August 2010

Fearlessness and confidence

Feels great to take two of three from the first-place Reds – though coming up short on Wednesday was a killer. Well, sort of a killer. The way our guys battled back was awesome to see. Sometimes you reveal more about yourself as a player and as a team in a loss than in a win. What this team showed was confidence and fearlessness. There wasn’t a moment in our dugout that we didn’t think we could come back and win. These are the most competitive guys I’ve ever been around.
It’s especially great to see Pablo and Freddy Sanchez find their strokes and terrorize pitchers again. With those guys exploding the way they are, this is an awesome line-up from top to bottom. We’re conceding nothing to the Padres. It’s a steep climb, but there are more than 30 games left to make up ground. And if the Padres never falter, then good for them. Congratulations. They deserve the division title. We’ll just have to get the wild card.
OK. Let’s answer some of your questions.
Were you always so confident, even in high school?
Absolutely not. I was very shy in high school, if you can believe it. I broke out of my shell at the University of Miami when I got around guys like Burrell. I learned how to believe in myself – and I learned how to project confidence even when I didn’t feel very confident. I wouldn’t have made it in baseball if I hadn’t developed a strong belief in myself. I never really believed in myself in high school – considering I had one home run in my entire high school career, I didn’t have a whole lot to feel confident about. I learned how to work hard in high school and I continued to work hard my entire career. But you need more than hard work. You look at David Eckstein and how determined that guy is. You think there’s no way this guy can be a major-leaguer – and then he just goes out and beats you. He works hard and he’s as determined to succeed as anyone I’ve seen. Determination and confidence are so important in this game.
Why do players seem to hang with the same guys in the dugout?
We’re tight as a team, but of course you’re closer to some players than others. I have a lot of history with Burrell and Aaron Rowand and a few other guys. So I’m more likely to hang with them in the dugout and talk about situations in the game and get their thoughts. 
Do you have a favorite restaurant?
The truth is we don’t have a lot of time to go out when we have a home stand. But There’s a sushi place I like that’s not far from the park – but I can’t remember the name of it!
Did you learn how to speak Spanish when you were growing up in Texas? Is there a lot of Spanish spoken in the clubhouse?
I didn’t learn Spanish – but I sure wish I had. There’s a lot of Spanish in the clubhouse, as you might imagine. I know some words, none of which I can repeat here.
What are your hobbies when you’re not playing baseball?
My kid! When you’re a father of a two-year-old, you don’t have much time for anything but him. Before Jayce was born, I liked to paint. Oils and airbrush. Mostly landscapes. In a high school drawing class, I drew a portrait of Barry Bonds from a photo in a magazine. When I was with the Rays and we were playing the Giants, I sent the drawing over to Giants clubhouse through Dustin Mohr. Bonds signed it, “To Huff. God Bless. Barry Bonds.” I have it hanging in my memorabilia room at home.
Do you really have Transformer tattoos? And what’s the tattoo on your right forearm?
Yes, I do have Transformer tattoos. Instead of getting an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other – which pretty much captures my personality – I decided to get an Autobot and a Decepticon. I’m a huge Transformers fan. The tattoo on my right forearm is a four-leaf clover. It was the first tattoo I ever got. My wife and I are both of Irish descent, so we got engaged three years ago, we decided to both get four-leaf clovers. (Hers is on her wrist.) I also have my father’s name and a guitar on my left arm, and my son’s name and little footprints on the left side of my chest. When our next child is born – my wife is pregnant – I’ll have that child’s name plus handprints on the right side of my chest.
How many bats do you go through in a season and what do you do with your broken bats?
I go through about 24. MLB takes the broken ones because they’re studying whether certain types of wood break more easily than others.
What was your scariest moment in a game?
A pitcher on my team was hit in the head by a line drive. The ball hit him so hard it bounced into the stands behind home plate. I thought he was dead. But all he had was a big lump and a bruise. (The hit was ruled a ground-rule double.)
What’s your favorite city on the road?
Definitely Chicago. It’s such a beautiful city and there’s so much to do. We can walk everywhere from the hotel. Great restaurants and clubs.
Who’s the toughest pitcher you ever faced?
Pedro Martinez. When I faced him for the first time, every pitch he threw was the best pitch I’d ever seen. 
Who were your baseball role models growing up?
Nolan Ryan. I grew up in Texas so I loved Nolan Ryan. One of the guys I most admired when I got to the big leagues was Ken Griffey Jr. He’s just so down-to-earth and approachable. He handles being a superstar the way you hope you would if you were ever in his position.
I know I didn’t get to all the questions. I’ll try to catch up next time. Keep coming out the ballpark to cheer us on. The fans in San Francisco are the best in baseball and you guys give us an awesome home-field advantage. So I’ll see you at the park.

