January 2009

Travels With Bill

Giants managing general partner Bill Neukom is learning about his club the way a mechanic learns about a car: Examining every component, determining how each part functions, gauging the need for repairs and replacements.

To him, that means visiting every minor league operation, a plan that began in San Jose in the fall and continued this month with a trip to the Dominican Republic. He returned from the Dominican, he said, with a much deeper understanding of what baseball means to the country.

“We visited Felipe Alou’s Junior Giants Field,” Neukom said by phone from his office this morning. “It is used every daylight hour of every day. At every major-league complex, you see remarkably athletic, earnest young men trying to hit and pitch their way off the island.”

He was impressed with the Giants’ system of finding and developing talent. It’s a lean and mean operation, with most of the team’s resources going into the actual teaching of skills instead of into luxurious facilities. Neukom does, however, want to improve the fields and buy equipment for a good weight room.

One highlight of the visit was getting his first glimpse of Rafael Rodriguez, the 6-foot-5-inch outfielder the Giants signed last year at the age of 16.

“Very impressive,” Neukom said. “Standing behind the batting cage, you just hear the ball off his bat. The ball just carries.”

For Neukom, though, these visits are more than opportunities to learn. They’re also opportunities to teach.

“Part of the purpose is observation, and part of it is evangelizing,” he said. “I want everyone in the organization on every level to understand the Giants’ way. We want to start right there with the prospects, even before they sign.”

Next stop: the Single A club in Salem, Oregon.

Neukom flew there this afternoon.

Cover Boy

Tim Lincecum walked into the room at AT&T Park where Giants Magazine had set up cameras for a photo shoot.

“Hi, mom,” he said when he saw me.

I had been dogging him during the off -season with text messages, a couple phone calls and one email. He never wrote or called back. I wanted to see how he was doing. He is not the most comfortable public speaker, and winning the Cy Young has thrust him into one situation after another that requires him to deliver a few words. He isn’t much older than my son, so I found myself last season doting on him a little bit, worrying about how he was handling the pressure and the attention.

He was absolutely fine, of course. It was just the mother in me.

“I have had absolutely NO time for anything,” he said as the photographers set up a photo of him holding the Cy Young plaque. “I barely had time to return calls to my girlfriend much less anyone else.”

Now he’s working out every day for about three hours at AT&T with the Giants trainers. His girlfriend, who is from New Jersey but lives in Florida, worked out with him before the photo shoot. They met last year at spring training.

Tim said he hasn’t done any traveling just for fun or much of anything for fun since the season ended. His agent has kept him too busy. He did make time to get braces, though they’re the kind on the back of his teeth so you can’t see them. The highlight of the off-season was getting a French bulldog puppy the day after he won the Cy Young. He drove up with his roommate to Mt. Shasta to pick up the dog, and as they brainstormed about names, his roommate suggested Cy and it stuck.

Tim’s roommate is a friend from high school who now works in Palo Alto. They take Cy to run around Crissy Field.

“I assume he’s housebroken?” I asked.

“Uh, we’re still working on it,” Tim said.

Will Clark: Still Thrilled – and Learning from His Son

I caught up with Will Clark by cell phone yesterday afternoon while he was driving his truck around Prairieville, Louisiana, a rural-ish town outside of Baton Rouge. That’s where he moved after Hurricane Katrina, leaving his hometown of New Orleans.

“We had almost no damage to our house but three blocks away our neighbors were under four feet of water,” Clark said. “We just got tired of battening down the hatches.”

Hard for me to believe – I covered Will when he was a brash rookie with the Giants – but he just celebrated his 15th wedding anniversary to Lisa, with whom he has two children, a 13-year-old son, Trey, and a seven-year-old daughter, Ella. After retiring in 2000, he spent two years as a special assistant for the St. Louis Cardinals then five with the Diamondbacks (at the invitation of his former agent and now former Diamondbacks exec Jeff Moorad).

