Thursday, August 29, 2013

2 Out Hits Can Bring You Home: My First Trip To AT&T Park

In 1883 a professional baseball club joined the National League and played its home games in New York City. They called themselves the Gothams. That first season they finished 6th of 8 teams, 16 games back of the Boston Beaneaters. Two years later the name of the team changed to the Giants and a franchise was established.

My father grew up in New York City rooting for these New York Giants. In his lifetime he saw the Shot Heard Round The World, The Catch, and a World Series victory. But he also saw heartbreak. After the 1957 season the Giants moved across the country and set up home in San Francisco.  His heroes, especially Willie Mays, moved so far away.

It didn't deter him though. He continued to cheer for the Giants. After the Mets came to be in 1962 he would go watch them play whenever they came back to New York. He loved his team. My Parents moved to Chicago for good in the mid 1970's. This just meant the visiting ballpark changed. He would still wear his Giants hat to games and cheer. It's also my original hometown.

Which brings me to Saturday August 24, 2013. For the first time in my life I was attending a Giants home game. Something that always seemed a far off possibility was now coming true. Obviously my entire life I have cheered for the Giants. When they won it all in 2010 I was on the phone with my dad crying and cheering at the same time. After last year's championship I yelled loudly with great joy. I love the Giants.

At the beginning of August I covered my first Giants game from the Trop down here in Florida. So in anticipation of this game I requested another one. The following day I was going as a fan with my family. I figured covering this game would give me a unique experience for a lifelong fan attending his first ever home game. 

The main rule in the press box is no cheering. So, for obvious reasons, I couldn't visibly react when our boys did well. I had forced myself in to a situation where I couldn't even applaud the outstanding achievements. I didn't mind at all. The next 14 hours of my life were some of the most exciting and thrilling ever in my 34 years.

I arrived at the Giants offices around 2:25 for a 6:05 game. I signed my name and was handed my pass. I officially had my golden ticket to AT&T Park. The ballpark that is the crown jewel of baseball was finally steps away for the first time. I headed in and let the day begin.

You walk through the underbelly of the stadium before getting on the elevator to the press box. This meant that the first view I would ever have from the inside would be from right there. I walked towards the field and just stopped and scanned. I'm pretty sure a "whoa" slipped out. It was magnificent.

I noticed Ally Williams, you may know her better as @itsallyduhh, was sitting there on her laptop. I went up and introduced myself and unpacked my stuff. I was in the front row of the box almost dead center behind home plate. I walked around, got the pre game notes and sat down to start tweeting and setting up my pregame story. A little before 3:30 we headed down to the field for BP and Bruce Bochy's presser in the dugout.

There I am standing in the Giants home dugout, holding out my recorder like everyone else to hear what he has to say. The usual assortment is there. Hank Schulman, Andrew Baggarly, Carl Steward, John Shea to name a few. There is a CSN cameraman straight on from Bochy as Amy G sits next to him with the microphone the get the sound bytes. And the reporters ask questions for about 10 minutes and that's it.

The Giants were taking batting practice and I stood and watched for a little bit. I mingled, but not a whole lot. I took a ton of pictures. This is the first time I am ever at the home ballpark of the team that I love, and I'm on the field. How does that even happen? There's no way that I could have dreamed this as the 8 year old that cried himself to sleep when the Giants lost the 1987 NLCS.

I just stood there and soaked it all up. The guys that made me so happy as a fan were right there just going to work. The view of the ballpark from down there is just spectacular. I allowed myself to enjoy if for a while. The man on the outside looked calm cool and collected. The little kid on the inside was screaming "Can you believe you're standing here? None of this is real! Wake up!".

I was able to pry myself away from that and I went back to the press box to write my pregamer for Around The Foghorn. I got to use stuff I heard Bochy say 30 minutes earlier. It was the most fun I ever had writing a pregame story. 

There's this window of time when covering a game between BP and the actual game itself. You get time to go eat, write, run to the supermarket, whatever you want. So I decided to walk around and meet up with friends I have made through writing and social media.

My editor at AtF, Melissa, and I hung out first. We just sat there a few rows behind the plate and chatted. I finally walked around the park a little when we went and met up with her husband Alex. It was really the only time I paid attention to the concourse area. I felt so at home walking amongst fans dressed in the orange and black that I love.

I made my way up to the View Level to meet up with my pal Jamie. Everyone I was getting to meet had only been Twitter handles and pictures. Finally the people that I so enjoyed watching games with I finally got to see in person. It also gave me a chance to really see the cove and bay out beyond the walls of the park. It was a postcard.

First pitch was coming so I headed back down for the game. I got back to the press box just as Hot Buttered Rum was singing the National Anthem. It was then that I finally met the guys from the Torture Cast podcast. Ben Lee had gotten a seat by Ally, but Chad King and Willie Dills ended up on the other side of the box. I went over and said hi for a few minutes. We made plans for after the game and I took my seat for the first pitch. 

My love of Tim Lincecum as a pitcher has been well documented in this space before. For the second time in as many games, I got to see him take the ball for the Giants. I always felt that he was the key piece that led to the Giants run of success. He single handedly changed the culture from long bombs off the bat of Barry Bonds, to strikeouts, flyballs, and low scoring games. My dad used to love to point out to me how well the Giants pitchers all learned to pitch to the strengths of AT&T after that. 

Any thoughts or hopes that I would see another Lincecum no hitter were pushed aside after Jose Tabata battled through 10 pitches to lead off the game with a single. As much as I would have loved to see how deep he could go before giving up a hit, it was nice to know I wouldn't be holding my breath and trying not to cheer come the later innings. Timmy struck the next guy out then got McCutchen to hit into a double play.

