted back, “Hi, guys.  How’s it going?”  We then walked over to the main field and I again tried to get autographs.  I was luckier today – I got Javier Lopez’s autograph!  I asked him if he was playing today, and he said, “No, and that’s probably a good thing with all this wind.”  It was pretty windy that day.  Paul asked him if it was true that he was planning on joining the CIA (what a goofball!), and he just smirked and said that was just a rumor.  He signed for about half an hour and was so gracious with everyone.  It was great to be so close to him!  Later Hunter Strickland (one of the kid relief pitchers) came by and signed for me as well.  What a cutie!  He will be playing in San Jose this season, so maybe I’ll get to see him there.  He was also really nice to folks and signed for a long time.  I gave away another orange and black rubber band bracelet to a random little girl who was waiting for autographs with me.

After the autographs, it was so fun to see the guys warming up close up again.  They were right there!  My favorite part was when Michael Morse and Hunter Pence were warming up together.  Hunter threw the ball to Michael and he knocked it down with his shoulder, then Michael threw to Hunter and he did the same thing!  The guy standing next to me was a college umpire, and I asked him if he had ever seen anything like that in a warmup, and he said definitely not!  Crazy boys!  Love it!  You could definitely see that Pence and Morse have built a close bond already.

We had great seats again, 6 rows behind the Giants dugout.  But these tickets cost twice as much as yesterdays!  Geez, Giants!  Come on!  I yelled hello to Juan Perez in the dugout and he waved back.  I also yelled hi to Michael Morse and he turned around and stretched, giving me a great view of those muscles!  I got to see Tim Hudson giving Madison pitching advice, holding a ball with different grips.  I also got to see Sergio give a wet willie to one of the younger trainers!  So silly!  Cain pitched today, and again the starter got into a lot of trouble.  In 5 innings they scored 6 runs off of him.  But again, the kids came back at the end to save the day.  3 kids (including Juan Perez) loaded the bases, and then Jarrett Parker hit a homerun for a grand slam.  And this wasn’t your every day homerun.  The fence he hit it over is set at 430 feet and that wall is 30 feet high!  All of the coaches were talking about it.  It was tied in the 9th, and then Hector Sanchez hit a two run homer in the bottom of the 9th to win it.  We were 2 for 2!

As my boys left the park and headed to the airport for the Bay Bridge Series, we headed off for dinner, this time at Don and Charlie’s (another place Baggarly had recommended).  The restaurant is covered in baseball memorabilia.  We all had ribs and they were pretty good.  The sangria was excellent!

We had a couple of days to ourselves before Opening Day, so we spent one day at the Grand Canyon (first time for all 3 of us) and a day hiking around Sedona.  Both were gorgeous and so much more spectacular in real life than in pictures.  The weather was amazing both days – in the high 70s.  During that time we had another great dinner – this time at Alice Cooperstown, a restaurant in Phoenix right near Chase Field owned by Alice Cooper.  The waitress told us that he comes in at least once a month to visit.  The walls were covered in rock memorabilia – albums, guitars, posters, etc.  And all the waiters and waitresses had Alice Cooper makeup on!  We all ordered pasta and it was delicious.  They have this huge corn dog there called the Big Unit (named after former Rockies pitcher, Randy Johnson).  Someone ordered it while we were there, and they rang this bell and all the wait people yelled, “The Big Unit!”  Pretty funny.

Another great restaurant Nick found was this out-of-the-way place called Pane Bianco.  From the outside you would never guess, but the food was fantastic!  Just walking in we knew we had made the right decision because the smells had our mouths watering!  Nick ordered a meatball sandwich and Paul and I split a pizza and salad.  And for dessert we had flourless chocolate cake and rice pudding.  The manager and waitress were super friendly and kept coming over and talking to us.  A hidden gem!

Finally Opening Day arrived.  We got to the park a couple of hours early to check out what was going on.  The waitress from Alice Cooperstown gave us a tip about parking in metered spots because they stop monitoring them at 5 pm, and we were lucky enough to find a metered parking spot, put in $1.50, and we were set for the night!  There were a bunch of stands outside the park with all kinds of samples and giveaways.  Nick and Paul got D-Backs T-shirts that were really nice, but I passed because I knew I would never wear one.  I practically ate an entire meal before we even got into the park between the free hotdogs, popcorn, and an entire can of ginger ale.  The team mascots, the Diamondbacks Legends – huge caricatures of Mark Grace, Matt Williams, Randy Johnson, and Luis Gonzalez – were out front having dance contests to the music of the band that was playing.

Nick and Paul stayed outside for a while and got more free stuff, but I was dying to get inside to see the boys.  They gave away a magnet with the Diamondbacks 2014 schedule on it (which I proceeded to give to someone since I had no use for it).  On my way in, I gave away 4 more bracelets to random Giants fans– 2 to a couple (yes, the guy actually wanted one!) and 2 to some other ladies.  I walked around the park and checked things out, then got my First Game certificate from Guest Services (I have a collection of these now!).  The woman said they usually give them to kids, but hey, that’s me – a big kid!  Then I headed down to the Giants dugout to watch the boys warmup.  One of the guys on the local radio show informed D-Backs fans to go to the game early to watch Michael Morse take batting practice.  He said it was the best show in town!  I missed Michael, but saw a bunch of other guys warm up, including Timmy shagging balls in the outfield.  Sergio waved to us as he came back into the dugout.

Our seats for the game were pretty good considering it was opening day – at Field level in left field at the back of the section.  We had a great view of the field.  Unfortunately, we were surrounded by D-Backs fans – nearest Giants fan was about 20 seats over.  Chase Field is kind of your run of the mill park with a couple of exceptions, the most unique of which being the swimming pool in center field.  They also have a retractable ceiling, and they had a big ceremony to open it up at the start of the game.  They also show a red snake that slithers its way around the stadium on the small light boards – that was pretty cool looking.  The fans were pretty enthusiastic.  One unique way of showing their team spirit was to shake this black and red rattle that looked like a huge rattlesnake rattle (they were selling them outside the park).  They also did this weird thing when this one song came on – they play the song at AT&T as well.  But when they played it there, the fans would alternately lift up their left and right fists and continue this throughout the song.  Of course, we thought this was strange and we had to join in!  They also had the Legends race near the middle of the game.  We found out that Mark Grace never wins.  I couldn’t find a reason – he just doesn’t.  They have another mascot whose name is Baxter that’s a bobcat.  He was very energetic, but nowhere near as great as Lou Seal.

Before the start of the game, Paul had us all make predictions as to who would get a homerun that game.  I predicted Brandon Belt.  Guess who won???  Moi!  That game was such a roller coaster.  The lead went back and forth so many times, and our guys were really bad on defense, making several errors.  It was weird because you couldn’t really get excited when the Giants did something good because you were surrounded by the enemy, so Nick and I would secretly fist bump.  It was tied at 7-7 in the 8th, then Buster hit an amazing 2-run homer in the 9th.  They came back with a homerun but couldn’t catch up, leaving us the winners and spoiling their home opener!  Again, we were dying to cheer but had to stifle.  I was dying to get out of the park to find some Giants fans to high five, and that’s exactly what we did.  We did that all the way back to the car.