Now, at 44, he’s back with the Giants.

Here’s what the news release says: “In his new role, the six-time All-Star first baseman will represent the organization at various in-season and off-season community events in San Francisco, including the 20th Anniversary of the 1989 Giants on Saturday, June 13. He will also attend the Giants Spring Training Camp in Scottsdale, Arizona and will visit a Giants’ minor league team each year.

When he’s not doing baseball-related work, Clark says he spends his time “trying to be Father of the Year.” He says he retired, in part, to devote himself to his son Trey, who is autistic. Trey is a bright, big-hearted kid, Will says, who has learning challenges and doesn’t quite get the whole social thing. He plays basketball and baseball and has been mainstreamed in school, but as any parent of a kid with challenges knows (I’m raising my hand here), the journey is long and often exhausting. Basic social and safety skills – saying hello, looking both ways before crossing the street – have to be taught and re-taught and taught again.

“He’s doing so much better,” Clark says. “I thought I had a lot of patience playing baseball, waiting for pitches, stuff like that. But this is a whole different kind of patience I’ve had to learn.”

Ella, on the other hand, is his rebel. “Trey’s a piece of cake,” Clark says, “and she’s hell on wheels.” As Lisa says, “Ella’s just like Will – loud, bossy and smart as a whip.”

Lisa and Will are deeply involved in Cure Autism Now and Athletes Against Autism. Lisa is co-chair of a fundraising event for Athletes Against Autism during spring training. It will be held March 6 at the Arcos Elegancia Estate in Scottsdale. Co-chairing are Tarah Byrnes, Cathy Gott, Debbie Honeycutt, Heather May, Cass Relaford, Gabrielle Shoenweis, and Janine Thalblum. Tim Lincecum will host 2K Sports competition, and there will be a fashion show featured MLB wives.

Here is the link to the fund-raising event for Athletes Against Autism, put on by the Baseball Wives Charitable Foundation:

http://www.baseballwivescharitablefoundation.com/Events.html

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The Fifth Beatle

Jim Moorehead, Giants’ senior media relations director, flew back to New York over the weekend to watch Tim Lincecum accept his Cy Young Award at the Hilton Hotel. Jim says Tim looked dapper in his black-tie tuxedo, though his floppy hair had people calling him the fifth Beatle. And he seems to be almost as popular – the Giants are constantly deluged with requests for appearances and memorabilia and interviews. Tim’s doing a lot of it, but he’s not one to seek the spotlight. So the Giants are trying not to lay too much on him too soon.

After Jeff Idelson, president of the Baseball Hall of Fame, introduced Tim as the NL Cy Young winner, Tim — a man of few words, at least publicly – succinctly thanked all the right people — the Baseball Writers of America, which sponsors the awards, the Giants’ organization, his family, his teammates.

Then he thrust the plaque in the air, leaned into the microphone and said, “This is for you, Pops!”

At a table in the audience sat Lincecum’s dad, who famously invented his son’s unusual pitching mechanics and raised him as a single dad after Tim’s parents split. Also at the table were Lincecum’s girlfriend, his agent Rich Thurman, Bill Neukom, Larry Baer, Bobby Evans, John Barr, Dick Tidrow and Moorehead.

Lincecum will be at the ballpark Thursday for a photo shoot for Giants Magazine, so I’ll try to catch up with him then and fill you in on what he’s been doing during the last few months (besides photo shoots, interviews and accepting awards).

Another highlight of the awards dinner in NY, says Jim: Former Yankee Bernie Williams playing a wonderful rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” on his guitar. Now that he’s retired, Williams says, he is devoting himself to music, which has been such a passion that as a teenager he nearly chose it over baseball as a career.

Programming Note: The next “Inside the Clubhouse” on Comcast airs Friday, Feb. 6, at 7. This one features Jon Miller, Bruce Bochy, Kevin Frandsen and the reborn Fred Lewis. (See my earlier post on Fred’s lively appearance at this event.)