Then something magical happened. Out of nowhere the Giants exploded for 4 runs in the first inning. All nine guys came to the plate. They didn't hit the ball all over the yard, but for a team that can't score sometimes, it was a tsunami. I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that it was the Giants that would be the team in control of this game. 

After an inning and a half I had witnessed four strikeouts, two looking which is not usual for Timmy, a double play ball and all the Giants swing a bat. Am I going to wake up soon? Are things like this supposed to happen? It was sitting there through a dream.

During the third inning I headed down to the @Cafe in left field of the park. Once again I met up with everyone from earlier, Aura included, and we hung out and watched the game together. It was a chance to talk a little bit and not just say hi and goodbye. We sat right by the control room of the social media experience at AT&T Park. Which is fitting if you think about it. A lot of the joy of this experience was finally meeting the faces behind my social media Giants family.

Back in the press box during the 4th inning I got back in to the flow of the game and watched the drama unfold. Things got interesting at times. In the top of the 6th inning Lincecum pitched in to a jam. After a walk and a double he was done for the night. Timmy struck out 8 Pirates and the crowd showed its approval by giving him a standing ovation as he walked to the dugout. I got chills.

The bullpen gave up two runs on the next 3 pitches and the lead was cut to 5-3. It was a ballgame again. Then a wonderful thing happened. After the Pirates scored those 2 runs, Pablo Sandoval made sue they knew the Giants still had this game. With Hunter Pence on 3rd base and 2 outs Sandoval knocked a single to drive him home and extend the lead to 6-3. The Giants were scoring runs with 2 out hits. 

Things got dicey again in the 7th and the other key moments of the game happened. After Marco Scutaro muffed what could have been an inning ending double play, the Pirates best hitters were coming to the plate. Sandy Rosario got the dangerous McCutchen to fly out the RF for out number two.  Bochy went to Javier Lopez to face the tough hitting Pedro Alvarez with 2 outs and runners on the corners.

My favorite stat all season has been how many inherited runners Javi has left stranded. Entering this appearance he had inherited the second most runners in the NL (48) and allowed just 10.4% of them to score. That's the lowest percentage in the league. He just gets it done. Against a guy that had homered the only other time they faced each other, Lopez struck Alvarez out on 4 pitches. The crowd roared, and the Giants got off the field with the lead. Javi does, what Javi does.

The bottom of the 8th ended with a 6-3 Giants lead. Then one of the most amazing things I have ever seen took place. El Mechon started over the loud speakers as Sergio Romo walked from the bullpen mound to the center of the diamond. The place erupted. Everyone started dancing in their own crazy way and just soaking up the festive music. Smiles were on faces everywhere as people laughed, sang, and serenaded the bearded closer. It was a party and everyone was invited. 

He returned the love that the hometown fans showered upon him by closing the door on the Pirates in the 9th. He allowed a 2 out double that was meaningless and then that was it. The Giants were victorious for my first ever game in San Francisco by a score of 6-3 over the Pirates. I met up with the guys from the Torture Cast and we all headed down for Bochy's postgame presser. 

I sat in the back, turned my recorder on when he entered and just listened. Then, with the final question of the night, Amy G helped put a cherry on top of this whole experience. She asked Bruce Bochy the following question.

"Bruce, I know that things went right for you guys tonight, but we saw the return of the 2 out hit that you guys had been missing. That was off the bat of Pablo. So how nice was it to see that 2 out hit, and to see Pablo get it?"

Bruce Bochy responds to the final question of the night.

"Ya, I thought that was a really important at bat. You know it gave us a little bigger cushion there. Game's within 2 runs at that point. Of course, we get a 2 out hit with a man on third base and it helps settle the guys down a little bit."

I turn and look to my left and all I see is smiles on the faces of the Torture Cast guys and Ally.  We were in utter shock. It was all we could talk about walking up the stairs back to the press box. I couldn't believe she asked him that question and that he answered it, both using the phrase "2 out hit". This night couldn't get any better.

I wrote my game recap back in the press box and then made the walk on over to Zeke's to hang out with the Torture Cast guys and record a podcast. It was there that I also got to meet yet another Twitter friend Erin. We sat at the bar and talked for a bit. Jamie joined us as well and everyone was just as awesome as I had imagined. 

I sat down to hang out and record the Torture Cast bonusode with the guys. We were also joined Ally Williams and Jen Cosgriff. I hadn't met Jen yet, but by the end of the night we became TFF's (Twitter Friends Forever). That and many fun times came from the next hour of recording the podcast. It was a fantastic time and I recommend you listen to it if you like to laugh. We had a great time, hope those that listen do too.

Go check it out at this link. There is background noise, so headphones seem to work best to hear us clearly.

We sat around and just continued talking and hanging out. I mean, who wants a night like this to end? The crowd thinned out and a few of us closed down Zeke's. I had a great time hanging out with those guys. All of them were smart and passionate about the Giants. I was amongst friends that cheered for the same team as me for the first time in my entire life. They had the same memories, and thoughts on favorite players growing up. We all had are where were you moments. 

I don't get to do that. All my friends have been fans of another team. The night couldn't have ended any other way. Just talking Giants baseball for hours and hours with good people would have made the entire trip to the game memorable. Everything else that happened was really just gravy.

The long walk to the hotel and a few beers later it was time to finally put this puppy to bed. Chad and I hung out for a bit and then the sun was threatening to come up. I had an afternoon game to attend the next day. That story is for another time.