Chalk up another amazing baseball trip with my siblings.  We went 3 for 3 on that trip.  My MLB ballpark tally now stands at 9.  Some tips should you happen to go to Arizona for Spring Training:  Autographs are not so easy to come by, so don’t be disappointed.  We found some great places to eat, including Alice Cooperstown, Roaring Fork, and Pane Bianco.  Go to Don and Charlie’s just because everyone does and the memorabilia is pretty cool.  Bring lots of shorts (that’s all I wore while we were there) and a good hat.  If you’re going to Giants games, try to go to away games because the tickets are much cheaper.  Arizona is the land of the unprotected left turn and they don’t believe in toilet seat protectors – Beware!  And the Grand Canyon and Sedona were definitely worth the drive.  Thanks again to my wonderful brothers for the laughs and the fun.  Hoping I can make the next trip.  Until next time, GO GIANTS!!

What’s Gotten Into These Boys??

How about those Giants, huh???  What a fantastic start to the 2014 season this has been:  Going 3 and 1 against the Diamondbacks in their house (and I personally got to be there for that crazy opener), and now 2 and 0 vs. the dreaded Dodgers.  MY boys spoiled two home openers.  Who coulda thunk this could happen??  Best part is all the predictions that the Dodgers were going to rock it this year.  HA HA!  More proof that money can’t buy you a great team.  Today’s game was amazing, with everyone contributing, three homers, and a quality, amazing start from Madison.  This is the kind of baseball I LOVE to watch!  We’re not leaving as many guys stranded on base.  And we have the best record in the league (5-1) and have the highest number of runs!  WHAT????  Is this season going to be different or what??

I was able to do the first spit count of the season today.  Some things never change:

April 5th

Giants:

-          Sandoval 10

-          Pagan 4

-          Bumgarner 3

-          Sanchez 3

-          Hicks 1

-          Perez 1

Dodgers:

-          Kemp 23

-          Van Slyke 4

-          Ellis 3

-          Puig 1

-          Kershaw 1

-          Ethier 1

-          Mattingly 1

-          Wright 1

Misc.:

-          Giants fan 1

Game Spit Master General = Kemp at 23

Giants Game Spit Master General = Sandoval at 10

That’s a total of 58 spits during a 3 hour and 40 minute game for an average of 1 spit every 3.8 minutes.

Kemp ran away with the title today.  He has mastered the fine art of the triple spit; all but one of his spits consisted of three separate spits in rapid fire succession.   Blech.  And of course, Pablo was not far behind.  Hicks logged his first spit as a Giant (sigh).  Kershaw made an appearance in the count today and he didn’t even play (and that kid chews gum like a cow!).  The one Giants fan caught spitting was simply releasing sunflower seed shells.  And of course, since it was a Madison start, I did a snot rocket count.  He’s still at it, too, and big time. He set a new all-time record with a total of 15 blasts today (previous record was 13).  That’s one blow every 14.7 minutes!  Sheesh!

During the game today, it was mentioned that the team has started a friendly competition where they get points for every good thing they do at the plate.  The harder the task, the greater the points.  The standings are posted each day.  They won’t reveal the scale, but apparently Ryan Volgesong racked up a bunch of points for his two run single against the Dodgers last night.  The prize also wasn’t revealed, but I bet it’s something fun knowing those crazy guys.  The competition is the brainchild of hitting coach Hensley Meulens.  He said they usual only do it during a hitting slump, but they decided to try it up front this season.  Give that man a raise!  Sure seems to be doing the trick!

Since I hadn’t blogged in a while because of my trip, I’ve got some old news.  Near the end of Spring Training George Kontos was optioned to the Fresno Grizzlies (his last option) and Dan Runzler was reassigned to the minor leagues.  Both had more than decent showings at Spring Training, but they were sent down to protect Yusmeiro Petit, David Huff, and Jean Machi who are out of options.  Guess that’s a nice position to be in – so much talent that it’s tough to decide who you will lose.  I posted on Kontos’ Twitter account the fact that he was only sent down to save the other guys and that he would be back soon.  He favorited my tweet.  Love that guy.

Pablo was offered a 3-year, $40 million contract by the Giants but turned it down.  It’s a lot of money, but he’ll definitely get offered more than that, so I understand why.  Wonder if the Giants will try again before the end of the season to lock him up (especially with how well he’s been playing).  Would be really sad to see that guy in another uniform next season.

I know this is old news, too, but just in case you were curious, here’s the 2014 Giants 25-man roster:

Pitchers:  Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Santiago Casilla, Juan Gutierrez, Tim Hudson, David Huff, Tim Lincecum, Javier Lopez, Jean Machi, Yusmeiro Petit, Sergio Romo, Ryan Vogelsong

Catchers:  Buster Posey, Hector Sanchez

Infielders:  Ehire Adrianza, Joaquin Arias, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Hicks, Pablo Sandoval

Outfielders:  Gregor Blanco, Michael Morse, Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence, Juan Perez

Of course Dan was thrilled that Perez made the team and plans to buy a Perez jersey.  I know he’s crazy, but I love the fact that he actually cares.  The new kids are definitely strutting their stuff and I’m glad they are here.  Seems we have a much stronger bench this season, and that lineup is looking wicked!

Another Dodgers jab:  Did you hear that Yasiel Puig didn’t play in their home opener because he arrived to the field late for batting practice?  And today not only did he slide into first (which has been shown to be slower than just running through), he hurt his hand in the process and had to have x-rays.  Then he got picked off.  HA HA!!  Kid’s got a lot to learn.  He also ticked off his manager in one of the Australia games for wanting to come out of the game in the ninth inning, and even one of his teammates, Adrian Gonzalez, was yelling at him after that game for his poor baserunning.  Not so much of a star anymore, I guess.  And probably a big distraction to the team.  Couldn’t have happened to a better club.

Had a couple of fun things happen on social media recently (both on my trip).  I posted a picture of the cool Giants Vans that my daughter decorated for me on the Giants twitter page, and they retweeted the picture, saying, “Look at these KICKS!”  Also, I was listening to Marty Lurie on KNBR the day the Giants/As game got rained out.  Marty had asked people to make predictions for the season.  So I tweeted the following to him:  “Prediction:  Huge year for Belt.  Gold Glove, .310 BA, 100 RBI, and 30 HR.”  And he read it on the air, saying my name twice!  My mini claims to fame.  But seriously, regarding the Belt thing, I really do think this is going to be his breakout year.  He’s already got three HRs in six games, 6 RBI, and he’s batting .318.  And his fielding is fantastic.  It could happen!  I’ll do an update at the end of the season and see how close I came in this prediction.  Do you have any predictions you’d like to share?  On anything Giants related?  Anything?  Just post them in the comments section and I’ll put them in my next blog.

Finally, I forgot to link to this last time, but the new commercials are out!  To me, the release of the new commercials signals the official start of the baseball season.  Here’s a link to all of the new Giants commercials.  There is also a new batch of Toyota commercials featuring Buster, with some voice work by Giants public address announcer, Renel.  Here’s one I saw today during the game.  Buster is really a natural at this!  Who woulda thought that shy guy could act like that?  All the commercials are fantastic.  My fave is probably the one with Sergio and Buster, but they are all great.  I also enjoy the one featuring Michael Morse’s bare chest (sorry – girly moment).

I promise to blog about my Spring Training and Opening Day trip to Arizona sometime this week, but the spit count took preference today.  Hoping my boys can sweep the Dodgers off the planet tomorrow.  Another high scoring game would be sweet!  I’ll be watching.  Until next time, GO GIANTS!  BEAT LA!

Anticipation!

Hadn’t posted in a while and figured I was due since the season is about to begin.  YES!!!  Spring Training is winding down and the final 25 are coming together.