My excused absence: I was away at the Inauguration during the early part of last week, so that’s my excuse for being a little lax in writing. Had a great time, though I admit I gave away my standing-room tickets to the event itself. I knew, from standing in line for 90 minutes the day before to GET the tickets, that I am not made of the stuff necessary to withstand 10 degree temperatures (factoring in wind chill) for six or seven hours without moving. I watched it on TV at a friend’s place in D.C. then we jumped on the Metro to experience the crowds at the Mall and attend a hot-chocolate-and-cookies reception in Rep. Lynn Woolsey’s office on Capitol Hill.

Loved every minute, but I was envisioning those warm Scottsdale days just around the corner.

A Set-Up Guy Who Does Stand-up

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Look for new Giants LH reliever Jeremy Affeldt to become “The Player Most Likely to Deliver the Most Quotable Quote on Any Topic at Any Moment.”

At the final “Inside the Clubhouse” chalk talk for season-ticket holders last night, Affeldt bantered with host Jon Miller and bullpen mates Bob Howry and Brian Wilson as if he were Denis Leary on Letterman.

If you haven’t seen him, he’s a good-looking, 6-foot-5-inch 29-year-old with a perpetual half-smile that brings to mind those boyish soldiers in old war movies who were always ready with a wisecrack. It turns out Affeldt’s father was, in fact, a bombardier in the Air Force in the final years of the Cold War, who, Affeldt says, would fly off suddenly in a B-52 from the base in Guam and then just as suddenly reappear, never saying where he had been.

When asked during the Q&A about the toughest hitter he faced, he said Garret Anderson of the Angels (though at the moment unsigned).

“He’s like 12 for 10 against me,” Affeldt joked. “He hit a ball so hard off me they gave him two hits.”

He said he has been known to be a little wild. He told of firing two fastballs against the backstop – and not with any intention of intimidating the hitter. “They were accidents. But it made the curve ball way more effective.”

Howry, who is 35, is quieter and more introverted than Affeldt and Wilson, but his two teammates and Jon Miller had him laughing so hard that he began telling tales on himself, too. During a high school game, after he had hit his fourth batter, the opposing coach stomped out to the umpire and demanded to know why he hadn’t tossed Howry out of the game.

“He’s having a good game,” Howry said the umpire replied. “I’ve seen him hit a lot more than that.”

When someone asked under what circumstances he shook off a catcher’s signs, Howry laughed. “Sometimes the catcher will signal for me to shake him off,” Howry said, “to make the batter think I have more than one pitch.”

While he was in town for the day, Howry checked out a condo across the street from the ballpark as a possible residence during the season. His wife and two children – ages 9 and 6 – will stay in Glendale, Arizona, and visit during long weekends and the summer.

Affeldt had a tougher time finding a place for his wife and 17-month-old son to live in the city. The challenge: their three-year-old, 90-pound mastiff, Kylie. They finally found a three-bedroom loft on Beale Street.

Affeldt is no stranger to SF. After living in Guam, the family moved to Merced, where Affeldt spent fifth through eighth grades. The family occasionally drove up to San Francisco to watch a Giants or A’s game or visit Fisherman’s Wharf. Affeldt spent his high school years in Spokane, where he married his high school sweetheart, Larisa, and recently built a home.

In other news:

Tim Lincecum was out at the ballpark on Monday and Tuesday. On Monday, he spent about two hours in an interview with writer Tim Keown for an upcoming story in ESPN Magazine. Tuesday he was photographed on the field by 2K Sports. He flew out to New York on Thursday for Sunday’s Cy Young dinner.

Before last night’s taping of Inside the Clubhouse-

Jeremy Affeldt:

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Bob Howry:

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Brian Wilson:

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Screenshots from MLB 2K9 courtesy of 2K Sports:

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Birth of a Friendship

 When Amanda Sabean gave birth in October, Kim Bochy stood at her bedside. And when the Sabeans baptize baby Aiden this spring, Kim will stand with them at the baptismal font.