That Saturday did so many things for me. The reason we came to San Francisco was to lay my father to rest. He passed away before the 2012 season and last weekend was when we got together to honor him. None of this love for the Giants, the ambition to write, or the things I want to pursue would have happened without him.

The Giants did everything in their power to make the night special for me. The man that turned the franchise around, Tim Lincecum, pitched to a crowd that loved him. The Giants scored 4 runs in the 1st inning and it felt like a victory lap for the last 34 years. There were standing ovations and a crowd that was in to the game. It didn't matter that the Giants had struggled this season. All that mattered was how they played that night. And it felt like they played that was just for me and my dad.

I've never been a person to think that any dream can come true. But there's just some nights that you can't argue with the facts. August 24, 2013 will always be one of those nights. Thanks Dad.

Eric Nathanson
@2outhits on Twitter

Friday, August 16, 2013

Congrats To The Original "My Guy"

Ryne Sandberg was named manager of the Philadelphia Phillies today. I couldn't be happier. I may have grown up a Giants fan, but I did grow up in the Chicago area.

It was hard for me not to follow the Cubs. I grew up going to Wrigley. I rooted for them every chance I got. They were the hometown team, and more importantly in the National League. 

I'm not a huge fan of the American League and the DH, but that's for another time. I actually think the DH is coming for all of baseball and there isn't anything we can do about it. But like I said, another time.

This is about Ryno. 

When I was 7 years old I was the youngest player on my team of 7 and 8 year olds. I had a good first year in T-Ball the season before, I was an All Star, but these boys were bigger.

So I got put at second base. My arm was not as strong as the older boys, but I could field the ball. So I guess they figured that was the best place to put me.

So naturally since I watched a lot of Cubs games, what with afternoon baseball and WGN, I fell in love with Sandberg. He was the guy I saw playing my position every day. 

His was the first batting stance I ever tried to copy. It was so quiet the way he stood in the box. I tried to emulate Sandberg every chance I got. The problem was I couldn't hit the ball. I only had 3 hits the whole 1986 season.

The next year I improved a whole lot and was an all star again. I played all over the field. The Giants went to the NLCS and Robby Thompson became my guy.

But Ryne Sandberg was there first. He was the first ball player I ever looked up to as a kid. I was so proud back in 2005 when he entered the Baseball Hall of Fame. I still regret not making the journey.

Now I'll admit, it will be a little strange seeing him with the "P" on his hat as he guides the hapless Phillies. I figure it's how Yankees fans must feel when the see Don Mattingly in Dodger blue.

I know he started out in the Phiilies' organization as a 3rd baseman. I have the baseball card stashed somewhere. But Ryne Sandberg will always and forever be a Cub in my 6 year old eyes.

I'm glad he's getting the chance to manage. He set his mind to doing it, and now it's here. Much like his career on the diamond. 

I won't be rooting for the Phillies, but I'll sure pull a little extra hard for number 23.

Eric Nathanson
Catch me on twitter @2outhits

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Change In Plans


As many of you have read here before I will be going to San Francisco for my first time ever on August 23rd.  My family is making the trip to honor my father who passed last year. 

I had planned on doing a meet up before the August 24th Giants game against the Pirates.

But there's been a change in plans. Unfortunately I won't be able to meet up before the game. You see, I'll probably already be inside AT&T Park. 

Once again I will be attending a Giants game as a memeber of the media.

This gives me the chance to cover the Giants for a day. Then I can come as fan the next day and enjoy the park, and the afternoon, with my family. 

Of course, if you are at Sunday's game and want to say hi, just let me know.

So I will be covering the first ever Giants home game I attend from the press box on Saturday August 24th.

But alas, that does not mean I don't want to meet up. I surely do, and we will.

I figure I will station myself somewhere in the park for an inning or two during the game so some of us can get together and meet. I'll tweet out the details as we get closer and also on that day. There are so many of you I can't wait to see.

As far as after the game, I would love to hang out somewhere nearby and enjoy a Saturday night after Giants baseball.

I'll figure out where, when I'm in town. Again, I will tweet the details that day as well.

I look forward to covering the Giants that day from the press box, and am excited to see many of you that weekend.

In other news, that weekend will probably be the last you see of the Giants on this blog for a while. You see, I have joined on as a staff writer at Around The Foghorn. So I hope you'll come on over there and check us out.

I plan on putting all of my Giants writing efforts into stuff over there. That doesn't mean I am closing shop, far from it. It just means that now I have 2 Out Hits to write about other things and expand over many topics.

So thank you all that have come here for Giants baseball, don't go away just yet, a lot more is coming next weekend.

Eric Nathanson
Catch me on Twitter @2outhits

Sunday, August 4, 2013

My Cup Of Coffee

On Saturday August 3rd I was fortunate enough to receive the media credential pictured above. I wasn't just a guy going to the game anymore. Suddenly I was the writer covering the game,

I'm not going to lie. I am amazed that I got this chance. I did everything in my power to not be an idiot. I think I succeeded.

So what's it like to be in the press box during a game? It looks like a pressure packed situation, I know. But it really isn't. 

Social media is the biggest difference now. The writers all tweet out the lineup pregame. It's almost a contest to see who gets it out first.

I avoided it. I mean, I had barely gotten there when the lineups came out. Why repeat what you alll saw already? 

After I collected all the stat sheets that are laid out for the media, I finally settled in. My computer was plugged in and my iphone was fully charged.

