Wednesday, July 3, 2013

June 16- San Francisco Giants


I start this entry off with an apology to all of you who have been following me since day one. Over the last five-and-a-half months I’ve been researching, writing and assembling these New Era Cap articles at a borderline psychotic pace; in some cases I would write between seven and 10 pages regularly. As much as I enjoy sharing these amazing stories of Major League Baseball’s, as well as my past, present and future, it finally took its toll after my entry for June 15th. With work, trying to establish a career, a lot of traveling and trying to spend time with the people I care about I finally burned out. Even though in my heart I wanted to continue to write these stories my brain wouldn’t let me. I needed a short break to re-focus and get myself well. I rarely ever put myself before my friends and family, but in this case it was a necessity. I’m terribly sorry and I hope I can get caught up and finish out the year the way I had originally intended.

This hat has been a long time coming as it is one of the more important windows to the man who I have become today. It’s kind of a long story, and some of you may end up crying at some point throughout. All of what you’re about to read is true and as vivid in my mind as the days in which they occurred.

I’ll never forget when my parents got divorced. I was five-years-old and a few days away from starting kindergarten at Sing Lum Elementary School in Bakersfield, California. My family and I had just moved into our new house at 2621 Mountain Oak Road about a week-and-a-half prior from Stockton, as my father had been promoted and transferred to his new office with PG&E. At that young of an age the “why” aspect of why they split up never made much sense, it was something that I slowly pieced together as I grew older, completely altering my interactions with the couple who had married, gave birth to me and raised me with the belief that what they were doing was somehow beneficial to everyone’s lives. 25 years later I can say that I understand it, but I will never condone the loss of love in a relationship after they’ve given each other their vows. Love is eternal, and not something I take with a grain of salt.

I was born on February 5, 1983 to Dave and Stephanie Christensen at Valley Memorial Hospital in Livermore, California… or in San Leandro, California; it really depends on who’s telling the story. Even in my adult years my parents can’t seem to agree upon that. I was first introduced to baseball at the age of two in the street of our grandparent’s (dad’s side) house in San Leandro; however, my first conscious memory of the game wouldn’t come until Game 6 of the 1986 World Series between the New York Mets and the Boston Red Sox, arguably one of the greatest games in baseball history, and a hell of a first recollection. The first game I can recall attending took place on May 23, 1987 at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum as the Oakland Athletics lost to the Baltimore Orioles 4-5 despite the best efforts of Mark McGwire and his 14th home run of the season off of Mike Boddicker. From that moment I was hooked on the Athletics. My oldest brother Matt has always been and Athletics fan while the middle brother Adam sided with my father and become a San Francisco Giants fan. My mom, on the other hand, has been rolling hard with the Boston Red Sox; none of us really know or understand why. When I got old enough (three) to throw and swing a bat without injuring anyone my parents and brothers taught me the game. Every day in which the sun was shining my brothers and I met up with the kids in the neighborhood on our front lawn for as many games as we could get in before it was time for dinner. At the time we didn’t play with regulation equipment for the sake of my safety, rather we downgraded to whiffle products to keep it safer, and to keep from any windows from getting broken. My brothers did their best to be patient with me. Some times I would miss a throw or tag and sometimes I would strikeout worse than Mark Reynolds, but the one thing we could all count on was my parents ready to help me out, make sure my bat was straight, make sure I was throwing the ball properly and making sure I understood the fundamentals. Through thick and thin baseball has been the strange bond that has kept our family together in some weird celestial way. No one cares for the game as much as I do, but everyone shows a keen interest whenever their team is playing or mentioned within ear shot. Despite all of the horrible things that have gone down over the years, it’s nice to know that we have something to smile about. It’s also nice to know that at some point during my parents’ marriage I can look back and know that they worked together on something.

My father did his best to be a good dad, but ultimately got wrapped up in work, a new marriage and trying to start a new family with my stepmother. Through his second marriage I gained a stepbrother and eventually a little sister. When she came along things started to turn sour between the two of us, but it would take years for things to really boil over due to no fault of my sister.