There were several guys sent packing from Arizona in the last week.  Most noteworthy:  Four pitchers – Edwin Escobar, Erik Cordier, Jake Dunning, and Heath Hembree were sent back to the Fresno Grizzlies.  Most surprising of these was Hembree as it was expected he was almost guaranteed a spot in the bullpen.  They did keep promising newcomers Derek Law and David Huff. Tony Abreu was released today after a lackluster spring showing.  That shows how much competition there is for the infield spots to cover for an ailing Marco Scutaro.  The battle for this spot continues between Ehire Adrianza and Brandon Hicks.  Both have impressed the Giants staff both offensively and defensively (Hicks has so far hit .432 with three homeruns and 11 RBI this spring – hard to ignore!).  And my boy Mark Minicozzi will be reporting to minor league camp next week, but he definitely turned some heads during his spring, and I look forward to hearing that name in the future.  Also found out that Tyler La Torre (son of the Vice Principal at the school I work at) had a short stint at Spring Training. He played in one game, got one at bat, and walked.  Good job!

The Giants resigned Darren Ford to a minor league deal.  Remember that name?  The Bullet?  Ford was often put in as a pinch runner when speed was needed during the 2010 post season.  Man, that guy was amazingly fast!  I heard on KNBR that he probably won’t see much big league playing time, but he may be used in the same sub role should the boys go to the post-season.  Welcome back, Darren!

My boy, Eli, was mentioned on KNBR recently.  He played in the Giants vs. Cubs game on March 10th along with fellow ex-Giants members Nate Schierholtz and Jonathan Sanchez.  Cubs won3-2, Sanchez got the save, no hits for Eli or Nate (WTG Matty!).  It was nice to hear Kruk and Kuip speak fondly of Eli, even calling him by his first name.  You’re still loved here!

Speaking of Eli, my all-time favorite catcher, I learned something while listening to the game yesterday.  There was a wild pitch, the ball bounced back off the backstop, and the catcher tried to stop the ball with his mask (he had taken it off to find the ball).  Jon Miller said that this is an illegal move.   I looked it up, and if you want to read the entire rule (which is pretty long and detailed), refer to MLB rule 7.05.  Basically it states that a player cannot deliberately touch a fair ball with his cap, glove, mask, or any article of his apparel if it is not in its usual place on his body (detached).  If he does, depending on the specific situation, all runners can advance 2 or 3 bases, including the person at bat!  I don’t know – it would be pretty hilarious to see guys throwing their mitts to knock down fly balls.  I would definitely pay extra to see that.  Thanks for the new knowledge, Jon!

In the continuing quest to narrow down a player’s skills to quantifiable Sabermetrics, a new technology has been developed to track fly balls.  Check it out.  Pretty cool beans.  Not only does it tell you the batted ball speed, launch angle, distance, and hang time, it also tells you how long it took for the fielder to start toward the ball, his top speed, his acceleration, his direct path, his actual path, and his efficiency.  WOW!  To me, this just emphasizes the amazing talent of these outfielders.  It will also be a helpful tool for comparing the abilities of these guys.  Jason Heyward – you are a beast!  Would love to see this applied to some of Hunter’s and Gregor’s catches.

So as we prepare to begin the next season of baseball, I thought I would share the things that I am excited about and concerned about for my boys.  Here’s my list:

Excited:

-          I think since Brandon Belt has worked out his swing, we will see amazing things from him this year.

-          Buster put on some weight and muscle mass and will hopefully have more endurance this season.

-          Pablo trimmed down and should have a much better season both offensively and defensively.

-          Hector Sanchez also trimmed down.  This hasn’t gotten much media, but you know that will help him with stamina.  Knowing that he will be in the lineup when Buster needs a break, I’m excited to see more production from him this season, especially since he’s a switch hitter.

-          Timmy seems to have worked out his pitching issues so I’m looking forward to seeing more consistency from him.

-          Tim Hudson should be a great addition as a mentor to the kids on the team as well as being a force on the plate, being consistent and getting himself out of jams.  I also learned that the boy can hit!  He’s got a lifetime .170 average.  Not too shabby for a pitcher.

-          Michael Morse has the potential to bring some power to the lineup.  Hopefully he can repeat his 2011 season for us (.303 BA, 31 HR, 95 RBI).  And I look forward to seeing that face on TV (sorry – I’m a girl).

Concerned:

-          My main concern is the health of this team.  Already during Spring Training there have been health issues, primarily with Angel, Michael, and especially Marco.  Marco may not even make the Opening Day roster due to back issues.  At least we have some depth in the infield, but Marco is an offensive force.  All these guys need to stay healthy or we might have a repeat of last year, where bench players took on every day roles.  Keeping my fingers crossed we can.

-          We have a bad habit of leaving guys on base.  I hope this season we can work on doing anything possible to get guys that have made it onto base home.  How many more games would we have won last season if we could just move those guys along??

I’m leaving for my Arizona trip tomorrow night.  My brothers (Paul and Nick) and I will be attending two Spring Training games and the Opening Day game vs. the Diamondbacks on March 31st.  I am soooooooo excited!  Hoping to have lots of close encounters with my boys.  The weather is supposed to be in the 80s all week.  Shorts time!  Also – a heads up to all of you since I probably won’t be writing again before the season starts.  I am putting out the Beat the Streak challenge to everyone again.  Sign up and try to beat me.  And my offer still stands – I’ll buy a Coke for whoever can beat me (and I’ve won the last 3 seasons!).  Here’s the link to the site if you want to try it.  You won’t be able to make picks until right before the season starts.  Good luck if you take on the challenge!  Until next time (when I’ll have a nice tan!) – GO GIANTS!!!

Spring Has Sprung

Three Spring Training games are already in the books for my boys as they make their way toward the start of the 2014 season.  The buzz about the performance of returning players as well as the new guys has already begun.  Isn’t this exciting?

The first game of the Spring took place on Wednesday.  Yusmeiro Petit was the starting pitcher, and unfortunately he gave up four runs on five hits in only one inning.  Not to be outdone, Sergio Romo came in for relief and gave up six runs on seven hits.  Ouch!  But no worries – this is just Spring Training, right?  They are supposed to be working things out.  Brandon Belt had a nice offensive showing, getting hits in both his at bats.  Kid standouts were Ehire Adrianza and Adam Duvall, who each hit homeruns in the ninth.  Adrianza has been a standout both offensively and defensively in camp, and has a good chance at getting a position on the team as a bench player.  Also of note in this game are the two homeruns that Michael Morse was robbed of.  Check this out.  Amazing.  Even a Giants fan has to appreciate those catches by Josh Reddick.  But the positive is that Morse is showing us his power, and right from the start.

On Friday, the team split and one squad played the A’s and the other played the Brewers.  In the A’s game, both Gary Brown and Brandon Belt went 2 for 3, and newly-slimmed-down Hector Sanchez went 2 for 4.  Newbie Edwin Escobar pitched two hitless innings.  In the Brewers game, veterans Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong each pitched two scoreless innings, giving up only one hit each (sweet!).