There are certain spots on the tables for visiting media. It's basically 3 long counters. I sat at the 3rd one. The top. I mean, who am I to get front a row seat? So i took the top. There was a family with 2 girls ages 12 & 8 sitting next to me pre game. The 8 year old thought it was funny that we both were in the press box for the first time. Who knows? She may be there again before me. But I digress.

So a little after BP starts is the dugout chat with Joe Maddon. The Rays are the home team and take BP first. I took the elevator down, walked through a tunnel, and emerged on the field. I just stood there  for a moment and soaked it all up. The last time I was on a Major League field was a picture day at Wrigley when I was a kid.

I spent Maddon's pre game talk outside the dugout. I didn't hear much of what he said at all. But at that moment I thought it was cool to listen to a big league manager.

Shortly after Joe Maddon talked to us the Rays were done hitting, That's when I had to hold the line between fangirl and journalist. The Giants players streamed out of the clubhouse right past me. I had to keep it together. 

I was in the dugout for Bochy's pregame media gathering. I learned a little bit. Everyone on the active roster is healthy according to Bochy. He told us the staff has not considered September call ups yet.

Don't be shocked if Gary Brown gets called up in September.

Hunter Pence put on a show in BP. The Rays fans ooohed and aaahed his deep bombs. He even hit the digital ad board above the LF bleachers. Was a good 450 feet away.

As I stood in the Giants dugout for BP I was able to talk to some different guys. The first man on the Giants staff that I talked with was Tim Flannery.

He was awesome. We stood there and talked about music for 10 minutes or so. It was the perfect way for me to feel comfortable. I was so worried about talking to any of the guys, and it took a short conversation about music to put me at ease. 

After a while I found myself standing there all alone with Brian Sabean. I shared with him the story of how I once was a server at a restaurant and had served his In-laws. We talked about that and then moved on to other things. I'll be honest, we talked about some personal things. It was 5 minutes of my life I will never forget.

There was nothing down on the field that would top that for me. So I decided to wander around the park and check some things out.

It was a good crowd at Tropicana Field last night. They gave away "Joe Gnomes". I was fortunate enough to get one. It's a neat little thing and will sit on my desk forever. There were many Giants fans at the park as well. I saw a whole lot of orange and black as I made my way through the concourse.

It was almost game time so I grabbed a quick bite to eat with Alex Pavlovic of the Mercury News in the press dining room. It was a burger, nothing fancy. I was just glad I remembered to eat. It wouldn't have been such a good thing had I passed out in the press box.

After all the prep work, watching BP, and standing there for Bochy's pregame chat with reporters, it was finally time for baseball. 

David Price vs. Tim Lincecum was the match up. I got lucky. 

As the game got going a gentleman to my left began to engage me in conversation. His name is Russ White and he has covered baseball for 50 years. We sat there and talked for much of the game. He told me stories of Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle. It was special. 

Russ told me he hadn't been to the Trop in about 9 years. He is retired and living in the area. The picture is of his lifetime pass to any MLB park. As he got ready to leave in about the 7th inning, he wasn't feeling well, Russ shared something nice with me. He told me that he had two thrills that night. He got to meet Kruk and Kuip and they signed a ball for him. The other, he said, was meeting me and talking baseball for a couple of hours. That was very touching. The feeling is more than mutual.

It was an exciting game down on the field. Lincecum and Price both pitched well. The Giants managed to scratch a run across in the top of the 3rd. In the bottom half of the inning Lincecum walked Molina to lead off and he came around to score.

And that was it. It stayed 1-1 for a while. The bottom of the 9th was quite entertaining. Bruce Bochy and Joe Maddon staged a chess match of players that was worthy of October baseball. But this proved to be the undoing for the Giants in the 10th.

Jean Machi could not find the strike zone in the bottom half of the 10th. He walked the leadoff batter, and well you know the rest. If not, go look it up here. That was not my favorite part of the night. The Giants lost 2-1 on a Wil Myers single to left with the bases loaded.

The Giants lost, but I'm going to be honest with you. It did not matter to me. I mean I would have loved to see a victory, but the day was so much more than that for me. 

I didn't have clubhouse access, so after the game when the writers made their way down for quotes, I was pretty much done for the night.

My long, strange trip through Tropicana Field was coming to a close. I snapped a few pictures, packed up my stuff and headed out. One of the greatest nights of my life had finally come to an end.

What an amazing experience that was. It was one of the greatest days I have ever had in my entire life. I'm just a guy with a blog, noting more. I give both the San Francisco Giants and the Tampa Bay Rays a lot of credit for the chance. Thank you to both of those organizations.

I was active on Twitter all night from the park. I really felt like alot of you were with me at the Trop. It would have never come to be without you. I hope you all enjoyed my night as much as I did. It was something I will never forget. I love you guys. Thank you.

Eric Nathanson
@2outhits on Twitter

Friday, August 2, 2013

I'm Going To The Show

Tomorrow night I am doing something I never could have dreamed possible. I will be covering the San Francisco Giants at Tampa Bay Rays game as a member of the media.

I've been writing this blog for almost a year now. It started back in October of last year.
When I first started writing it was a healing tool. As I have mentioned before my father passed right before the start of the 2012 season. 

Baseball, and especially the Giants, was always our connection. So writing about that 2012 team helped me heal. You can find more about this here and here. But it has turned in to so much more than that for me.

So how did I get here? How on Earth did I manage to get a pass to cover a game at Tropicana Field? Well, I live in Tampa, and social media of course. You. People like you that are reading this helped me. 