From when I was eight until I was 13-years-old my father was my baseball coach. Unlike most dads who coach their son he never treated me as such. On the field I was just another player, something I respected of him as it taught me the value of working hard and earning my spot on the team, as opposed to having it just handed to me. I worked my ass of every day to be the best at every position; with the exception of catcher, I hated it. From when I was 10 until I was 13 I made All-Stars along with my stepbrother and a family friend named Tyler. This honor was once again not chosen by my father. He elected to take a much more diplomatic route about things and had all of the kids on the team vote for who deserved to go. In two of the four years I made it I won Most Valuable Player, batting 1.000 in all but one game thanks in part to a poorly-laid drag bunt when I was 12 that I still almost beat out.

After the games we went back to family life. From when my parents divorced until I was in fifth grade (10/11-years-old) we lived with our mom and visited out dad every other weekend, which breaks down to roughly 5-6 days a month. The only time I got extended hours was when I had to go to baseball, or any other sports practice for that matter. He always did his best to be there and be supportive; however, amongst four and then five kids with the arrival of my sister, it became difficult for him. It was hard. I don’t know how many of you have ever been put in the situation of only being allowed access to one parent; I can assure you that it’s a horrible feeling. It all becomes worse when you’re eight-years-old and some lawyer asks you which parent you want to live with. That’s a horrible f---ing question to ask a child. I’ll never forgive the man who asked me that question, even though it was his job.  I did my best to channel my aggression and unleash it whenever I played sports, but sometimes all the wrongness of witnessing my parents yell at one another at the end of the weekend of a weekend visit, the loneliness of growing up without my father in my life everyday and just being a kid all boiled over as I caused a lot of mischief as well.

Every now-and-then my dad would talk us to the Bay Area to see our grandparents (his parents). It was a great time to get away from the rigors of dealing with the nonsense in Bakersfield and just be kids. Trips like this almost always came with a trip to the Coliseum for an Oakland Athletics game or to Candlestick for a Giants game. One game in particular I’ll never forget because my dad saved me from getting hit by a BART train. It was August 20, 1993, the Florida Marlins were visiting and I happened to be wearing a Marlins snapback cap that my mom had bought me from an AM/PM. As we sat waiting for our train, a gust of wind kicked up and blew mat hat off and away from me. My father sense what could have happened next and immediately grabbed me as I was heading to the yellow warning strip at the edge. Luckily, the hat stayed on the platform and I didn’t have my head smooshed by a train. Even more fitting is that my hat was blown off of my head for a second time at the top of The Stick and I saved it last-minute as it was about to fall in between the guard rail. To prevent anymore issues my dad ended up buying me a Marlins batting helmet to wear over the top. Oh, and incase you were wondering, the Marlins won the game 5-4. Giants’ first baseman Will Clark almost tied the game with a pinch hit home run in the bottom of the ninth, but it fell just a little bit short.

It was a great time and a great day that my brothers and I got to send with our father, and it was only the second Giants game I had ever attended at The Stick in my life; the first being a game in 1990 during Gary Carter’s one, and only year in the Bay. However, the crazy thing that none of us knew is that roughly two weeks after that game we would be forced to move to out Father’s house.

I was a week into fifth grade when it happened. My oldest brother Matt had all ready moved out of the house, but now my brother Adam and I had to go too as my mother couldn’t afford to take care of us anymore. Life became really weird after that. All of the angst I had built up; even at such a young age, against my father was starting to spill out as I became way more rebellious. He and my stepmother still took us to games at The Stick, but it didn’t have the same feel to it. Actually, the last game we had been to was on August 7, 1995 as the Giants were taking on the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers won in 12 innings by the score of 3-1. In that game Barry Bonds got walked four times and Deion Sanders went 2-6 with a double for the Giants. This was also the first time I really picked up on the Giants/Dodgers rivalry which then confused me to no end as my stepmother is a Dodgers fan.

