Results tagged ‘ Eugenio Velez ’

Quick Study

Andres Torres was waiting by the batting cage behind the Giants dugout this morning, his bat resting on his shoulder. He had already taken his swings but was back for another session before today’s game against the Diamondbacks.

“I didn’t really learn anything about hitting until I was 18,” he said. That’s when he left Puerto Rico for Miami-Dade Community College to play baseball. “I think if you don’t learn it when you’re a kid, it’s a lot tougher. I’m still learning.”

For years, Torres managed to survive in professional baseball on his speed. In 12 years, he played 89 games in the major leagues – compiling a .210 average. Until he made the Giants roster out of spring camp this year, he hadn’t worn a major-league uniform in more than three years.

“I was just fast,” Torres said. “But I didn’t know how to hit. It just took me a lot of time to learn. It took me awhile just to learn that you can’t just be fast. You’ve got to be able to swing the bat.”

He studies other batters. He takes video of himself in the batting cage and consults with hitting coach Carney Lansford. He talks to other players. In other words, he is applying to batting the kind of studiousness he has once reserved solely for running.

And perhaps no baseball player knows more about running fast than Torres. He has made the cultivation of speed his life’s work.

He studies human kinetics and physiology to understand how the body generates speed. He is a student of the books of Tudor Bompa, who writes about a training method called “periodization.” He studies videos and training regimens of Olympic sprinters like Asafa Powell of Jamaica. He scours the internet for the latest techniques.

Even at 31, he’s the fastest guy on the Giants – and Eugenio Velez is no slouch.

“Age doesn’t matter if you work at it,” Torres said.

Friday night, his two passions came together.

He hit a pinch-hit solo home run in the eighth inning Friday night in a 2-0 win against the Diamondbacks. It was only the second homer of his ML career.

Almost by instinct, he flew around the bases so fast that he reached home plate before the relief pitchers — watching the game in a room behind the dugout – had reached the field.

More on Torres in a later blog . . .

Saw Joe Martinez today in the clubhouse. He looks amazingly good. He said the only symptom of the hit to his head is fatigue. He’s tired a lot, he says, but he thinks it might just be from lying around. “You get tired when you’re not doing anything,” Martinez said. “So I don’t really think it has anything to do with the injury.”

 

 

I’m leaving the press box to watch the game from my seats in Section 109 . . .

No rain delay!

Just a quick note about how the guys have been passing the time while they waited for the rain to stop – and see if they were going to get out on the field at all.

At one table, Brian Wilson (with a new hairdo that calls to mind Frisch’s Big Boy) and Matt Cain took on rookies Alex Hinshaw and Joe Martinez in a card game called Pluck. It’s similar to Spades, I’m told. Hinshaw was just learning the strategy, and Martinez surely didn’t want to get off on the wrong foot – so the youngsters lost.

“We got killed,” Martinez said.

Tim Lincecum fluttered around the table, eating a bagel, dancing a little bit, singing a little bit – then taking Cain’s spot in the game when Cain went off to eat. He and Wilson played a two-handed game called Montana that is based on poker hands. That’s all I understood.

Elsewhere, Travis Ishikawa was working a USA Today crossword puzzle. Bengie Molina was listening to music and trying to figure out how to send to his laptop a photo his daughter had just sent to his IPhone. Nate Schierholtz was comparing two different bats he had just received.

“They misspelled my name on this one,” he said, holding up the all-white ash bat, “so I I think I’ll go with this one.” He has a maple one that, by 2009 season regulations, has to be painted black on the barrel and have a black mark on the handle.

Eugenio Velez was bending and punching the pocket of his glove. Pablo Sandoval was, literally, skipping through the clubhouse and snapping his fingers to the blaring music.

“If there’s a rain delay, it’ll be a lot nicer in here than in the minor leagues,” Ishikawa said. “This is really comfortable and there’s a kitchen. In the minors, you’re just looking outside and talking on the phone.”

Ishikawa, who lives in Danville, had 13 people coming to the game to watch him in his first Opening Day.

More after the game . . .

Born to Play

Eugenio Velez made one of the more spectacular plays of spring training so far – a lunging catch in left field Tuesday to preserve the Giants’ 7-6 victory over the Diamondbacks.

“I saw the ball so far from me,” Velez was quoted as saying afterward. “But if you never give up you’ve got a chance, and I never gave up.”

That’s been the story of his life. He wanted to play baseball for as long as he can remember. But he faced an almost insurmountable barrier: His mother.

Pura Eugenia Vancamper named her son after herself, and they always had a particularly close bond. She knew early on that baseball had a hold on him. When she let her three children choose a toy one day at a store, her older son chose a truck, her daughter a doll and Eugenio, still just a toddler, went straight for the plastic bat and ball. She tried to talk him into a tricycle but he insisted on the bat and ball.

Eugenio loved the game so much. He would skip school and spend the day at the park playing pick-up games with his friends. After his mother caught on to what was happening, Eugenio would secretly remove the schoolbooks from his backpack before leaving the house and replace them with his glove and baseballs.

“I wanted him to play, but I did not want him to stop going to school,” Vancamper said through an interpreter by phone from her father’s home in Washington Heights in New York. She moved there from her home in the Dominican Republic so her youngest son, now 19, could college there.

When Eugenio was 14, his mother said he had to start thinking about his future — and she told him it was not in baseball. She thought he should be an engineer. Eugenio tried to explain to her what baseball meant to him.

“I’m going to play no matter what,” he told her.

She rarely attended his games, holding onto her hopes of her son becoming an engineer. Plus, the few times she did watch him play, she was sure he was going to hurt himself the way he dove all over the place.

When Eugenio was 17, a scout for the Giants came to her with papers. They wanted to sign Eugenio to a contract. She refused. He was too young to leave, she thought. She had never been separated from any of her children.

“Mom, you have to sign,” Eugenio pleaded. “This is my life.”

She signed, then sat down and cried all night. “I knew that once he made it to the Big Leagues he would never come back,” she says. “It felt like he was being taken away from me. I was very sad, but at the same time I was happy for him because I knew that was what he wanted.”

Even now that he’s in the majors, Vancamper rarely watches her son play on television. I get very sad; especially when he runs the bases with the speed he has,” she says. “I feel like something is going to happen to him. When he bats and I see how fast the ball is thrown, I begin to worry that he is going to get hit. I can’t stand to watch, so I go to another room.”

Vancamper had worked as a babysitter in Manhattan but now Eugenio supports her and his half-brother, Adrian. Adrian plays baseball on his college team – also second base and shortstop.

“I’m really proud of him,” Adrian said by phone from New York. “I never thought that I’d have a brother playing major-league baseball. I’m really surprised. It’s really unbelievable.”

Not to Eugenio.

 

*CORRECTION 3/6/09

Thanks to fireplacet and obsessivegiantscompulsive for pointing out my error about Velez signing with the Giants. Of course he signed with the Blue Jays then was selected by the Giants in the Rule 5 draft. And he was 19 not 17. Arrgghhh. Nothing I hate more than getting my facts wrong. But you both were so kind in the way you phrased your correction. Much different, I must say, from the indignant rants I got as a sports columnist at the Chronicle a decade ago. Either society is getting kinder or the Giants simply have considerate fans. I hope it’s both, but I’m putting my money on the latter.  

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