Train to Reign in a New Season

Yikes, it’s been awhile since I’ve blogged!  So many things to chat about!  First off, I need to mention my Spring Training trip – another successful adventure with my brothers.  We were in Arizona for 4 days, and while there attended 3 Giants games.  The trip had some bad and good aspects, so I feel some lists coming on.  Here are the good and the bad of this trip (and some things I learned for next time):

Bad Things (first so I can end on a high note because it was really a great trip):

  • We accidentally planned the trip on Easter weekend. I had already bought game tickets before I realized this.  Besides the fact that I didn’t get to spend Easter with the rest of my family, this meant that both airline and game ticket prices were much more than usual.  Won’t do that again.
  • Didn’t end up getting any current players’ autographs even though I waited for hours before all three games.
  • Went on a hike of Camelback Mountain not knowing that it is an extremely difficult hike, so we didn’t make it to the top (my brother said his back was hurting about half way up – I think he was lying because he didn’t want me to die. I’m not the greatest hiker.).
  • When we got back to the car after hiking Camelback Mountain, we were greeted by a parking ticket. Beware – it’s not obvious where the no parking zones are!
  • We lost all three games we attended, including a shutout by the Dodgers and a game that lasted over 4 hours that was on ESPN (and it only went 9 innings!).

Great Things that made up for the Bad Things:

  • I got to see my boys play up close and personal.
  • We made sure we purchased tickets in the shade this year. So much more comfortable, and worth the extra we paid for them.
  • I got Darrell Evans’ autograph (even though I had to pay for it) and took a picture with him. Such a nice guy.
  • I got to chat with a bunch of other retired players, including Gaylord Perry and George Foster.
  • I got Dave Fleming’s autograph (he was the only Giants broadcaster I was missing). Actually, I also got to chat with Erwin Higueros (one of the Spanish language broadcasters) and I was a dummy and didn’t think to get his autograph as well.  He’s such a friendly guy!
  • I chatted with Jon Miller about my failed hike up Camelback Mountain (he has made it up several times). Also got to shake his hand this time.
  • We found a couple of new restaurants that were fantastic – Joe’s Farm Grill (best tuna steak sandwich I’ve ever had – they have a farm on site where they get their produce) and Little Miss BBQ (be prepared for a looooooong line, but well worth it).
  • Got to see Juan Perez and Travis Ishikawa play for the Cubs and White Sox respectively. Really miss those guys.  Travis even hit a homerun!  Unfortunately, neither made their team’s starting roster.
  • Got to see Bob Costas up close and personal during the game that was on ESPN. That man sure has had a lot of work done!
  • Got to see Tim Hudson in the dugout during one of the games (I think he was there because Madison was pitching).
  • Got to see Gregor Blanco hitting balls to his son in the infield before one of the games.
  • Had a close encounter with Sergio Romo’s family during one game. They were sitting on the other side of the aisle from us while Sergio was pitching.  When he gave up a homerun, his son put his face in his hand and yelled, “OH, DAD!!”
  • Got to boo Mat Latos when he pitched for the White Sox (he stunk that day).
  • The weather was milder than it’s ever been for us there – between 82 and 87 degrees.
  • Got to meet and speak with tons of awesome Giants fans. One even showed my Larry Baer’s business card!
  • Of course, one of the best parts was getting to hang out and be silly with my brothers.

A week later, it was time for real baseball.  I could not believe how ready I was for the season to start.  When I heard Mike Krukow mention on KNBR one morning that there should be no more “jimmyjacking”, I knew the season had officially started!  Here’s the 25-man roster for your 2016 San Francisco Giants (I can just hear Renel saying this!):

Pitchers:

Madison Bumgarner

Matt Cain

Santiago Casilla

Johnny Cueto

Cory Gearrin

Chris Heston

George Kontos

Javier Lopez

Josh Osich

Jake Peavy

Sergio Romo

Jeff Samardzija

Hunter Strickland

Catchers:

Trevor Brown

Buster Posey

Infielders:

Ehire Adrianza

Brandon Belt

Brandon Crawford

Matt Duffy

Joe Panik

Kelby Tomlinson

Outfielders:

Gregor Blanco

Angel Pagan

Hunter Pence

Denard Span

Some notes about this lineup:  Andrew Susac probably would have been the backup catcher if it wasn’t for the fact that he was having tendinitis in his surgically-repaired wrist this spring.  He was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento because the Giants still want him to get regular playing time while he is recovering.  Lucky for Trevor Brown!  Also of note is that all our starting pitchers are healthy (as I’m typing this, I’m hoping I’m not jinxing anything).  There was some question about whether this would be the case during Spring Training, and Chris Heston was ready and willing if he was needed to fill in.  I love Chris, but so glad he’s not needed right now.  And I am so, so excited about our starting lineup!  I really enjoyed watching Johnny Cueto pitch the other day and love his style.  It seems like he never has the same motion twice, plus he doesn’t waste any time getting to his next pitch.  Haven’t had a chance to see Samardzija in action, but boy that guy sure is animated in the clubhouse!  I think Hunter has a new buddy!  I’m really excited about Cory Gearrin being in the bullpen.  He definitely proved his worth during spring training, and I’m sure he’ll be an asset.  Meanwhile Ehire Adrianza gets another shot at coming off the bench.  He sure proved himself today with some great defensive plays and that homerun off of Kershaw!  Also with Hunter Strickland starting off in the bullpen this season, it will be interesting to see if Bochy tries him as closer at some point.  Santiago better be on his toes because Hunter is waiting in the wings.