Years continued on, as did my rebellious side, as did the tension between my father and me. I won’t go into too much detail more about my older years of playing baseball with him as the coach; I touched upon most of that yesterday. What I can tell you is that I never had the courage to stand up to him. Yes, we yelled a lot at one another, but nothing was ever really resolved between us. Instead, I took my built-up aggression out on everyone I knew: teachers, coaches, friends, etc. The worst of it came out against the varsity basketball coach at Centennial High School during my junior year. For some reason the coach didn’t like me, granted my freshman year I was a short, chubby kid who could jump, but barely run. The following year I grew eight inches and lost a lot of weight in the process. I also ran four-to-five miles a day and blew everyone else out of the water trying out for the basketball team during conditioning drills. Still, no dice on making the team. By my junior year I got tired of it. I worked my ass off longer and harder than anyone else there and yet I still got picked on be all the coaches the most. Finally, I snapped. I told all three of the coaches, individually, to “fuck off.” More importantly, I gave each one a specific reason why they could. The head coach gave it right back to me. Somehow that whole thing stayed internal. When I eventually got cut from the team (a week later) my father laughed and asked why I tried out again in the first place. My stepbrother had made varsity in football and baseball and my father had focused all of his attention toward him. There was a bit of resentment between my father and me after I had quit playing baseball every summer so I could visit my mother, because, you know, I’m a real dick for wanting to spend time with my mom.

One of the biggest reasons I had tried to make the basketball team and cast baseball aside was because basketball was the one sport that my father and I always played together the most. He never made the team in high school, but got much better in the years that followed his schooling. I wanted to make the team for him. I failed. I probably could have made the baseball team that season too had it not been for the accident that occurred over the summer before my junior year. Yet another moment in the rocky relationship that was between my father and myself as he never took me to the hospital after I told him I had been struck in the face with a ball. It was one of those, “Well I guess you shouldn’t have been playing” speeches that I got in return.

Despite the awesome bat boy gig I had going for myself into my second season in 2000, I decided to hang it up a few weeks into June and move to Vancouver, Washington with my mother. Well, correction; I was only supposed to go up there to visit for a few months and then go back to Bakersfield to finish up school. Needless to say, things didn’t go as scheduled. Around the middle of August I had convinced myself that it would be more beneficial for me to stay in Vancouver for my senior year. I had met with the varsity basketball coach, worked out with a few of the players and had a legitimate shot of making the team, a state-ranked team at that. The school paperwork was about to be filed all I had to do was call my father and let him know of my decision. It took a few minutes of tip-toeing around it, but I finally manned up and told him what I was going to do. For those who know me really well know that I don’t forget anything; names, dates, conversations, it doesn’t matter. This conversation is one of three we’ve had in our lives that I will never forget. After I told him that I was staying he went off on me. While every word that came out of his mouth was extremely hurtful, the thing he said that still haunts me is, “You’re a failure, and you’ll always be one.”

I responded with nothing. We spoke once, maybe twice in the months that followed, but I didn’t care. Nor did I care about seeing him when I went back to visit for Spring Break and when he came to my high school graduation. For years we chatted back and forth but everything felt hollow, almost forced. After I graduated from high school I completed my two-year degree at Clark College in Vancouver. I worked for a number of years before finally enrolling and getting accepted into the University of Oregon.

Things were just weird for a number of years. I found myself in two relationships, one of which involved an engagement, but we broke it off when we both realized we didn’t love each other, not to mention the fact that we had broken up three times prior. After the first, it really should have been an indicator. As for the second relationship, that should have come to an end much earlier than it did.

In May of 2009 my stepbrother was getting married to a woman he had fallen in love with in college. I had met her once prior to the wedding and she seemed like a great girl. Due to the fact that everyone else lives in California and I live in Oregon, it became a bit problematic in regard to scheduling. However, they had set the wedding date for Memorial Day weekend and my girlfriend at the time and I set up an awesome trip which would have included the wedding, A’s games and visiting her family who lived in the Bay. Long-story-short, things went bad, fast.

You know how some people say that their significant other is “crazy?” Well, I hate to use that label, but in my case “mentally ill” is a better suit. I knew a bit about my girlfriend’s past, but almost all of it came out within 36 hours. She had spent time in a mental institution while living in Germany, something I didn’t know at the time. She also never took her meds nor saw her counselors like she was supposed to. As we drove from our hotel in San Leandro to Livermore, everything was fine. As soon as we got to Altamont on our way to Mariposa, she lost it. She began yelling at me, hitting me, slapping me and whatever else she could to convince me to turn around and take her back to the hotel. Granted, we were about 30 minutes away from the wedding by the time I finally pulled the car over. I handed her the keys, got out of the car and started walking. I had had enough. We had been together for a year and I was done. I found the sharpest thing I could and started slashing at my wrists. Two times in my life prior to that moment had I completely broken down and felt that suicide was the only way out, the previous of which came after when my father ha told me. Lucky for me, I didn’t cut deep enough and when the blood started to trickle out I realized that what I was doing was incredibly stupid; however, when put in an environment with someone who isn’t mentally stable, you tend to do irrational things. As I walked back to the car I saw that she had broken a CD and cut her legs up pretty bad. I called my dad and stepmom and let them know I would be coming and told them everything that happened later that night even after they tried to convince my brother Adam to come pick me up. My father wished me well, hoped that I get better and told me that he really missed me. That was the first time I had even heard him say that.

