When the Giants are struggling, as they are now, I like to get to the park really early and watch the players go through their routines. It reminds me that the results on the field don’t always reflect the amount of work that, every day, happens off the field.
I wish every fan could see this. You can still blast the players for going 0-for-4 or giving up a home run. That’s fair. But you’d never accuse them of not working hard enough.
Nearly four hours before a game, you see Nate Schierholtz in the batting cage behind the dugout. He’s tossing the ball and hitting it, the way a coach would do for infield practice. He tells me afterward that tossing the ball up and swinging helps him focus on throwing his hips into his swing. (On other days, he hits off a pitching machine and off a tee, focusing on different elements.)
You see Aaron Rowand asking Hensley Meulens if the hitting coach can show up at the park earlier. Rowand wants to put in extra time, before other players are in the cage. Meulens tells him to name the time and he’ll work with him as long as he wants. Rowand gets in the second cage, next to Schierholtz, while Meulens sits on a folding chair behind a screen and tosses pitches. Rowand whacks one pitch after another until he’s drenched in sweat.
On the field Manny Burris, rehabbing from a broken foot, stands at the plate, empty-handed, pretends to swing, then sprints to first base. Giants fitness trainer Ben Potenziano tells him to do it again and again, watching as Burris bursts from the plate and down the line, testing his foot.
In the outfield, Eli Whiteside is running from the left field foul pole to center field.
Back in the cage behind the dugout, where Schierholtz had been, Pablo Sandoval is taking his swings, trying to work out the kinks, nodding at Meulens’ advice and trying again.
Now Whiteside, Andres Torres and others are on the field taking turns laying down bunts. Infield coach Ron Wotus is firing throws to Buster Posey at first base to give him practice. The rest of the team has come out to stretch, Rowand leading the pack. When infield and batting practice are over, Rowand is back in the cage behind the dugout, standing at the plate in his rigid stance, waiting, waiting, waiting on the pitch- then exploding into the ball.
Inside the clubhouse, Dave Righetti and Barry Zito are scouring scouting reports, sharing thoughts on how to pitch this batter and that batter.
Then it’s game time.
The players and coaches know they can’t always control the results on the field.
But what they can control is how hard they work and how much they prepare.
So tomorrow they’ll be back, four, five, six hours before the game, giving themselves the best shot to win.