A Full-Bodied At-Bat with Undertones of Grind — Brandon Belt

There’s no better feeling in baseball than a walk-off win. You’ve seen us out there. We’re like little kids jumping on each other like we’ve never won a game in our lives. We had one Monday night against the Padres. Let me tell you why they’re so awesome.

First, it’s like three great things happening at once. You’re celebrating a run. You’re celebrating a win. And you’re celebrating how you fought together to get there.

Walk-offs tell you something about your team. We’ve already had three in the first month of the season. Last year we didn’t get three until about the All-Star break. Walk-offs, or any late comeback, means you kept fighting, and fighting and fighting.

We were facing a really tough closer Monday night in Brad Hand. One of the best in the league. We were down to our last out in the ninth. Austin Slater was on base. Buster worked a 10-pitch walk. Longo dropped a single into left that scored Slater. I worked a six-pitch walk to load the bases. Nick Hundley lined the second pitch into center to win the game. We just kept the line moving. Nobody’s thinking they have to win the game by themselves.

But you’re digging a little deeper. Most people don’t have jobs where they get the opportunity to dig deep, to test what they’ve got. We feel really lucky. That’s kind of what we live for. And when you can do it truly as a team, like we did Monday night, there’s nothing better.

I wish we could have done the same thing Tuesday night! I thought we were going to. We all thought we were going to. That’s who we are as a team this year. Even with the injuries, we have a deeper lineup than last year. The pitching’s been awesome. We never feel like we’re out of a game. (OK, when it’s 15–2 in ninth, we’re out of it.)

One of the things we’re doing well this year is focusing on what’s in our control. You can’t control the outcomes of your at-bats, whether you get a single or a home run or a walk. But you can control whether you have a good at-bat — going up there with a strategy, making the pitcher throw a lot of pitches, grinding him down a bit.

I had the grindiest (is that a word?) at-bat of my life last week in Anaheim. I’d always complained about other batters fouling off one pitch after another. Like “Geez, just put the ball in play! It’s not that hard!’’ Then I find myself up there for 13 minutes, fouling off 16 pitches, getting the pitcher to throw 21 in all. It turned out to be a Major League record. I think for sure there should be plaque in Cooperstown.

So why did I keep fouling? I’d never faced that pitcher before and his fastball was a little sneaky. It gets on you quicker than you realize. It’s hard to put the barrel on it. His off-speed stuff was good enough to keep you out front of the ball.

And the stadium on that day was really bright. It was tough to pick up spin right away. But I wasn’t going to give in. I was able to stay in the moment pitch after pitch after pitch. You’ve got to give it to that pitcher, too, throwing strike after strike after strike and not giving in either. We both were going to go at it for as long as we had to. It was a fun battle.

Seeing so many pitches in my first at-bat got me locked me for the rest of the day. I had three hits, including a home run. So those 13 minutes weren’t wasted time. And we won.

I’ll be in Atlanta on our off-day tomorrow. Maybe I’ll go see a movie. On the off day last Thursday, Haylee and I went to Napa with friends from out of town. We love it up there. We went to two different wineries and had a blast. I’m a red wine drinker but still don’t speak the language of wine. I just say “full-bodied’’ a lot. ‘’That’s a full-bodied wine right there.’’

On Sunday the Melancons hosted a baby shower after the game for Haylee and Jalynne. We played the Crawfords in a version of The Newlywed Game. I totally nailed the question about where I was when Haylee told me she was pregnant. In the car! Haylee thought we were home. Of course on the next question, I couldn’t remember what she had gotten me for Christmas — which was an awesome scrapbook with stuff from childhood all the way through to the Major Leagues, complete with a video. I felt pretty bad. But we didn’t lose. We didn’t win, either. We ended up in a tie. We’re negotiating a rematch.

Thanks for reading!