My girlfriend at the time and I both sought counselors after we returned to Eugene. Luckily I services through the school. I stayed the course for the entire 12 weeks at which my counselor told me to break up with her as she was an “extreme” danger to me. At this time I’d like to point out that my counselor was a woman. Moving on, I still stayed with her. Hell, I even helped her move to Anchorage, Alaska when she got a teaching gig. And by move, I mean we drove the entire 4000 miles and I flew back. Not having anyone immediately there for her, she of course broke up with me two weeks later and shacked up with some other dude. My life then began spiraling downhill. I lost my job at the time, I was beyond depressed and I received calls and texts from her letting me know how much better her life was without me. I was done. I threw up a message on Facebook, letting everyone know that I was going to hang myself. I didn’t do it to be creepy, or for a cry for help, mostly just to let someone know as I lived alone in a studio apartment. As I got on the chair with the rope around my neck, my mother called me to let me know she was coming down to see me.

A lot of tears and yelling came out of her when she arrived. The next morning I got back into counseling, this time with a psychologist and a psychiatrist. If you haven’t been able tot ell from reading this, I’m a pretty open-minded person. I also know that the key to improving your mental health is to not hold anything back. I NEVER used to hold that opinion. It took time and a lot of sessions for me to unleash everything that I had been holding in throughout my entire life, starting with my parents’ divorce. When we got to the point about my father calling me a failure I completely broke down. I hated the feeling of being completely vulnerable, but I brought it upon myself, so to speak, for being so guarded. This moment, if anything, should help explain why I say what I do and always act out the things that I say. It took a bit of time, work and medication, but I changed my outlook on life and who I allow to get close to me. More important, I was tired of being a scarred kid around my father.

At the end of December I got the green light from my counselors to go to California to watch my Oregon Ducks take on THE Ohio State University in the Rose Bowl. I made a stop in Bakersfield to stay with my family at which my dad and I had a lengthy talk about what had transpired since my stepbrother’s wedding, but we only focused on that, not the past. That night before I went to bed I was greeted by a phone call from my ex whose life continued to spin out of control in Alaska and asked me for my emotional support. I told her she needed help and that I never wanted to talk to or hear from her again. She then started sobbing, asking, “I thought you said you’d care for me for the rest of your life?” A trap statement which should have had an asterisk on it that said, “Unless you cheat on me and/or break my heart;” which obviously happened. I then continued to tell her that “I would never be there for her again,” which is pretty ballsy to do when you really break it down. She then told me, “you’re a fucking loser, you’ll always be a failure and I never really loved you.” *Click* That night I got some of the best sleep of my life.

The next year-and-a-half was nothing but wonderful. The relationship between my father and me improved quite a bit, the new job I had gotten after the Ducks lost in the Rose Bowl was great and I was flying through school. I also learned that being comfortable just by myself was what had been missing my entire life. I took things much more slowly, met some really great people, went to Europe and did things for me for a change. In June of 2011 I hit the stage at Hayward Field and graduated with my first two degree from Oregon; one in News/Editorial Journalism and the other in English. My mother, stepfather, father, stepmother and grandmother were there to congratulate me. After we had lunch and I gave my father and stepmother a tour of my apartment I headed to work at Max’s Tavern, because, you know, money. Before my shift was over my father stopped by to say goodbye as he and my stepmother were heading back to Bakersfield the next day. He told me he was proud of me. Not just for being the first of the kids spawned by him to graduate college, but because of the road I traveled down and got myself out of in order to achieve what I set forth for. I gave him a hug, told him I loved him and he returned the same.