This is the story of how Bruce Bochy’s wife came to be the doula for Brian Sabean’s wife and godmother to their baby.
 
Seven years ago, when Bochy was managing the Padres, Kim saw an ad seeking women to volunteer as doulas at UC-San Diego. A doula guides a woman through the birth of her baby. She’s there to hold her hand, keep her comfortable, offer support and advice to the mother and her family members. Kim was immediately drawn to the job, perhaps because she remembered how alone and nervous she was 29 years ago when she gave birth to her older son. Bruce was on the road with the Astros, and the hospital wouldn’t allow anyone else in the labor or delivery room.

But she set the ad aside. Her younger son was only 14 and still needed her to ferry him to school and sports practices.

Then at a dinner party four years ago, the host asked everyone to name something they would like to do in their lives but haven’t yet done. Kim surprised herself by saying she wanted to be a doula. She hadn’t thought about the ad in years. Her son by then had his driver’s license, so she went through training and began volunteering at UC-San Diego’s hospital, working almost exclusively with indigent women.

“I was amazed at the bonds that formed,” Kim said by phone the other day. “There are women who still send me photos of their babies.”

Fast-forward to December 2006, after Bruce Bochy was hired as manager of the Giants. Sabean had married Amanda a year earlier. “We clicked right away,” Kim said of meeting Amanda. “And that doesn’t always happen between the spouses of the manager and general manager.”

Said Amanda, “We related to each other because we understood each other’s lives. It’s so different from most people. We had an instant bond.”

Their game tickets are in a different section from the players’ wives, so Amanda and Kim began sitting together at Giants games. “We weren’t really hanging out with the players’ wives because of the nature of our husbands’ jobs,” Kim said, “so it was great to have each other.”

With their husbands working almost 24/7, and with their apartments one floor apart in the same San Francisco building, the two women soon were eating lunch and dinner together, shopping, visiting the nail salon. When Amanda became pregnant, she told almost no one because her previous pregnancy had ended in a miscarriage. But she told Kim. During spring training last year, during Amanda’s first trimester, she had to fly back to San Francisco for a crucial test to determine if the fetus had abnormalities. Brian couldn’t leave Arizona, so Amanda was going alone. Kim quickly booked herself a flight. “I’m going with you,” she said.

They spent so much time together throughout the pregnancy that Amanda joked that the baby was going to think Kim was her daddy because it was Kim’s voice he heard for nine months. 

Amanda went into labor September 25 at 5 p.m. Aiden was born 36 hours later. Brian, Amanda’s mother and Kim stayed at her side through almost every hour.

“Brian and my mother were wonderful but honest to god I don’t know how I would have gotten through it without Kim,” Amanda said. “She provided such a place of calm and peace for me.”

When Aiden finally arrived, Kim said, “Amanda and I were both crying.”

Before the birth, the Sabeans and Bochys went out to dinner one night. Amanda surprised Kim by asking her to be the baby’s godmother. Kim knew Amanda had lots of girlfriends, all of who had been in her life longer than she had.

“No one was more involved in my pregnancy than Kim,” Amanda said. “She is really invested in our little guy.”

It was the first time Kim had been asked to be a godmother.

“I was blown away,” she said, “and very honored by it. I take it very seriously.”

Kim has seen Amanda and the baby several times since the season ended. She spent the weekend with Amanda at the Sabean’s Arizona home when Brian was out of the country, and they were together in Las Vegas for the winter meetings last month. They will see each other again in Arizona next week.

“She was there for everything,” Amanda said of Kim. “She’s been as good a friend as anyone could possibly be.”

Kim Bochy with Aidean Sabean:

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Brian, Aiden, and Amanda Sabean:

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Old Roomies Reunited

When Randy Johnson shows up in the Giants clubhouse this spring, he’ll be reunited with his roommate from 21 years ago – bullpen coach Mark Gardner.