A little over a week ago as we were watching the Reds beat the Giants for the final time I decided to give it a shot. So I sent out this tweet...

I really didn't think anything would come of it. I really, truly didn't. But then a few tweets came out and Twitter started to work its magic. There were a couple like this...

Although to be fair, I'm pretty sure not everyone thinks I am that good. Anyway thanks Jamie, those were kind words. And then wouldn't you know it, a DBacks fan even helped me out...

That was a nice feeling. Thanks Heather I appreciate it. 

So I went to bed after that game and hadn't heard anything. It was late here on the East coast after the Giants game ended so I crashed. The next morning I woke up to this glorious tweet from Bryan Srabian, the social media director for the San Francisco Giants.

A week later, and after a few emails, I was told that they could help me out. I didn't know which game I was gonna get to see, it didn't matter.

Then yesterday afternoon I received an email from the media relations manager for the Giants. He told me that he talked to his counterpart with the Rays and that they would grant me a credential for Saturday August 3rd.

And just like that, I have been given a chance. It's all because of readers like you, my Giants family on Twitter, and the great people over at reddit. Thank you.

One day I do hope to be able to write about baseball full time. I would love it if there is a day where going to the park to cover a game is just a normal part of life for me. But I'm not there yet.

I'm still a fan, just like you. Of course I will be live tweeting from the game. You can follow me here. If I see or hear something that I find interesting I will share. The experience of doing this for the first time should be amazing. I don't want to lose that sense of wonder I will have when I walk through those doors tomorrow. So I'm gonna try to soak it up. 

I'm just a guy, that's getting a great chance thanks to the San Francisco Giants organization. I hope I don't embarrass myself. 

Tune in tomorrow. It's Lincecum vs. Price. I couldn't have asked for a better match up for my first time covering a game. Hope you enjoy the ride as much as I do.

Special shout out to the guys over at the Torture Cast podcast. Go check them out. Without the work that they do I don't think I ever would have had the courage to try to cover a game. You guys really helped inspire this, thanks.

Eric Nathanson
@2outhits on twitter

Saturday, July 27, 2013

It Was Just One Night

Christian Peterson/Getty Images

Last night's Giants game was about as heartbreaking as you can get for a team that is in 4th place and more than a week out of 1st place. 

It felt like a whole new way to lose a baseball game, but it really wasn't. Just like any other game there are many factors that lead up to the one crucial play that gets remembered forever.

Take the bottom of the 2nd. After Pablo Sandoval led off the inning with a double the Giants failed to score. Hunter Pence grounded out to 3rd and Pablo stayed at 2nd. Brandon Belt then grounded out to 1st, it moved Pablo over, but now there were two outs. Had Pence been able to move Sandoval to 3rd then Belt or Francouer would have had an easier chance to knock him in. 

Let's go to the top of the 6th. With 1 out Nate Schierholtz hit one deep to the left center field gap. Both Francouer and Blanco too bad routes to the ball and did not communicate. They both pulled up a little and the ball fell in. The play looked like it could have been made. The very next batter, Starlin Castro, hit one towards the middle that Tony Abreu dove for, and over shot the landing. The ball went to the outfield and the run scored. Abreu needs to knock that down even if there is no play to be made. 

How about that 9th inning? A leadoff single to Borbon, followed by a 4 pitch walk to Dioner Navarro. Romo got the next 2 guys on a strike out and a force out. Anthony Rizzo came to the plate with 2 out and runners on 1st and 3rd. The only two left handed hitters Romo had faced in the inning had reached safely. Romo's the closer, and in the world of baseball that often means going with the guy that got you there.

But in the world of instant social media, it all comes down to Belt. 

In the world of knee jerk reactions, and what have you done for me lately, it all comes down to Belt. 

In our world of hype, and wanting the next best thing, it all comes down to Belt.

I don't live in the Bay area. So when Brandon Belt was hyped to be the next great thing, I knew nothing about it. When everyone had high hopes, and big expectations, I was just curious to see how the new first baseman was going to play.

It's the expectation and promise that has colored the view of Belt. Brandon can be engaged through Twitter, share his fondness for Olive Garden, and write a decent blog post now and then. But if he dare strike out just once in a fly ball situation, a collective roar about potential not being reached emerges. Suddenly the guy that makes us chuckle is scorned.

I'm not buying it. The cornerstones of this Giants team should be Posey, Crawford, and Belt. From a pitching standpoint, it's Bumgarner and Cain. 

It's one error by Belt. He has saved countless more with his glove in the past. The Giants as a team lead the NL in errors. One ball through the legs shouldn't condemn a man's time in a Giants uniform. 

I don't look for the next great thing, a solid Major League player will be enough for me. The San Francisco Giants have that in Brandon Belt.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Where Have You Gone Angel Pagan?

CSN Bay Area

It's almost the end of July, which means, it's trading season. The San Francisco Giants are 46-55, which has them in 4th place right now. The Dodgers are currently on top of the West and the Giants sit 7.5 games behind them. 

The question on everyone's mind is, are the Giants buyers, or sellers? Every NL West team not named the Padres has led the division for a bit this season. No one is running away with it. Yes the Dodgers have been hot lately, and Arizona still has a solid club, but time has not run out, yet.

Do the Giants need to make a splashy trade to turn it around? Well, let's see what the needs of the club are first.

On May 25 Angel Pagan raced around the bases with his infamous inside the park walkoff HR. It's been 2 months now and that is where the season turned. Pagan was stable at the top of the lineup, and it gave the big boys a chance to drive in runs.