The only homerun hit by a Giants player came from Mark Minicozzi.  Does that name sound familiar?  That was my favorite name of the new guys that I mentioned in my blog on January 19th.  I think I have some ESP going because Andrew Baggarly wrote an article about him and says he’s one of the top prospects this Spring!  He’s got a great backstory:  He’s 31, and he was drafted by the Giants in the 17th round of the 2005 draft.  He had a fantastic season in 2007 with the San Jose Giants, with a .424 average in the playoffs and an MVP award.  Soon after, though, he was plagued by injuries, and was eventually released by the Giants.  He turned to independent ball (I have to admit I had never heard of this, and may discuss it in a future blog), where he played for three years for various teams.  Then, serendipity struck.  After seeing a post on Facebook from one of his old Giants managers, he looked up the Richmond Flying Squirrels schedule (Giants AA team with the amazing name), and they happened to be playing 45 minutes away from where he was staying.  On a whim, he drove to the game and sat as close to the field as he could.  He got the attention of his old manager, and field coordinator Shane Turner.  Turner invited him to hit with the team the next day, and a week later he was given a contract.  Such a cool story, and the kid already hit one homerun!   Baggs said he probably won’t make the team, but will most likely play in Fresno this year, but from there who knows!  I’m rooting for you, Kid with the awesome name!

In other news, Madison has been named the Opening Day pitcher.  So glad the kid has received this honor.  He quietly achieved a 13-9 record last season with a 2.77 ERA, the pillar of the rotation.  You deserve it, Kid!  And I’ll be there in Arizona to watch you!!  After Madison, the rotation will be Matt, Tim Hudson, Tim Lincecum, and Vogey.

On the weird side, Tim Lincecum received $100K from his former landlady for a frivolous claim she made against him (see article here).  In a previous blog, I had mentioned how she was suing him over extreme damages he had caused to an apartment he was renting from her.  He has been vindicated, so I can erase that piece of scandal from my mind now.  Good for you, Timmy.  It’s awful how people will try to take advantage of celebrities just to make a buck.  In Arizona, Timmy is already taking advantage of having Tim Hudson on the team, getting pointers from him.  Hopefully we’ll see some results on the mound soon.

Tyler Colvin was given a minor league contract and invited to the Big League Camp.  When I first heard this, I though his name sounded familiar.  Then I realized why – I had blogged about him.  It was in the IFO (Identified Flying Objects) blog about players getting hit with flying bat pieces.  Colvin got impaled with a shard of a broken bat which pierced his chest.  He was hospitalized with a punctured lung because of it, ending his 2010 season.  He will be competing with Juan Perez for a spot in the outfield.  Love Juan, but also love this kid’s story.  Good luck to both of you!

The MLB has drafted new rules governing home plate collisions in response to Buster Posey getting taken out by Scott Cousins during the 2011 season.  Buster was even consulted by MLB about the new rules.  The new rules state that 1) the runner can’t deviate off the base path to hit the catcher and 2) the catcher can’t block the plate without the ball.  The rule will be tested this season and decided upon after that.  Not all collisions will be avoided this way, but at least the ones where a player is blatantly trying to harm another will.

Did you hear that Barry Bonds will be at Spring Training instructing the boys in their batting?  He’ll be there starting March 10th and stay for a week (he’ll be gone by the time we get there).  I have mixed feelings about this.  I really don’t like the guy after reading Game of Shadows for his attitude and his lying, but I guess everyone is entitled to redeem themselves.  I would feel more uncomfortable if he had more of a counselor type role, but he’ll just be helping them with batting.  Don’t think he’s really a good role model for anything but that.  And I hope he is good to the media and redeems himself there as well.  I bet the guys are thrilled.  He really can have a huge impact on those bats as he had an amazing approach at the plate.  I hope it works out.  Who do you think he’ll have the most impact on?  Andrew Baggarly predicts it will be Brandon Crawford as he is also a lefty and grew up a Giants fan watching Bonds.  That would be wonderful as we know the potential is there.  Can’t wait to hear what the players say about him.

Learned something new about baseball today, and of course it came from listening to KNBR.  Larry Baer was on with Marty Lurie, and a caller asked why they don’t have a camera for televised games that is in direct center field so that you have a view directly over the plate.  I’ve often wondered this because it’s much easier that way to tell if a pitch is a ball or a strike.  The camera that’s therein AT&T Park is slightly off to the right, so pitches to the right of the plate appear to be strikes.  The answer is that they can’t have a camera directly in center field because it would be in the batter’s line of sight and he wouldn’t be able to track the ball coming off of the pitcher’s hand.  Parks need to be designed so that the batter has a solid backdrop behind the pitcher so he can track the ball.  So now you know.

Also found out from Larry Baer why they tore out the concessions under the bleachers where my friend Anne used to work at AT&T Park.  They’re putting in a massive edible garden behind center field.   It is scheduled to be ready by Opening Day this season.  The garden will provide fresh produce to the park’s catering program, and will cut down on the venue’s fuel costs for trucking in the produce from outside vendors – green all around!  You can even sit amongst the plants to watch the game.  Pretty cool “beans”.  Good for you, Giants!

Countdown to Baseball Trip is at 23 days!  I am getting so excited!  We’re going to try to buy our Opening Day tickets on Monday, and already have the tickets for the two Spring Training games.  Everything else is set – just waiting for the day to arrive.  Will keep my ears open for any Giants news.  Until next time, GO GIANTS!!

The Boys Are Back!

Yeah, Baby!  Spring Training has begun, signaling the start of baseball season!  WOOHOO!  Pitchers and catchers reported on Valentine’s Day (bet their wives loved that), and the rest of the guys arrived today to start working out to prepare for a fantastic 2014 season.  Tons of pictures on Twitter and Facebook.  It’s nice to see them all back together, and also nice to see the new players, Michael Morse and Tim Hudson, in Giants unis.  If you want to get to know Tim Hudson, here’s a nice video for you.  Looking forward to his arm and his guidance on the team, plus his personality fits right in.  He seems pretty mellow.  And I’ve found one more reason to love Michael Morse – his number is 38, Brian Wilson’s old number.  What a great way to wipe all evidence of that guy from the team!  Here’s an interview with Michael that will help you understand why I love this guy (apologies for part of his head being cut off).  He’s so down-to-earth and personable!  And if you’re curious (like I was), here’s a link to the video of that crazy grand slam he describes.  So funny!  Some of the rules regarding things like that are just so silly!

The big news today is that Brandon Belt finally got a contract, and a few hours before his arbitration hearing.  He got a 1 year, $2.9 million contract.  This number was almost half way between what he and his agent were trying to get ($3.6 million) and what the Giants wanted to offer ($2.05 million).  The threat of arbitration loomed because those two numbers were so far off.  Glad that’s done and he can focus on baseball now.  Plus he’s probably happy to be offered a contract – shows good will on the part of the Giants.  Plus that’s one hell of a nice raise over the $531.5K he made last year!  I learned that if his deal had gone to arbitration, it would have been the first time for the Giants to have an arbitration hearing since 2004, when they lost to A.J. Pierzynski.

Joaquin Arias also avoided arbitration and was given a 2 year, $2.6 million contract by the Giants.  To me, he is one of the overlooked strengths of the team.  He always seems to come through in the clutch, both offensively and defensively.  He should see more playing time this season as Bochy has said that he will cover for Marco when he needs a break (he is having lingering back issues).  I’m ecstatic about this, and look forward to seeing more of him this season.

Two new signings have happened since last I posted.  LHP David Huff was acquired from the Yankees for cash to add to their bullpen depth.  He is apparently prone to giving up homeruns, so the new home of AT&T Park might be beneficial for him.  Also former Royal infielder/outfielder Mark Teahan was signed to a minor league contract.  He was added solely for depth and will not be attending major league camp.  Welcome to the Orange and Black, Guys!