Mark and his late wife Lori moved into the spare bedroom in Johnson’s apartment when Gardner was called up to Montreal’s Triple A club in Indianapolis halfway through the 1988 season. They already knew each other from college – Johnson pitched for USC, Gardner for Fresno State – and from playing in the summer league in Anchorage and then both signed with the Expos in 1985.

“If I had to bet on him in 1985 winning the Cy Young, I wouldn’t have put a nickel on him,” Gardner said by phone from his home near Fresno.

He threw hard but didn’t know how to pitch, Gardner said. He was easily rattled.

“To his credit, he did what he had to do,” Gardner said. “He worked on his weaknesses, developing all the skills a pitcher needs beyond just throwing hard.”

Johnson was a hard rocker type, Gardner preferred country music. But the two hit it off. They would barbecue and hang out at the pool. Johnson sometimes would go shopping at the mall with Lori if Mark was pitching that day.

Johnson was called up to the majors late in the season then was traded to Seattle the following spring.

“We really were never together again,” Gardner said.

He said he hasn’t talked with Johnson since he signed with the Giants but looks forward to catching up next month when pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

“From when I first saw him, he’s come a long way,” Gardner said. “He’ll be great for our young guys, someone they can look up to. They can watch how he gets batters out even when he doesn’t have his best stuff. Someone like Lincecum can learn a lot about how to pitch, how to control and work his fastball. He can see that if he stays healthy he might pitch until he’s 45.”

Lincecum will be among the Giants players, coaches, broadcasters and alumni at the KNBR 680/Giants Winter FanFest at AT&T Park on Saturday, February 7, from 10:00 to 3:00 p.m.

If you’re down in San Jose, you can catch the Giants on Thursday

February 5, from 4:30 to 7:00 p.m. for a meet and greet at the Britannia Arms before the Sharks vs. Hurricanes game at HP Pavilion at 7:30 p.m. This sounds like fun. Sharks fans will “face off” with some of their favorite Giants at The Downtown Brit, which is located at 173 W. Santa Clara Street in the San Pedro Square district of downtown San Jose. 

Giants players and coaches, including Lincecum, new comers Jeremy Affeldt and Bob Howry, Brian Wilson, Barry Zito, Fred Lewis, Emmanuel Burriss, Kevin Frandsen and others will be on hand to sign autographs, pose for photos and meet their South Bay fans. Giants media partners NBC Bay Area and CSN Bay Area will cover the event, and the team’s Single-A affiliate, the San Jose Giants will also be on hand.

Giants players and coaches will attend the Sharks vs. Hurricanes game at 7:30 p.m., where Lincecum will drop the “first puck” immediately prior to the start of the game.
   
Hope to see you there.

A Brand New Fred Lewis (and other notes)

 

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I attended Wednesday night’s “Chalk Talk” for season-ticket holders in the Giants clubhouse, where the featured guests were Fred Lewis, Kevin Frandsen and Bruce Bochy with their genial host Jon Miller. I’ll get to the odds and ends in a second, but this was the headline for me:

Fred Lewis has blossomed. I have never seen this kind of dramatic transformation in such a short time.

Those of you followed Lewis last season know he was just about the quietest guy on the team. He rarely made eye contact with reporters or staff, though he had begun to loosen up with his teammates by season’s end. He spoke in a low monotone and kept his answer short.

Wednesday night, he walked into the pressroom like a movie star — in a cream-colored suede sport coat, a Burberry scarf, jeans and Gucci athletic shoes. He talked with three beat writers before the Chalk Talk, and instead of appearing as if enduring an inquisition, he joked and laughed and spoke with a confidence and ease that had me exchanging glances with Kevin Frandsen as we both listened with surprise bordering on astonishment.

In answering a question about the possibility of Ramirez coming to the Giants (and taking his LF position), Lewis said, “I just have to worry about Fred.” Chron writer Henry Schulman teased him about sounding like Rickey Henderson, famous for talking about himself in the third person.