Denard Span is another player that I’m really excited about, both for his offense and defense.  It’s been great to get to know him better through some interviews I’ve seen on the internet.  Here’s one that he did with Randy Winn.  I love the format of this interview – very low key with a former player and a current player discussing the ins and outs of playing in AT&T Park.  Denard also was allowed to be a guest writer for the Brandon and Brandon blog today.  You can see what he wrote here.  It’s also a nice view into his personality, and gives some insight into how other teams view our boys.  And his sense of humor seems to fit right in!

I was extremely lucky to get a great deal on some Field Level tickets to the Dodgers vs. Giants game on Friday night.  I went with one of my favorite game buddies, my sister.  We had seats that were covered so we didn’t get rained on.  It was kind of cool because all the people around us were season ticket holders and they all knew each other.  They were also very nice to us newcomers.  Talk about a roller coaster of emotions during that game!  Going in, all I really hoped for was that Matt Cain had a good start.  He’s been the biggest question mark of the starting rotation.  So glad and relieved that he had a fantastic night.  Just wish he could have gotten a little more run support!  That Dodgers kid Stripling was dealing!  I don’t think anyone was expecting that.  We were both so ticked off because the few Dodgers fans around us were being extremely obnoxious.  Any time the Dodgers would get a hit, they would stand up and face all of us and flaunt it, and especially this one guy named Barajas (had his name on the back of his jersey).  We kept saying, “Sit down, Barajas!”  It was getting depressing because besides Matt’s great showing, we didn’t really have much to cheer about.  We were praying that the tides would turn so that we could shut the Dodgers fans up.  Then by the end of the 7th inning, we were afraid we were going to experience a moment in history – for our arch rivals!  My boys still hadn’t gotten a hit off that kid!  They even started sending notifications on ESPN about it.  The eighth inning came and still no hits, but he did walk Buster.  Then something happened that no one ever anticipated – Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts took the kid out!  We were all in shock – both Dodgers fans and Giants fans alike.  How could he do that, with the kid taking a no hitter into the eighth during his first major league appearance?  The only player in modern history to throw a no-hitter in his first major league start was Bobo Holloman in 1953 (thank you, Andrew Baggarly).  1953!  Dave Roberts, you’re messing with baseball history!!  After the game, I found out that Stripling had a preset pitch count because he had Tommy John surgery and they didn’t want to take any chances with his arm.  I’m sure no one anticipated what would actually happen though.  Stripling’s father even thanked Roberts today for thinking of his son’s health first.  Anyway, after all the booing and excitement of Stripling coming out, I knew things were going to be different because the Dodgers bull pen stinks.  They were ahead 2 to nothing at this point.  Then came the kid, Trevor Brown.  Skyed one out of the park to left.  One of the top ten moments I’ve ever had at a Giants game.  Take that, silly Dodger fans!  We were all screaming and high fiving, but Barajas had magically disappeared.  Of course once he got back to his seat, he got an earful!  Then it went back and forth and we ended up in extra innings.  Brandon Crawford wasted no time and shot the first pitch he saw over the left field wall.  Fabulous!  Again, everyone was screaming and hugging and life was beautiful again.  Plus the fireworks show afterwards was so much sweeter with that win.  And talk about ironic – the music for the fireworks show came from Brandon Crawford’s clubhouse playlist!  We went from the lows of worrying about witnessing a no hitter for the other team to the highs of handing it to the Dodgers with a walk off homerun.  BEAUTIFUL!  And I got to share all of it with my sister, making it that much sweeter.

Here’s a link to the 2016 Giants commercials.  My favorite one is the Bochy one, but there are several that are pretty great.

I’ll end with the news of Brandon Belt’s extension.  He received a 5-year extension which will give the Giants control over him through 2021.  It covers his last remaining year of arbitration and 4 years of free agency.  He will make $72.8 million over the 5 years starting with the 2017 season.  I always find it interesting what some of the details of these contracts are, and for Belt’s he can designate 10 teams to which he can’t be traded to without his consent.  How do they come up with these things?  Why 10?  Did they go back and forth on that number?  Overall, though, I guess it means he really wants to remain a Giant.  Happy for the guy that he’s finally gotten a commitment from the big guys, and glad he’ll be part of the home-grown core for a while.  He’s definitely earned it in my book.  Guess this also means that Buster will continue to play catcher for a while.  Glad about that, too.  In honor of the Belt extension, Pablo Sandoval did some belt extending of his own during the Red Sox game today.  Check this out.  HA HA!!!

I did the first spit count of the season today, but I think I’ll post it tomorrow as I may do another one then.  Always keeping you in anticipation!!  So happy the way the season is starting out for my boys.  Hope they can take the series from the dreaded Dodgers tomorrow.  Looking forward to another exciting Cueto start.  Until next time, GO GIANTS!!  BEAT LA!!

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