So the rumors my brother heard from Andrew Baggarly last season were true.  Several of the players themselves told Pablo to lose weight to improve his defense.  This included Hunter, Matt, Buster, and Marco.  He has lost a significant amount of weight in the off season, and hopefully he’ll take their suggestions to heart and keep it off during the season.  Baggs commented that he has motivation with this being a contract year for him, but that even if he stayed heavy, he could still end up in the American League as a designated hitter since he still bats well with that weight on.  Pablo – we want you to stay right here!  Listen to your boys and keep that weight off!  They’ll support you cause they know what you can do for the team.

Not to be outdone by his teammate, Hector Sanchez also trimmed down in the off-season.  He lost 20 pounds.  He’s hoping that this will give him increased stamina, something he had troubles with last season.  He also says that he no longer has shoulder discomfort.  Looking forward to him contributing more this season when Buster needs a break, especially since he’s a switch hitter and a powerful batter.  Good luck, Hector!  You can do it!

Some interesting news about Chad Gaudin:  I was wondering why the Giants didn’t sign him as he did such a great job replacing Ryan Vogelsong when he was injured last season.  Gaudin was signed to a minor league contract by the Phillies, but then three weeks later they cut him when he failed his physical.  It’s assumed that this had something to do with the carpal tunnel surgery he had last season.  Maybe the Giants knew something and decided not to keep him.  I had never heard of anyone failing a physical before.  Baggs said that Yusmeiro Petit will take Gaudin’s role this season, but that the Giants could still use more pitching depth as far as starters.

Just cause I haven’t in a while, and just cause I don’t want him to think I’ve forgotten him, I’ll give you an Eli Whiteside update.  He was signed to a minor league contract with the Chicago Cubs in November, and he will be a non-roster invitee to their Spring Training to compete for a job backing up Cubs catcher Welington Castillo.  Glad to see that my boy is still playing ball.  Good luck at Spring Training, Eli!  Hope you can make the team!

Giants Spring Training games start on February 26th – that’s next week, Folks!  I am so excited.  I know that game will be broadcast on KNBR, but I’m hoping several of the games will also appear on Comcast.  I need my fix!  Will hopefully update more often now that the boys are back.  YAY!  GO GIANTS!

KNBR Giants FanFest 2014

I got up at 4 am on a Saturday morning.  Those of you that know me understand the significance of this act.  I am NOT a morning person, and I live for the weekend so I can sleep in.  But this was no usual Saturday morning.  This Saturday morning brought with it the long awaited end to the baseball drought – the 2014 KNBR Giants FanFest!!  I had been looking forward to this day for months.

I picked up Ginny on the way to AT&T Park, stopped at Starbucks for some caffeine, and off we went.  Just the drive there got us both excited – hadn’t made that trek in over four months.  We arrived at the park at about 6:30 am.  One of the sweet parts of this day was that the parking was free.  We headed over the bridge to wait in line until 10 am when the gates would open.

Both Ginny and I agree that the wait is one of the highlights of the day.  It was glorious to be surrounded by die-hard Giants fans once again, and of course, we made friends with several of the people around us.  We shared stories and laughs, and one group even shared food with us.  I got some tips on my Spring Training trip and a great website to check out games going on at Chase Field during the gap we have between games.  The best group we met consisted of Ben, Jen, Jen, and Ben (I’m not kidding).  These kids were fun, interesting, huge Giants fans, and just as excited about FanFest as the two of us were.  If you guys are reading this (I gave them my blog address), it was a pleasure to meet you and get excited with you, and I hope to see you all at a game at some point.  And Jen – you really are a fabulous chef – that cookie was AMAZING!!  Being surrounded by lots of people to talk to, the wait really went by quickly.

At a little after 10 am, they blew a whistle, and the gates flew open.  People started cramming into the park.  Considering the amount of people waiting to get in, things went pretty smoothly.  Ginny and I, being the veteran FanFest goers that we are, had a plan – run to the View Level (most people run to the field, but the lines up top are much shorter – but don’t let the secret out!!), get one set of autographs, walk around to the other autograph booths and take pictures, get something to eat, hang out at the Q&A Stage on the Club Level to see the player interviews, and then try to get a tour of the Clubhouse.  We ran up to the View Level and got into one of the lines.  At this point, I have to tell you that I decided to wear my Vogelsong T-shirt to FanFest, even though it was really a day for the entire team.  I decided that he is truly my favorite, so I was going to honor him.  So was it coincidence that he was in the autograph booth where I lined up????  You never know who will be up there until you hear from other people.  Luckily, I had brought my picture of me with Bill Laskey and Ryan (I was able to get it signed by Bill Laskey at last year’s FanFest).  I was just hoping that Ryan would still be in the booth once I got up there (they rotate the guys around about every hour or so).  Got to the front of the line in about 40 minutes.  HEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!  In the booth with Ryan were Nick Noonan and hitting coach Joe Lefebvre.  I got Nick’s autograph and congratulated him on his recent wedding.  Then I gave him an orange and black rubber band bracelet I had made.  He said thank you, and I moved on.  He is a cutie.  I got Joe Lefebvre’s autograph next.  He was wearing his World Series ring.  I told him that was some pretty nifty jewelry he had there, and he laughed and said thanks.  Then came Ryan.  I handed him the picture to sign and asked if he remembered the occasion.  He said, “I sure do.”  Thanks for lying, Ryan.  You’re such a good boy.  After he signed the picture, I gave him a bracelet as well.  He said, “Another one!”  Guess my idea wasn’t unique.  But he proceeded to put it on, which I appreciated.  I was so excited to actually get his autograph on that picture and talk to him again.  But it all happened so quickly.  And I didn’t even show him that I was wearing his shirt!  Ginny got some great pics of me with him.  What would I do without her??

Next we walked to another autograph booth.  Brandon Belt, Heath Hembree, and former Giant Mike Felder were signing there.  We got some great pictures of the three of them.  That’s the nice thing about the view level booths – you can get really close to the players.  Little did we know we would soon get even closer.  A few minutes after we got there, it was time to swap out players.  Brandon Belt walked right by us – like within 2 feet!  Bill Laskey and Joe Lefebvre came in to replace them, and we wondered who would fill the third seat.  Then here came Gregor Blanco, and he walked right by us as well.  He even said “hi” to Ginny!!  After getting pictures of Gregor, we went back to where I had gotten Ryan’s autograph.  We got pics of Dave Dravecky, Michael Morse, and Jack Dunning.  Then we moved on the the last autograph booth on the View Level.  Nick Noonan and Jeff Leonard were signing there, but unfortunately we couldn’t get close enough to take pics.

We then headed down to the Club Level to get something to eat.  On the way we passed the two Q&A stages on this level.  The first one had Orlando Cepeda, first base coach Roberto Kelly, and Tito Fuentes on stage being interviewed.  We got some shots of them as we could get pretty close to them.  Then at the next stage we saw Bruce Bochy, Brandon Belt, and Javier Lopez.  We were pretty far away from them, but we still had a pretty good view.  Walking further down the hall I noticed someone familiar behind one of the glass doors leading out to the seats – Larry Baer!  He was just walking around talking to folks.  As he walked by I followed him, and he happened to stop and I asked him for his autograph.  He graciously gave it to me and I told him he was such a great guy.  He said, “Aw, thank you!” and went on his way.  So cool and unexpected.

We then ordered lunch (I got a polish sausage and garlic fries – oh, how I had missed that combination!), and we went outside to eat and take a break.  We watched the KNBR interviews that were taking place down on the field.  Soon after we sat down, someone tapped my shoulder.  It was Leslie, my friend whom I met at FanFest 2 years ago!  She came with her kids and we texted each other to try and meet, and she found me.  We hung out with them for a while, and I gave all of them orange and black bracelets.  I had met her daughter, Morgan, at FanFest as well, but I also met her son and her youngest daughter for the first time today.  I felt like I already knew them because of Facebook, but it was nice to see them in person.  And her youngest is adorable!