In the week-and-a-half to follow my friend, and soon-to-be-roommate Jared Clark and I made a trip down to California to catch a few Athletics games, go visit my friend Laurin Mitchell and spend some time in Bakersfield with my family. One of the activities we had planned took place on Father’s Day as Jared, my father and I all went to the Athletics game as they took on the Giants in the final game of a three-game series. This was the first game we had attended together since 1998, and the only game in which both of our teams were playing. We sat near the left field foul pole as those were the only tickets I could score. The game had been sold out for some time and I was smart enough to buy the tickets back in May. This was also the first time my father and I had been to the Coliseum together since the early 1990s, so we made sure to talk about how much we hated not being able to see the Oakland Hills like in the old days. Somewhere around the fourth inning my dad started regaling us with stories of his youth; how he used to sit in the right field bleachers back in the early 1970s and how he was present for a few games during all three World Series championships from that era, something I had never heard him mention before. Everything I’ve really ever known and loved about baseball game from him, and despite all the horrible things that had happened between us for more than two decades, none of it mattered. I was just happy to with my dad.

The Athletics won the game and swept the series behind Trevor Cahill’s 3-0 performance. We hooped the BART back to Dublin where we had parked and went and grabbed dinner. Afterward we hugged and parted ways as Jared and I had to get back to Oregon. I wouldn’t see him again until late December of that year as Jared and I, once again, went down to watch the Ducks play in the Rose Bowl. It was also during this time that I had told my dad that I was about to apply for the MLB Fan Cave, a job he said that would be perfect for me. How right he was.

The day after I got kicked out of the Fan Cave I had decided to leave my phone at the apartment as I took a bit of a personal sojourn around New York City. When I got back I noticed there was a message on my phone from my father. He had been following my journey since the application and audition process, and unfortunately, like so many people, he found out I was going home through the announcement on the Fan Cave Web site. The message he left was short, and became the second conversation I’ll never forget. He apologized for what had happened, but was proud that I chased down me dreams and worked my butt of to get there. I then had a good cry and passed out for a bit.

We wouldn’t see each other again until the beginning of July, as I was just starting the West Coast part of my MLB stadium tour. Our time together was spent after I completed Seattle, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Phoenix. The Athletics had invited me out to throw out first pitch on July 17th so I decided to hang out in Bakersfield for a few days before heading out. Coincidentally, PG&E was holding and employee party that day in the BBQ Terrace in right field, and he was all ready going to be there. Two days before I left for the Bay he and I drove out to Arvin for a round of golf, something we hadn’t done together in well over a decade. (My father was sitting to the left of the O.co sign when this photo was taken.)


The entire conversation (the third conversation) to the golf course consisted of a religious theme. My father and I hadn’t talked about God or anything of the matter since I was a teenager, but I gave him my attention. He asked me I still believed and of I had accepted Jesus into my heart. My conversations with others don’t usually get that deep, but I answered him truthfully. I told him yes, and explained to him that I had never lost my faith, despite all the craziness that has come in and out of my life because I know deep down God is watching over me. I then went on to tell him that I read the Bible at some regularity. Basically, all of my answers came as a bit of surprise to him, but I tried not to make a big deal out of it. As we got closer to the course he then asked if there’s anything he had done to show that he had been a bad father and how he could improve upon it. Once again, another interesting question. I thought about it for a minute and then reached down and brought up the phone conversation we had when I was 17-years-old when I made the decision to move in with my mother. Never in my life had I heard my father truly apologize for anything, let alone seen him cry. Not when he and my mother got divorced. Not when he parents died, not even when his and my stepmother’s first child died shortly after she was born. For a few seconds I felt bad for bringing it up, but that feeling went away. I had been holding it in for 12 years, and I felt that a great weight had been lifted once I found the courage to talk about it. It was a horrible thing to happen at a really bad time in our lives, but we both handled it well and are closer for it.

I love my father very much. I just wish it hadn’t taken so long to finally tell him.

I realize that most of you may not see why I wrote this or what any of this has to do with a hat, but I assure you it has everything to do with it. The Giants have been using this as their game cap since the start of the 1994 season. As I mentioned above, the Giants are my father’s favorite team, and the only two Giants’ home game we ever attended took place a year before and a year after his hat was introduced. When I was a bat boy for the Bakersfield Blaze in 1999 and 2000 the Giants were the Major League affiliate, and this cap was actually the first MLB New Era Cap I ever owned as it was part of my uniform. The hat in the photo below is not the original, that one is in storage as it is way too small, but this one carries a lot more meaning behind it. The Giants still used this cap today, the biggest indication about it is the typeface of the “SF” which is currently under its third incarnation since the team moved to San Francisco for the start of the 1958 season, the year my father was born. When picking marks for this cap I rolled with a few natural selections, guys who had big influences on me despite my loyalty to the Athletics organization.