Wilsons shoes, Bee-Gees and the disappearing mustache

You guys have great questions. Makes writing this blog easy because I don’t have to think of topics myself  . . . 
How did the nickname Huff Daddy come about?
When the singer Puff Daddy hit the charts in the early 90s, I was in high school in Texas. Somebody just said “Huff Daddy” one day and it caught on. People have been calling me that ever since. 
What do you like about living in SF?
I like that there are a lot of Mom and Pop places. You go to big cities and all you see are Morton’s and Flemings and all the chain restaurants. But so many of the restaurants and shop are unique to this city. So you’re never bored. There’s a sense of discovery every time you go out. And you feel connected to the people who own the restaurants and stores. We live up by Fillmore Street in Pacific Heights. We go out our door and there’s everything you could want — from Asian food, Mexican, pizza. And all the interesting shops. We live in a great house and we love it – but it’s costing us, let me tell you. I’ve never see anything like the rental and real estate prices here. Wow. For a boy from Texas, it’s pretty eye opening. In the off-season, we live in Tampa.

What did you major in at the University of Miami?
Like everybody else, I majored in business management. I’d say baseball but that wouldn’t look good.
What do you think of Wilson’s orange shoes and the fine?
I loved his shoes. I think it would be a kick if everybody on the team wore those shoes on Orange Fridays. I understand the league has to have rules, but this is one rule I don’t understand. Who cares what he’s wearing on his feet as long as it’s not distracting to the hitter? And really, if you’re a hitter and you’re looking at Brian Wilson’s shoes while you up at the plate, you shouldn’t be in the big leagues. 
How long were you in minors before you thought you had a chance to reach the big leagues?
You always wonder every time you move up to the next level of competition, whether it’s from high school to college, college to the pros, if you’re good enough to make it. When I got drafted out of the University of Miami, I joined Tampa Bay’s High-A club. The draft is late enough that you join the pros for just the second half the season. That meant, of course, switching to a wooden bat and playing just about every day.  I hit .321 with 13 homers and had about 50 RBIS in half a season. I felt right there, that first year, “I think I’ve got a shot.”
What do you see yourself doing after baseball?
I don’t think anyone will be surprised by my answer here. I’d like to do radio or television. I enjoy talking about baseball and I think I have a pretty interesting perspective on things. As everyone knows, I have no problem saying what I really think. My agent has a program that helps train players to make the transition into broadcasting. I can’t see ever leaving baseball completely. You play this game so long it becomes a part of who you are. I can’t see how you wouldn’t want to stay in it. As an athlete, you play until you’re 35 or 40 – if you’re really lucky – which means you still have half your life to live. You’ve accumulated all this knowledge and all these stories about the game, so it just makes sense that you’d want to share them. 
What do your friends call you?
In the clubhouse, it’s mostly Huffy. But Huff Daddy is catchier.
When you have free time in clubhouse, what are you doing?
Before a game, I like to talk trash to the guys. You rip on guys and have some fun. We don’t talk too much baseball before the game. Everybody’s just BSing and doing their own thing to get ready. After the game, that’s when we talk baseball. You have a few beers and go over situations that happened in the game. You talk to teammates about what you were thinking in a certain situation – or what you should have been thinking. You want to go over things that might help you in the future if that situation comes up again. You’re constantly getting feedback from other people and constantly learning. You can never know everything, which is what makes this game so interesting and why I can’t see myself ever leaving it. 
What’s the deal with the short hair and what happened to your mustache?
I had a goatee going, and on the last road trip I was trimming my mustache and accidentally went too far and had to shave the whole thing off. I found that I liked it, so I’ve kept it that way. As for my buzz-cut: during the season I don’t have time for a barber. I’ve got a two-year-old and a pregnant wife. When I’m at home I want to be with them. I don’t want to go spend an hour with a barber. So I just cut it myself. 
What are your favorite meals before and after a game?
I don’t eat before a game because it makes me feel weighed down. I have lunch around 1 or 1:30 p.m. then don’t eat again for about 10 hours, until after the game. I’ll eat chicken and pasta usually — get the carbs back in and some protein. 
First-basemen and base runners always seem to chat at first base. What are you saying? 
It depends on who it is. If it’s a guy you like, you’re just kind of BSing, talking trash. You might talk about the at-bat he just had. If he’s a friend, you might ask if he wants to get a cocktail after the game. If it’s a guy you don’t like, you hope he doesn’t get on base. And if you don’t know the guy at all, you don’t say anything. No reason to. 
What is the funniest prank you’ve seen?
There have been a lot but the one that comes to mind happened in Baltimore. John “T-Bone” Shelby was deathly afraid of snakes. When he opened the door of the cubbyhole in his locker, a fake snake suddenly unfurled and fell out. T-Bone jumped and fell backward. I thought he had a heart attack. That was a pretty good one. 
How did you come to pick “Stayin’ Alive” for the song when you come to bat?
When we were in Atlanta, the song came on the play list in the clubhouse. Barry Zito knows I like the Bee-Gees. He said, “Huffy, this should be your song.” I said, “I do love this song.” He said, “Just think of walking to the plate to this song in San Francisco.” I was sold. 
See you at the park – and keep the questions coming.