Lewis lowered his head and laughed, saying he had hoped nobody noticed, that he knew as soon as the words left his mouth, that he sounded like Rickey. (“Can you even imagine that Hall of Fame speech?” Frandsen said. Surely Vegas odds-makers will post an over-under on the number of times Rickey says Rickey.)

When a season-ticket holder asked him the same question during the Q&A, Lewis said, “Whatever it takes to help the team, I’m down for it,” prompting a round of applause.

Pretty polished. Could be a future for him in politics back home in Mississippi.

I chatted with Lewis in a small office after he spoke with the beat writers.

“Do you mind me telling you that you’re like a different guy?” I said. “What happened?”

Lewis said this version of himself is the real Fred Lewis. This is who he has always been around his family – easy to laugh, engaging, confident — and now, he said, the Giants are family.

Great answer.

He said he spoke recently with both Jonathan Sanchez and Alex Hinshaw in Arizona, where they were working out together, saying that he and the team needed them to have big years, that he expected them to have big years because the team couldn’t win if they didn’t. I have no idea how Sanchez and Hinshaw reacted to the comments – was Lewis overstepping his bounds? – but I can tell you that the Giants’ leftfielder is feeling a sense of ownership and responsibility for the team’s success. It will be interesting to see how his newfound confidence and leadership play out this season.

As for his rehab from foot surgery, he’s back almost to full speed. You can get the relevant details from Henry at sfgate.com, Chris Haft at mlb.com or Laurence Miedema at the Merc.

Kevin Frandsen, as you know, had a great few weeks in the Arizona League and is ready to challenge Velez and Burriss for the second-base job after missing last season with an Achilles injury. Asked if he felt extra pressure this spring to prove himself, Frandsen said he felt pressure every season to prove himself. Athletes in any sport at the professional level know that what matters is today, today, today, what can you do for us today?

“I spent all last season watching major-league players,” Frandsen said. “I took that into the fall league. It was like a master’s program and I was working on my thesis. I had gathered all the information I could and I was finally able to put it into practice (in the fall league).”

Other notes from Wednesday night:

Bochy said the order of his starting rotation right now is Lincecum, Johnson, Cain, Zito and either Sanchez or Lowry.

Bochy recently returned from a cruise that included stops in Mexico and Belize. “The plan was to go into the ship’s casino and pay for it all,” he said of the trip. “It didn’t work out so well.”

Jon Miller just got back from a 16-day cruise that started in England and ended in Dubai, with stops in Nice, Gibraltar, Rome, Malta and a trip through the Suez Canal.

Bochy said he expects the “break-out” minor-leaguers to be Baumgartner, Alderson, Noonan and Posey. “They’re all on the fast track,” he said. “Brian (Sabean) isn’t afraid to bring young guys up quickly.”

Lewis said he doesn’t believe in slumps. “I believe in bad games,” he said. When Miller asked Bochy if he ever had slump as a player, the manager smiled. “Oh, yeah. Ever see my baseball card?”

Bochy said he and batting coach Carney Lansford would be focusing on improving the team’s abysmal on-base percentage. “It’s an area we’re going to stress this spring, to be a little more patient at the plate. If you have a good on-base percentage, you’re going to create more opportunities.” But he also cautioned one questioner about criticizing strikeouts too harshly. “Strikeouts are not as bad as you think,” Bochy said. “It gets the pitcher’s pitch count up. You’re working the pitcher.”

Lewis said that among his 2009 season goals, which he writes down and keeps with him, are a .315 average, 20 homers and 20 triples.

I end this post with a happy reminder: One month until pitchers and catchers report!

A Few Answers

Goofus raised an important concern about the blog: “I generally prefer the ‘good’ stories, but just worry that this will be nothing but “PR Spin.”