#6- Robby Thompson was the second overall pick in the 1983 amateur draft by the Giants out of the University of Florida. From 1983-1985 he posted mediocre numbers with the single-A Fresno Giants and the AA Shreveport Captains. However, in spite of having a depleted infield, Thompson was called up to the Majors at the start of the 1986 season and made hi debut on April 8th. Thompson blew the critics out of the water, hitting .271 with 149 total hits, seven home runs and 47 RBI. He finished in second place for the National League Rookie of the Year award behind St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Todd Worrell, but ahead of the likes of guys named Kevin Mitchell, Will Clark, Barry Larkin, John Kruk and Barry Bonds. Crazy!

Thompson continued to produce as a solid base-hitter. In 1988 he earned his first trip to the All-Star Game, but had to miss out due to a pinched-nerve in his leg. In 1989 Thompson's batting average dropped to .241. However, he led the National League with 11 triples and scored a career-high 91 runs while hitting ahead of Clark and Mitchell in the batting order. The Giants once again won the Western Division crown and faced the Chicago Cubs in the 1989 National League Championship Series. Thompson hit two home runs in the series including a game-winning two-run home run in Game 3 as the Giants went on to win the series in five games. Thompson was held to only one hit in the 1989 World Series against the Athletics as the Giants were swept in four straight games.

On April 22, 1991 Thompson hit for the cycle. His best year statistically was in 1993 when he was hitting for a .325 average at mid-season to earn his second All-Star selection; however, a leg injury would once again force him to miss the game. The Giants had a nine-game lead on August 11 but faltered in September and were caught by the Atlanta Braves, though by no fault of Thompson, who increased his offensive output late in the season including a period in August where he hit home runs in five consecutive games. With 10 games left in the season on September 24, Thompson suffered a broken cheek bone when he was hit by a pitch thrown by Trevor Hoffman of the San Diego Padres. He missed 8 games due to the injury, but with the Giants and Braves tied for first place Thompson returned to play the final game of the season. Despite his determination, playing with a bloodshot eye and wearing a clear plastic mask in the field, the Giants lost the pennant on the last day of the season.

Thompson ended the season with career highs in batting average (.312), doubles (30), home runs (19) and runs batted in (65). Although Thompson was one of the best fielding second basemen in the National League, he was often overlooked in post-season awards because his playing career coincided with that of Baseball Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg. By 1993, Sandberg was past his prime and Thompson finally received recognition when he won the Gold Glove Award for fielding excellence and the Silver Slugger Award.

During spring training in 1994, Thompson received a scare when he was hit on the left ear flap of his batting helmet by pitcher Mike Harkey of the Colorado Rockies. Thompson later stated the two beanings by Hoffman and Harkey were on his mind when he batted during games. In May, he went onto the DL and missed almost two months of the season. He returned in late June, but played in only seven games before undergoing surgery on his right shoulder and missed the rest of the season. Thompson's injuries continued to hamper his playing time in 1995 and in September he had to undergo surgery again, this time on his left shoulder. He returned to play in 1996 but injuries continued to take their toll as he appeared in only 63 games. Thompson played his last major league game on September 22, 1996 at the age of 34.

Thompson and I met in May of 2000 when he was a coach for the Giants. He had come down to Bakersfield to work with a few of the guys and I stood by every now-and-then to pick up some advice as well. After two days of this Thompson caught on. Rather than telling me to go away, he talked to me near the on-deck circle during a game and asked if I was playing ball for my high school. I then told him the story that I wrote about in yesterday’s post about taking a fastball to the nose the year before and how I was still scarred mentally. It was at this moment that he smiled and told me the story of Hoffman breaking his cheekbone. I knew a lot about Thompson growing up, but not that. He then told me, “Well, if you want to work on something tomorrow, let me know.” And walked back to the dugout. I was petrified with excitement.