After we visited for a while, we headed back over to the main Q&A stage.  Tim Lincecum, Hunter Pence, and Matt Cain were there.  I always love hearing the exchange between the guys at these things.  They are all so funny and they mess with each other.  We weren’t very close, but as that session ended, some people left and we were able to move in closer.  The next session contained both Ginny and my favorites – Brandon Crawford and Ryan Vogelsong, along with new-kid-on-the-block, Michael Morse.  I was so glad that Ginny got to see Brandon because last year he didn’t show up at his scheduled session.  Again, the banter between the three of them was great.  We noticed that Brandon and Michael seemed to be developing a friendship as they would talk amongst themselves when Kate Scott was asking Ryan questions.  I also noticed that Ryan was still wearing the bracelet that I had given him, and this made me so happy.

At this point I have an announcement to make – Michael Morse is officially one of my favorites!  I absolutely love the guy!  He was candid and told funny stories about how bad his high school football team was (for which he was the quarterback), he’s a cutie pie, and he’s humble.  I am so happy he is on the team, and I think he will fit right in with that clubhouse.  At one point during the interview, he looked over at us and I waved and caught his attention.  Then I made a heart with my hands and he smiled.  AWWWW!!!  Just wanted the guy to feel welcome here.  He really seemed to love all the fans and kept saying how happy he was to be a Giant and it was the best team he had ever been on.  At one point, Kate got the crowd to sing his walk up song, Take On Me by A-ha, and he sang along.  I can just hear everyone singing it at the games this season.  We got some good pics of the three guys along with my girl, Kate, and then they were on their way.

We weren’t planning on staying for the next set of guys, but it was Buster, Sergio, and Jeremy Affeldt, so we decided what the heck and stayed.  Plus, we were able to move up even closer as more people left.  Jeremy finally got to answer back to all the heckling he had gotten – everyone picks on that guy!  Buster looks so buff – he gained a lot of muscle weight in the off season.  He also buzzed his hair and I hope he grows it back soon – not liking that look on him.

We stayed for about half the session, then left and went down to the Field Level to sit after standing for so long (and to recover from the garlic fries that weren’t agreeing with either of us).  Michael Morse was being interviewed by Tom Tolbert on the KNBR stage, and it was like they were just having a personal conversation.  It was so great!  Morse really is personable, and you could tell Tolbert was loving it.  We decided to try and see if they were still doing Clubhouse tours, and we were able to go down under the Field Level into the bowels of AT&T Park.  I had never been in this part of the park, so I was just excited about that.  Unfortunately, the tours had ended about 10 minutes prior, so we missed out.  And Ginny discovered that she had been “birded” while we had been watching Morse, so she went off to the restroom to clean up.

That’s when the insanity began.  I happened to look down the hall and saw a tall guy in an orange jersey – Hunter Pence!  He was signing autographs down the hall from me!  I walked over to him and he looked so exhausted, so I didn’t try to hassle him for one.  But he walked within two feet of me.  I got a couple of good pics of him.  As I turned around to watch him walk down the hall, a female police officer told me to please move out of her way.  I apologized and did, then realized too late that she was escorting Ryan Vogelsong!  He had already taken his orange jersey off, so no one knew he was a player.  I yelled out, “You sneaky Ryan” and I saw him turn and laugh.  I turned back around to find Ginny, and then I saw more players coming down the hall.  First Jeremy Affeldt (who gave me a fist bump as he walked by), then Buster (who smiled at me – what gorgeous eyes that boy has), then Michael Morse walked by.  As Michael walked down the hall to leave the park, I yelled, “Michael, you’re awesome!  I’m so glad you joined the team!” and he turned around and smiled and waved at me!  Love that guy!  All those guys had walked right by me.  Then Ginny came by and I told her about what just happened, but it continued.  Here came Gregor Blanco again!  And he said hi to Ginny again!  I think he has a thing for her!  And she may add him to her list of favorites now.  What an exciting way to end the day!

As FanFest was just about over at that point, and there were no more players to be seen, we headed out to the car.  On the way, we noticed the spot where the players had come out of the park (near the gate by the dugout store on 3rd Street).  So we had more player sightings!  We saw Hunter and Gregor again, as well as George Kontos, and then we saw Matt Cain driving off.  So much fun!

The day would not have been half as fun without my buddy and Giants partner in crime, Ginny, at my side.  She took some great pictures for me and really let me do whatever I wanted to the entire day.  And I love that we both share the same enthusiasm for baseball and our boys.  Thanks so much, my friend.  Looking forward to that first game we can attend together and to our texting when we watch the games at home!

Great day all around.  And it’s always great to get back into that park after the off season.  I have a few more tidbits for you, but I think I’ll save them for another day so that I can savor the FanFest experience.  Until next time, GO GIANTS!!!!  Only 13 days ‘til the start of Spring Training!

Back Again Already!

You can tell that baseball is in the air because I last blogged a week ago and I actually have several things to tell you about.  YAY!!  First off – the list of non-roster guys who have been invited to Spring Training has been released:

Pitchers

RHP Jason Berken

LHP Tyson Blach

RHP Clayton Blackburn

RHP Brett Bochy

RHP Jose Casilla

RHP Kyle Crick

RHP Rafael Dolis

RHP J.C. Gutierrez

RHP Chris Heston

RHP Derek Law

RHP Mitch Lively

RHP Kameron Loe

RHP Adam Reifer

RHP Sandy Rosario

LHP Dan Runzler

RHP Mason Tobin

Catchers

Jeff Arnold

Guillermo Quiroz

Andrew Susac

Ben Turner

Infielders

Chris Dominguez

Brandon Hicks

Mark Minicozzi

Joe Panik

Outfielders

Javier Herrera

Mac Williamson

Looking at that list of pitchers, you can see the value of a great lefty like Madison – there aren’t a lot around.  Bruce Bochy’s son, Brett, will be back this season.  He was impressive last year, so hopefully he’ll repeat.  Would be great to have that father-son matchup on the team together someday.  In particular, I’ve heard lots of good things about Kyle Crick, Andrew Susac, and Joe Panik, so I’m looking forward to seeing them play (hopefully Comcast will televise more Spring Training games this season, because those guys will probably all be gone by the time I get there!).  Several familiar names on there, including Sandy (“The Spitter”) Rosario, Dan Runzler (that guy just never goes away), and Guillermo Quiroz.  Favorite new name of the bunch – Mark Minicozzi.  Whenever I read it, I hear it in an Italian accent, and it makes me giggle.  Plus it makes me think of my cousin’s dog, Cozi.  My favorite new name 3 years ago was Ryan Vogelsong, and we all know how that one turned out!  Sad to see that Tyler La Torre didn’t make it this season, but he was signed to a minor league contract again, so that’s something (his dad works with me).  So the competition will begin soon to see who can impress the big guys and possibly win a place on the team, just like Chad Gaudin, Heath Hembree, Shane Loux, Mike Kickham, Guillermo Quiroz, and Kensuke (“I’m a Good Boy and Don’t Spit”) Tanaka did last season.