Because the Giants sign my checks, it’s a reasonable question. So here’s my answer. This blog will, in fact, be different from blogs written by fans or beat writers. I won’t be floating rumors or playing gotcha. I won’t be calling for Bruce Bochy’s head on a platter or second-guessing Brian Sabean or ripping a player for booting a grounder.

So in that way, there is a PR element to the blog. But I can promise that I will never write anything that isn’t true. That’s the journalism part. So I guess this blog is a sort of hybrid.

The way I see it, there is room for a wide range of blogs on the Giants. I love reading the other ones. This is the one to read when you simply want to learn something about the Giants you didn’t know.

Answer to marshall_n_brown about watching “Inside the Clubhouse” CSN shows online: The first one will be available on http://www.sfgiants.com beginning Saturday, January 17.

TV and Pablo

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The Giants and Comcast will make the announcement tomorrow or Wednesday, but you heard it here first: On Friday night at 6:30, Comcast Sports Bay Area will broadcast the first installment of a series called “Inside the Clubhouse.” The hour-long show is, more or less, a taped version of the “Chalk Talk” held for a group of season ticket-holders inside the clubhouse last month. Jon Miller moderated a panel that included Barry Zito, Bruce Bochy, Brian Sabean and Bill Neukom. You’re unlikely to hear a more candid conversation about the Giants present and future. (See my December 22 post for some details of the Chalk Talk.)
The Giants are hosting the second Chalk Talk of the winter on Wednesday, again inside the clubhouse. This one will feature Kevin Frandsen, Fred Lewis and again Miller and Bochy. I’ll be attending and will pass along the highlights.
Thanks, obsessivegiantscompulsive, for your great questions after my last post. I know I can’t answer all of them, but they certainly got the wheels spinning. I’ll take your first question first – some Pablo Sandoval history.
Sandoval, as you know, lit up the clubhouse as soon as he arrived. He is one of those people who make you smile just to look at them. He carried himself like a veteran on the field – particularly, of course, at the plate — but in the clubhouse and even during pregame warm-ups, he was like a kid who sneaked in through a hole in the fence and can’t believe no one has tossed him out yet. Everyone loves him. A few weeks after Sandoval’s arrival, Zito already was calling him his favorite player.
Here is what I know so far about Pablo.
* His father works in management at Monaca Corporation, Venezuela’s second-largest food producer.
* His mother has a small company that sells electronics such as Ipods and televisions. Because she worked long hours, Pablo’s grandmother essentially raised him.
* Pablo is one of five children. His one-year-old sister died when she was a year old in a car accident (Pablo’s mother, Amelia, was driving). Pablo was seven at the time and counts his sister’s death as one of the lowest moments of his life (along with the death of his grandmother three years ago). He has three older brothers. The oldest (29) is a police officer, the second oldest (28) is a criminal attorney and the third, Michael, 26, is also a baseball player, currently in the Mexican League. He was released by the Minnesota Twins last year after reaching the Double-A level.
* He, his wife Yoletzade and their one-year-old daughter, Yoleadny Carolina, lived with Pablo’s parents in Carabobo last off-season but have now found a house of their own to buy, about 20 minutes from his parents. They closed on it at the end of the season.
* Parents stressed education rather than sports, but Pablo convinced his parents to let him sign with the Giants at 16 because his older brother Michael was already in professional baseball in the Twins organization. Pablo talked by phone to Michael every day during the season last year.
* His mother traveled from Venezuela to see Pablo play in the Futures Game in July. Pablo said she cried watching him.
* Pablo began in youth baseball as a shortstop because he idolized Omar Vizquel. He started to believe he could be a major-leaguer when he was 15. During a tournament in Cuba with a Venezuelan team, a scout told Pablo he had the talent to go as far as he wanted. He began working harder after that, lifting weights at the gym.
* The scar under his left eye is sort of baseball-related. He had a plastic baseball bat when he was just a year old and was hitting the family’s pet Doberman with it. The dog bit him on the face. (The family got rid of the dog . . .)

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