How has Pagan being out impacted the team? Here are some team numbers with, and without, Angel Pagan.

With Pagan: 27-22 (W-L) | 4.5 Runs/Gm | .329 OBP | .271 BA

Without Pagan: 19-33 | 3.4 R/Gm | .309 OBP | .256 BA

That's a full run per game difference. And it shows in the hitting numbers. Guys just aren't getting on base enough from the top of the lineup. Gregor Blanco has done an admirable job filling in, but he gets caught in a platoon some days and isn't always out there. 

I can't speculate on who the Giants may go get to fix this, or even if they will. But it sure seems like the offense could use a leadoff hitter again. We'll see if there is any movement over the next week.


I'm just not sold on the idea that the Giants need another starter. It's the bullpen that needs the help. When Chad Gaudin slid into the starter role they lost their long man. After watching Petit the other day, they may have finally found the guy.

With a healthy Ryan Vogelsong back in the rotation, Barry Zito may be the odd man out. Chad Gaudin has pitched well enough to stay in the rotation, and Tim Lincecum has looked a lot better lately. Even in his last start he was getting bad swings on balls that weren't right over the plate. As evidenced a couple weeks ago, Lincecum can still be brilliant.

A trade similar to the ones that brought Ramon Ramirez and Javier Lopez in 2010 might be worth exploring. Yes the starting pitching has been shaky, but its the bullpen that could use a boost. 


The next month the Giants play all their games outside of the NL West. So far this season that has not been a good thing. Against the West the Giants are 29-21, against everybody else they are 17-34. If the Giants are to be contenders in September, that has to change.

It's also about a month until I make my way to San Francisco for the first time, and personally, I cannot give up on this year's team before I go out there. Still looking to set up a meetup, details here

The Cubs are coming up next, can't wait to bring these memories back up during that series. Until next time folks, thanks for reading.

Eric Nathanson
@2outhits on Twitter

Thursday, July 18, 2013

While We Wait For Baseball...

Today is day two without baseball. I'm pretty sure when I was a kid the game started back up on Thursday and not Friday. What's up with this extra day off? It sucks. We want baseball.

It seems others feel that way. Yesterday, Bay Area Sports Guy posted a great blog that is worth a read. Check it out here. They are running a contest for both a pizza party and a trip to New York to see the Giants play the Mets and Yankees. If I lived in the area I'd be all over it, so go enter, that's a cool prize.

The question on the post is what Giants game would you go back in time to attend in person? I love it, just love the concept. I said any game Willie Mays played in because I never got to see him play. But it got me thinking. Since I can't go back in time to watch a game, what control do I have?

Well has all the games back through at least 2010, maybe even 2009. I don't know. What I do know is that I can go fire up any game I want, at anytime. So I can go back in time, I just have to do it through the magic of moving pictures.

Since 2010 was the first championship in San Francisco, I'm going to go back to the beginning of that season. There's no baseball on until Friday. So what do I watch in the meantime? Well my top 5 favorite regular season games since the start of 2010.

This is obviously skewed to the games that I most enjoyed and thought had an impact on the team. It's totally subjective. I have 5 games, and I don't think giving them an order or ranking does each individual game justice. They all stand out for different reasons.

So here's my top 5 favorite San Francisco Giants games since the start of 2010. In chronological order.

Friday April 9, 2010 - AT&T Park
Giants (5) Braves (4) 13 innings - Home Opener

This was the home opener for the 2010 season. The Giants came in rolling after sweeping Houston to start the season. The pitching looked dominant and fans were anxious to see their team. This game felt like the beginning of a long journey. 

Jonathan Sanchez started and was not effective. Tim Hudson started for the Braves and pitched a really good game. The Giants only managed 3 hits and 2 runs in his 7 innings. Even those runs came on ground outs. The Giants headed to the 9th down 4-2. 

Eugenio Velez led off the bottom of the 9th with a double off Billy Wagner. Aaron Rowand struck out swinging and Edgar Renteria stepped in. On a 1-2 pitch he hammered one deep in to the people to tie it at 4. The extra innings were not without great escapes. Brian Wilson loaded the bases in the 11th and Sergio Romo came in to bail him out. 

Finally, in the bottom of the 13th the fans got to go home happy. With one out Kris Medlen walked Juan Uribe. With Aaron Rowand at the plate next Uribe stole 2nd and scampered to 3rd after Brian McCann threw the ball in to CF. On the very next pitch Rowand hit a weak hopper that scooted far enough through the infield to score Uribe. Quite a home opener.

Sunday October 3, 2010 - AT&T Park
Giants (3) Padres (0) - Giants Clinch NL West

Again, Jonathan Sanchez started an important game on this list. Again, he wasn't brilliant. But no one remembers that. We all remember the triple that Sanchez hit off Mat Latos in the bottom of the third inning. The crowd was electric after that.

Torres struck out and with 2 outs it was up to Freddy Sanchez. If you're reading this than you know I love two out hits. Well, F. Sanchez hit a ball up the middle on a 0-1 pitch to score J. Sanchez. Aubrey Huff followed that up with a double and the Giants were ahead 2-0. This was the year of torture, and this game was no different.

The Padres had chances. They had runners in scoring position in each the 6th and 7th inning. Javy Lopez and Romo closed out the 8th with relative ease. Buster Posey hit a solo HR in the bottom of the 8th to give the Giants one more insurance run with Brian Wilson coming in for the 9th.