Speaking of left-handed pitchers, did you hear about Clayton Kershaw?  He was given a 7-year, $215 million contract from the new money bags of the West, the Los Angeles Dodgers. Yes folks, that’s an average of over $30 million a year.  What could that kid ever do with that much money??   This makes him the highest paid pitcher in the history of baseball.  I got the news from a coworker who is a big Dodgers fan.  He then proceeded to send me an Email with a picture of Kershaw saying, “With this new contract I can buy anything…too bad I already own the Giants!”  Yes, I was thinking what I know you’re all thinking.  Grounds for murder right there.  I shared the Email with my hubby, and his response was, “Two words:  Barry Zito.”  Poor Barry!  But it is true – a 7-year contract is a big risk, even for someone as fantastic as Kershaw (hey, you gotta appreciate the kid’s talent, even if he is on the wrong team).  We shall see how that one turns out.  And to my coworker – the boy did not own the Giants last season.  He went 3 and 2 against us.  I just looked it up.  And then he choked in the playoffs.  So neener, neener, neener!!!!

Three Giants received 1-year contracts this week before going to arbitration.  Gregor Blanco will receive $2.525 million (love that boy – glad he’s back), Tony Abreu will receive $745K, and Yusmeiro (“One-hitter”) Petit will receive $845K plus performance incentives.  Congratulations, Guys!!  Still waiting to hear about Brandon Belt and Joaquin Arias.  Both should walk away with hefty deals.

Oh, what a difference a contract year can make.  Word came out this week that Pablo has lost 42 pounds in the off season.  Hard to believe, right?  Well, here is a picture that he posted on Instagram (middle of page), and it’s shirtless.  Hard to hide any weight that way.  I’m really happy for the guy, but I’m taking a wait-and-see attitude at this point, as he usually loses a lot of weight in the off season and then puts it all right back on as the season progresses.  Hoping he can keep it off this time as his level of play is tremendously better sans the pounds.  Good luck, Pablo!  The Giants may try to sign him to a contract before he becomes a free agent next season, keeping him on the team and away from anyone else.  If they don’t do it before the season begins, that weight better stay off or he won’t look good to anyone.

A rare event in baseball occurred this week – a rule change was made.  MLB owners approved expanded instant replay for the 2014 season.  This will give managers more opportunity to challenge questionable calls.  This season it will be tested, and depending on its effectiveness, the decision will be made whether to keep it in place.  Here’s the MLB Press Release detailing the new instant replay rules.  Here’s also a link to Andrew Baggarly’s rundown of the changes (I love his explanation – plus it’s funny – read it!).  Some highlights:  Each manager will have one instant replay challenge, and if that play is overturned, that manager will have the ability to challenge one more play in that game.  If the play is not overturned, he has lost any other challenges for that game.  The rule details the types of plays that can be challenged, including fan interference (a big problem at AT&T last season), trap play in the outfield, and batter hit by pitch.  An interesting sideline to this is that from now on, teams will be able to show replays on the ballpark scoreboard, regardless of whether the play was reviewed.  Replays have not been allowed in ballparks since 1976, when a bottle was thrown at an umpire after a bad call during a Yankees vs. Orioles game.  Though I do have some concerns over the safety of the umpires, being able to watch replays in the park is something that I am really looking forward to.  How many times have I been at the ballpark and wondered if we had gotten cheated out of a run because of a bad call?  That’s been one of the most frustrating things about watching a game live vs. at home.  So excited about this.  And all those umps will have more pressure on them to get it right.

Going to end with some talk about the 49ers vs. Seahawks game on Sunday.  I know, this is a baseball blog, but there is actually a baseball connection.  There’s been lots of trash talk going on between the two cities about who will win this game.  That talk has spread to the baseball teams from the two competing cities.  Here’s the Twitter conversation between the Giants and the Mariners.  The bet is that if the Seahawks win, the Giants have to post a picture on Twitter of Lou Seal going “Feast Mode” on some Skittles.  This is to commemorate the fact that Seahawks Running Back Marshawn Lynch has been eating Skittles, handful by handful, on the sidelines of NFL games for years.  If the 49ers win, the Seahawks have to post a picture of their mascot, Mariner Moose, “Kaepernicking”.  Love it!  The conversation started between the Giants and the Mariners, but once Lou Seal (aka Luigi Francisco Seal on Twitter) got dragged into it, he got in on the action, tweeting, “That’s @LouSeal01 for your information.  If you want me in on your little wager you might want to clue me in first.  BTW, IT’S ON!”  and later, “Haha!  We shall see…Tell my boy the Moose to break out his Chapstick and get ready to self smooch!”  What a riot!  You tell ‘em, Lou!  Can’t wait to see that goofy moose kissing his bicep!

FanFest is in less than 2 weeks now!  At this point, Ginny and I are going for sure, and my sister and my 9-year-old niece (who is a HUGE Giants fan) are probably going as well.  I’m so excited!  Until next time, GO NINERS!!  AND GO GIANTS!!

Still Here!

Not a whole lot going on as far as Giants baseball lately, but since I hadn’t blogged in a while I figured I’d get you all up to date.  There were several roster changes that I somehow missed.  There’s a transactions section of the Giants’ website, and I need to check on it every once in awhile in the future to keep up with this stuff as it doesn’t always make the big news.  2013’s Overall Spit Master General, Guillermo Moscoso, was designated for assignment by the Giants in November, elected to become a free agent, and since has signed with Nippon Professional Baseball’s Yokohama Bay Stars.  I wonder what it’s like to just pack up and move to another country like that.  Well, with him and Rosario gone next season, there’ll be a lot less spitting going on!  Another player will be moving to another country, and I’m sure Ginny’s mom won’t be happy about it.  Brett Pill’s contract was sold to the KIA Tigers of the Korean Baseball Organization.  Will definitely miss that kid, but apparently he will probably be an everyday player in Korea, and that’s a nice gig for him.  Good luck to both of you on your intercontinental adventures, Guillermo and Brett!  Pitcher Eric Surkamp is making a much shorter trip to Chicago, being claimed off waivers from the Giants by the White Sox.

Several quiet new additions were made to the 40-man roster in the last month as well.  Adam Duvall (3B), Kendry Flores (RHP), Hunter Strickland (RHP), and most notably Gary Brown (CF) were added to the roster, coming up from the Giants farm system.  I actually got to watch Gary Brown play for the San Jose Giants once.  He was the star of the team at the time, and had an amazing arm.  Last I had heard, though, he didn’t have such a great season with the Fresno Grizzlies in 2012, having some trouble adjusting to the better pitching in AAA, and they were planning to delay his call-up.  And he wasn’t called up with the big boys during the September call-ups last season.  Guess something changed their mind, possibly the lack of much depth in the outfield.  A big welcome to the new kids in town!  The Giants also recently signed LHP Dontrelle Willis to a minor league contract.  I had never heard of the guy, but my brother, Nick, mentioned this so I thought I would include it.  He hasn’t played in the majors since 2011, and hasn’t done such a great job in the minors recently, but he did have a nice showing in 2006 for the Marlins, going 12-12 with a 3.87 ERA.  From the articles I read about him, it sounds like the Giants may have picked him up for that lefty arm.  Not sure if he will be invited to Spring Training at this point.

Blast from the past Aubrey Huff has officially retired from baseball after 13 major league seasons, taking up a career as a broadcaster on the PAC-12 Network announcing college baseball games.  The guy definitely has the voice for it – used to love to hear his ads on KNBR for Giants baseball.  All the best to you in your new endeavor, Aubrey!