The next day I arrived to Sam Lynn Ball Park two hours before I was supposed to, which also meant I ditched my last two periods. He happened to be there and was talking things over with Bobby Bonds (yes, Barry’s dad) when I rolled out of the tunnel and onto the field to stretch. Thompson spent an hour with me playing catch, working on defensive drills, learning correct positioning and he and Bonds took turns working on my swing… which, as they said, “really doesn’t need improvement.” But despite their generosity of time and knowledge, I just couldn’t get back in the box in a live-game scenario for years. As great as that day was, and as grateful as I was to the two of them, I wish I could have done more.

#9- I’m not going to spend too much time on this guy as I all ready wrote about him on March 12th. With the exception of 1990, 1991 and his 1999 season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Matt Williams was a best at the plate for the Giants, not to mention a solid glove. He won four Gold Glove awards throughout his career, three of which came with the Giants, but all of them at third base. He hit .264 with 247 home runs and 732 RBI from 1987-1996, his tenure in San Francisco. His most notable year came in 1994 when he finished in second place for the NL MVP award behind Jeff Bagwell despite Williams’ league-leading 43 home runs. Actually, not going to lie, Bagwell totally deserved it.

#47- The Athletics drafted Rod Beck as a starting pitcher in the 13th round (327th pick) of the 1986 Major League Baseball Draft out of Grant High School in Van Nuys, California. Prior to the 1988 season, he was traded to the Giants organization. In 1989, while with the San Jose Giants of the California League, he posted a record of 11–2 between opening day and June 14, when he was promoted to the Captains.

Beck made his Major League debut on May 6, 1991, against the Montreal Expos. His performance was forgettable (2.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER), but his season numbers were more impressive. He had a 3.78 ERA, pitched 52 13 innings in 31 games, and struck out 38 while walking 13. In 1992, Beck took over as the regular closer from Dave Righetti and posted a record of 3–3 with 17 saves and a 1.76 ERA. He pitched 92 innings over 65 games and struck out 87 while walking only 15. In 1993 he recorded 48 saves, including 24 consecutive. At the time, both marks were Giants franchise records.

On September 17 and 18, 1997, the Dodgers came to San Francisco to play a two-game series at The Stick. The Dodgers were leading the NL West with a record of 84–67. The Giants were in 2nd place with a record of 82–69; 2 games behind. The Giants won the first game 2–1 behind lefty Kirk Rueter. In that contest, Barry Bonds hit a two-run homer in the first inning for the Giants, while Raúl Mondesí hit a solo shot in the fifth for the Dodgers. Beck did not pitch in the game.

On September 18, he came into the game in the top of the 10th with the score tied 5–5. As the season had progressed, Beck had lost his closer's job to Roberto Hernández. In fact, Beck had blown a save three days earlier in Atlanta while trying to close that game. He had given up 4 earned runs in just 23 of an inning. Beck got into trouble immediately by giving up consecutive singles to Mike Piazza, Eric Karros, and Mondesí. With the bases loaded, nobody out and the crowd booing loudly, manager Dusty Baker came out to talk to Beck, who was obviously struggling. Baker told Beck, "You're the guy." Baker left Beck in, and Beck proceeded to strike out Todd Zeile looking at an inside-corner fastball. When he got pinch hitter Eddie Murray to bounce a splitter into an inning-ending double play, the crowd of 52,188 went crazy. Two innings later, Giants reserve catcher Brian Johnson led off with a home run to left field, giving Beck a 6–5 win. The Giants, now tied with the Dodgers for the division lead, would go on to win the Western Division crown.

4 comments:

  1. Quite the story, Ben. Thank you for sharing. I'm very happy that you fought through your troubles to become who you are today: a great writer - and although I don't know you personally - a great person as well.

    Keep on keeping on, man.

    - mscharbo15 (@4our3hree)

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    Replies
    1. I truly appreciate the kind words Matt. It was hard to cram 25 years worth of real life experience into a single post, but somehow I pulled it off. It was hard too. Reliving most of those thoughts is what held up the process, but at the same time it was great to get it all out.

      All of the feedback I get from people like you is all the reason I need to keep going. This has gone from a daily practice to to something I love to write to all who will take the time to read. Without any of you guys, this would be meaningless.

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  2. Wow. I like to read about 1 or 2 of your posts per day and I am always amazed. You are such an outstanding writer. This is definitely my favorite post of yours. Your story of perseverance is so inspiring. You are definitely not a failure! Thank you so much for writing. Oh and go A's! :)

    -@Rybob19

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