After a 10 pitch at bat that ended in a groundout with Luis Durango (whoever that is), Wilson got the next 2 outs on just 7 pitches. The Giants were champions of the NL West after being down 6.5 games on August 25th. It was a great moment for the team, and we all know the rest of the story.

Wednesday June 13, 2012 - AT&T Park
Giants (10) Astros (0) - Matt Cain Perfect Game

I've written extensively about this game. You can find that here. But if you've been reading this long, then you don't want to go read another long post, you just want to finish this one. So I'll still recap quickly.

This game is an all time classic. It had all those things that we all love in magical games. Jordan Schafer hit a foul ball in the 4th that may have been fair. Gregor Blanco made the catch in the 7th that is burned in all our minds. The final out of Joaquin Arias to Brandon Belt is a moment that makes us all smile.

I won't insult you any further by recapping this one more. This is a memory that Giants fans will carry for a lifetime.

Monday August 20, 2012 - Dodger Stadium
Giants (2) Dodgers (1) - Giants Take Over 1st Place, Never Look Back

The Giants entered this game 1/2 game back of the Dodgers for the division lead. This was game 1 of a 3 game series in LA. Clayton Kershaw started against Madison Bumgarner. The Giants were a week removed from the Melky Cabrera suspension and we weren't sure which direction the team was going to go. This was the classic late season showdown.

The Giants have always had trouble with Kershaw. Runs have never been easy to score against him. Bumgarner though, was coming off a complete game victory over the Nats and was locked in. This one fit the bill. Bumgarner went 8 innings, gave up 4 hits, walked nobody, and struck out 10 batters on 123 pitches. Kershaw did his part as well throwing 8 innigs but giving up 2 runs on 6 hits. He also struck out 10 and didn't walk anyone.

You have to get to the great ones early, and the Giants did just that against Kershaw. Angel Pagan led off the game with a double to the gap in LF. Marco Scutaro followed with a bunt to push him to 3rd with less than 2 outs. Bruce Bochy was not going to waste an early scoring chance against the Dodger left hander. The move paid off when Pablo Sandoval hit one deep enough to score Pagan on a sac fly. The Giants led 1-0 and Bumgarner took over.

The top of the 6th was a great example of why the Giants went on to win it all last year. After both Blanco and Bumgarner went down swinging, the top of the order took over. With 2 outs Pagan, Scutaro, and Sandoval all had singles. That's a huge win with 2 outs against a pitcher as good as Kershaw. It was also the run they would need to win the game.

The 2 run lead in the 9th inning was handed to Romo. This was a time when the closer role was still undefined on this club. Bumgarner couldn't finish, he had thrown 123 pitches already. The first 2 outs were recorded with relative ease on a strikeout and a groundout. But Hanley Ramirez drove a 1-2 slider over the LF wall. Bochy brought in Javy Lopez to face Andre Ethier. On a 1-2 pitch he grounded out to Brandon Belt at first. The Giants had a hold on first place for good.

Saturday July 13, 2013 - Petco Park
Giants (9) Padres (0) - Tim Lincecum No Hitter

This just happened. It is fresh in all of our minds. We all know the numbers by now. 9 innings, 148 pitches, 13 K's, and 27 swinging strikes. That's an amazing number. Tim Lincecum on that night pitched the most beautiful game of his life. It meant so much to Giants fans. I'm not going to apologize for my love of Tim Lincecum, and no one else should either. That love came out in full force that night and Giants fans should enjoy it. 

We're all going to remember this one. Timmy is "our guy". I wrote about it earlier this season here. There was so much to his no hitter. Pablo's play at 3rd and Hunter Pence's catch in RF were the star defensive plays. There was the element of a high pitch count that had all of us wondering if Lincecum would even get to finish the game. 

Then in the 9th inning it all came together so simply that it was elegant. The 13th and final strikeout was Chase Headly to lead off the 9th. The following two batters both flew out on lazy fly balls to Blanco in LF, and the celebration was on. It's these moments that we will remember so vividly as well. Buster's hug from behind, the team mobbing Timmy and all you can see is his head sticking out, and the hugs he got from Bochy and Dave Righetti. The celebration is just as much a memory as the game itself.

So those are my 5 to watch since 2010 began. What are yours? Feel free to share them below.

Eric Nathanson
@2outhits on Twitter 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Irrationally Rational Thinking

CSN Bay Area

So I'm sitting there watching the game last night and the stat in the above picture pops up. My first reaction was, really? The Giants bullpen? They haven't been that strong.

My second reaction is the one that i found funny. "CSN you just jinxed them!" ran through my head. I know, it's totally irrational. But I bet you do it too.

It's preposterous to think that what graphic they put up, or whatever we may say online has any bearing on the game. But we do it anyway. I call it irrationally rational.

I may watch a game to analyze it, but the fan will always come out. I'm totally guilty of it. Last night when this Koehler kid from Miami was holding the Giants hitless through the 5th, I put out the following tweet.

To be fair, I was only half paying attention. Game 7 of the NBA Finals was on. But I gotta fess up. I sent that out knowing full well the Giants didn't have a hit.

Why? Because why shouldn't my tweet from Tampa, Florida jinx this kid?

It's the same with the graphic.

Irrationally rational fandom.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Eric Nathanson
@2outhits on Twitter

Don't forget. Getting a meetup together for August 24. Details here.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Filling In

Lineups from Baseball Reference

Those two lineups are drastically different. It's not what we expected to see in mid June, but here we are.

The lineup on the left is from Game 1 of the 2012 World Series. The one on the right, well that's this past Monday June 17 against the Padres.