Rumor has it that protective headgear for pitchers could be available this season on an optional basis.  It will be interesting to see if guys actually wear it.  It supposedly looks pretty weird, but hey, if I was facing speeding orbs flying at my head every day, I would wear it.  Brandon McCarthy, ex-A’s pitcher who received a severe head injury from a line drive to the head while pitching in 2012, was interviewed by Fox Sports about the new headgear.  He said, “It’s going to look silly, but it should be strong enough and capable enough that literally, if I got hit by the same exact ball, I would have been able to keep pitching in that game.”  Pretty amazing technology.  Wear it, guys!  We don’t want you getting hurt out there if you can prevent it.  Get over the vanity thing!  If you want to see an example of one type of proposed headgear, check this out (scroll to the middle of the page).  Does look kind of silly, but we’ll get used to it.

Big baseball story in the news today – Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees has been suspended from the 2014 baseball season and any potential post-season play for getting caught using steroids and trying to interfere with the investigation.  This was actually a lesser penalty than the 211 game suspension originally handed down.  Rodriguez was the only one of the several players who were caught in the Biogenesis scandal to actually appeal.  And he didn’t win.  And now he is planning on suing MLB.  Great.  Stupid A-Rod.  There’s a lesson in this for all you young players out there – take steroids, get suspended, lose any credibility, lose money, never get into the Hall of Fame (none of the suspected steroid users on the ballot this year got in again).  It’s not worth it.  Just work hard and show us what you’ve really got.

Speaking of steroids, when I asked my brother, Nick, what he thought about the Michael Morse signing, the first thing he said was that he had gotten caught taking steroids in the past.  NOOOOO!!  I was ready to take this guy in as one of my boys!  I did some research into these allegations.  He was actually suspended for steroids when he was in the minors.  He admitted to using them to recover from a torn thigh muscle injury he sustained in 2003 that he thought might end his career, and he also admitted that he had made a terrible mistake in resorting to steroids.  The interesting thing is that he tested positive again in the two subsequent years, once in the minors again and once when he went up to the majors.  But in the latter two cases, the level of the steroid (specifically “nandrolone”, an injectable, oil-based anabolic steroid that increases muscle strength that can occur naturally in the body in small quantities) was deemed by the panel that heard his appeal to be below a level that could be construed as performance enhancing.  What might have happened is the drug lingered in his body for several years and was still being detected (the science backs this up).  But since the league has a no tolerance policy, he was suspended basically three times for taking steroids once.  I hate the whole steroid issue, but in this case I do feel sorry for the guy, especially because he did at least admit to using them.  So you can still be one of my boys, Michael.  And he hasn’t tested positive since 2005, so that’s comforting as well.

Missing baseball as much as I am?  Here is a video of some of the top moments from the Giants 2013 season.  Enjoy!  And Ginny – there’s a nice Brandon clip in there for ya!  Can’t wait to spend my evenings again in front of the tube watching my boys and texting Ginny and my siblings back and forth!

Been really enjoying Hunter Pence’s Facebook antics.  He posted this video of his off-season workout – pushing a car uphill!  Then check out Jeremy Affeldt’s response just below it.  Love my crazy, zany boys!

Giants FanFest is almost within our reach!  It’s exactly 3 weeks from today!  HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!  Ginny is coming with me, possibly my sister, and I know Leslie will be there (I met her and her daughter at FanFest 2 years ago).  Come on out and enjoy the day with us and my boys!  KNBR has set up a page with details – check it out.  They will update things as the date gets closer.  They usually post links for maps and schedules that are very helpful.  I’ve also been finalizing plans for a Spring Training/Opening Day trip to Arizona with my brothers, Nick and Paul.  We’ll be going to the last two games of Spring Training and then the Opening Day game vs. the Diamondbacks.  So excited!  The planning is half the fun!  Also wanted to mention that I’ve hit a major milestone with my blog.  I’ve always thought that the ultimate in blogdom would be to have someone who I don’t know follow me.  And it’s finally happened!  Welcome to Lauren!  Thanks so much for following me!  I hope it’s worth it!  And as all of you know, any comments and feedback are always appreciated.  Will keep my ears open for news.  Until next time, GO GIANTS!!!!

Left Field – Check!

The mystery of who will be in left field next season has finally been solved.  Outfielder Michael Morse (most recently of the Baltimore Orioles) has been signed to a 1 year, $6 million contract.  The plan is to have him as the everyday left fielder, with Gregor Blanco as his backup or as a late-game replacement.  The word is that Morse has power as a hitter, but he had a lackluster season last year plagued with injuries.  His batting average last year was .215 with 13 home runs and 27 RBI in 88 games – pretty poopy.  However, the season before he batted .291 with 18 home runs and 62 RBI, so there’s definitely some potential there.  I definitely remember him from the 2012 season as I picked him more than once in the Beat the Streak game, hoping he would get a hit for me.  We’ll just have to hope that he can remain injury free (knocking on wood).  The boy is definitely easy on the eyes as well, all 6’5” of him!  I love him already for two reasons:  One, his walk up music is “Take On Me” by A-Ha.  Can’t wait to be singing this at the top of my lungs at the games!  Two, he has this really weird batting stance where he lifts his leg up – it’s been described as being comparable to the Heisman Trophy.  Check it out.  How could you not love this guy??  He and Hunter should have some fun together.  Welcome to the team, Michael!

Congrats to Timmy Lincecum (have to use his last name now as there’s another Tim on the team!) on winning the GIBBY Award (Greatness in Baseball Yearly Award) for Best Pitching Performance of 2013 for his July 13th No Hitter.  Nice to receive some national attention for this.  Way to go!

Did you see this mysterious tribute to Hunter Pence?  Check it out.  Must be a pretty talented person as they did it while in the water (I’m assuming in a boat??).  Pretty cool beans.  I’m sure Hunter loves this.  See kid – SF loves you!

While following roster changes I came across the fact that both Jose Mijares and Sandy Rosario have been dropped from the 40-man roster to make way for new additions to the team.  Sad to see them both go as both made major contributions last season.  Good luck to you both!  Won’t miss Rosario’s spitting, though (averaged 4 spits per game last season – pretty high for a reliever!)!

If you follow Hunter Pence on Facebook, I’m sure you’ve come across the adorable pictures and videos of him hanging out with George Kontos and a couple of other guys (not sure who they are – anyone else know?).  Here’s an example of one of the Instagram posts.  Hunter’s the one in the beard – the white beard.  And check out those sneakers!!  And look how gorgeous George is!  They’re so cute!  Didn’t realize that they were such good buds.  Glad they’re enjoying themselves before they get back to work in February.

Been hearing a lot about the “Rule 5 Draft” lately.  Since I had no idea what this is, I decided to do some research and share it with you all in case you are as confused as I am.  In summary, it’s a way to pick up major or minor league players during the Winter Meetings.  Guys can be picked up and added to a major league team’s 25-man roster for a fee of $50,000 and must stay on that roster the entire season.  Players can also be added to the roster of a Triple A or Double A team in the later phases.  Teams don’t usually make Rule 5 Draft choices, but will if there is a strong player available.  Some notable Rule 5 Draft choices include:  Roberto Clemente, Jose Bautista, Josh Hamilton, Shane Victorino, and R.J. Dickey.  Not too shabby!  You can find more info on the Rule 5 Draft here (in case you’re as much of a geek about this stuff as I am).

48 days until Giants FanFest!  Can’t wait!  Need a baseball fix badly!  Hope my boys are resting up for a fantastic season.  Those even years are the lucky ones after all!  Will keep you posted if I hear about any other acquisitions or other fun gossip.  Until next time, GO GIANTS!!!

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