Somehow, some way, the San Francisco Giants have been able to stay in the race. The battered and bruised is plenty on this ball club. Angel Pagan, Pablo Sandoval, Marco Scutaro, and even Brandon Crawford have had to take some time to heal.

In the meantime, the Giants are 37-34, only 1.5 games back of Arizona. The whole division is a logjam with only the Dodgers under .500 right now. Yet despite all the hurt, the Giants are in the middle of this race.

So how did they hang on? Contributions from unexpected sources has led the way. So here's my thank you to those that have stepped up since the Giants have hit rough times.

Thank you to Juan Perez. The effort he displayed in his very first game made all of us gasp. There isn't a patch of grass too large for those legs. He's done some mighty fine work out there. Oh, and thanks for not being a slouch with the bat either. A .348 batting average to start a big league career is not shabby at all. Plus quality at bats, and coming through in a clutch situation Tuesday night,

Thank you to Gregor Blanco. Yes I know he is a regular but his role has changed since Pagan went down. He's been the leadoff man for a few weeks now and is consistently getting on base. Not only that, Gregor seems to like hitting in late game situations. He's not afraid to be the center of a rally.

Thank you to Joaquin Arias. The regular back up infielder has been starting almost every day for 3 weeks now. I don't think there is an infield position he hasn't played this year. His bat is coming around lately too. Some line drives are starting to fall, and Arias isn't one to sit there with his bat on his shoulder.

Thank you to Tony Abreu. Another versatile player that has filled in at more than one spot. He can play 3rd or 2nd, or even the outfield if it is really needed. The stats haven't been flashy, but 4 of his 8 hits have gone for two bases. Not a lot is asked of Tony Abreu, and he is handling that workload just fine.

Yes thank you too, Hector Sanchez and Andres Torres. They both have moments that make all fans scratch their collective heads, but both have come through with big hits in the past few weeks. It seems like Sanchez is here to stay, but I wouldn't count on Torres being around as long. Mr. Juan Perez is still playing well when Pagan comes back healthy.

A couple weeks ago I wrote about the tough stretch the Giants are in right now. You can read that here. As a team they have done a magnificent job of weathering the rough parts until all the pieces are back in place.

Things could be a lot worse. They could be the Dodgers.

Eric Nathanson
@2outhits on Twitter

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Reason It All Began

Today is Father's Day. There is no better time to write about my dad than today. If you've been here before you probably know that I grew up outside of Chicago. This summer I will be making the journey to San Francisco and AT&T Park for the first time in my life. I'll share the details at the bottom. 

It's all because of my dad. Meet the man that started it all for me. 

Barry Nathanson was born January 4, 1948 in New York City. This was a golden age for Baseball and he stumbled right in to it. Jackie Robinson had just paved the way for the reason he got hooked. Willie Mays. His father, Alexander, rooted for the Giants and my dad followed suit. 

He was 6 years old when Willie made "The Catch". Dusty Rhodes, Sal Maglie, Monte Irvin were names I knew before Kindergarten. I can still picture the Polo Grounds in my mind as he described it. I see Leo Durocher waving Willie Mays towards the plate when I close my eyes. 

Baseball is the greatest game ever invented, and my father fostered that love for many people. I'm the lucky one, I got to absorb it all up close. The impact that he had on baseball in our local community was bigger than probably even I realize.

Between the ages of 6-15 my dad was the manager of my team 6 times. Five of those we were the Giants. When I wasn't, he still wore a Giants cap in the 3rd base coaching box. Everyone knew of my dad's love. We even won a championship when I was 12 as the Giants. Spraying fake champagne under the lights just might be my top childhood memory.

My dad was a great coach. But he really did so many other things to improve the game in our area. Our local program is not a little league affiliated one. We have one that is run by the parents, for the kids. My dad jumped right in.

We moved one town over when I was 8. It is a much smaller town and has no baseball league. The kids play in the one I had started in. When the league was growing there was talk of shutting out the surrounding towns because it may get over crowded. So what did my dad do? He ran for the Park District of our hometown so that more ball fields would be built and we would be an asset.

He not only got on the board he became President for a good long while. Under him many fields were built on land in our town. He transformed the access players from our area had. So much so that when his first field was used the schedule maker deemed the abbreviation for the field to be BN. Even though the name of the field was Gridley, for the farm that had resided there. My dad deflected the attention. He always did. Personally I thought it was great.

My dad was a dentist. An endodontist to be precise. So the health and well being of us kids was also on his mind. He took it upon himself to write to Major League team doctors to inquire about pitch counts. Then after he presented it to the board of our program, they changed the way we looked at pitching rules. Suddenly smarter things were done to protect young arms.

He hustled to do everything to help grow and spread our program. For years he would be the one getting local advertisers involved. His last few years on the board he was in charge of fields. You could always see him out at 6am on a Saturday dragging an infield or setting up the All Star festivities. He loved it. I love him for it.

There really is more. I could go on and on. My dad is the number one reason I am passionate about baseball and specifically the Giants. I love them because I love him. In 2010 we got to share a championship together. It was long distance, but meant so much. We were never certain that we'd see a Giants World Series win in our shared lifetime.

Unfortunately he didn't get the chance to see the boys of 2012 work their magic. My dad passed away shortly before the season started. I've talked about it here before. 

It's my first time ever going to San Francisco. If my dad's not going to be here anymore, I can't see a better reason to go. I love and miss him very much. He truly made me the man I am today. One day we'll get to watch every Giants game together again.

Eric Nathanson
@2outhits on Twitter