Bengie Molina’s World Series blog

http://bengiemolina.mlblogs.com/

Behind the Mask

Texas Rangers catcher Bengie Molina shares a backstop’s perspective on the game. I hope you will learn a little about what is going on in the clubhouse and on the field, plus it’s an opportunity for me to speak directly to you, the fans. Feel free to write to me, ask questions, and post comments. It would be great to hear what you’re thinking.

View from the Other Dugout

October 26, 2010

 

5:30 p.m.

 

It was strange to walk into AT&T Park and go into the visitor’s clubhouse. In fact, I didn’t even know where to go. I just followed the guys. But once I was inside that room, it felt more like home than I imagined it would – because when I looked around, there were my teammates. In this game, you move around a lot, and it’s very difficult sometimes. But there is never any doubt that once you play a few games for your new team, and once you know you have been accepted by them, they are your family, and you play 100 percent for them. 

I admit that I was wondering how my old Giants teammates would respond to me. This was the first time I’ve seen them since the trade. Would they try to keep their distance because we’re playing against each other and the stakes were so high? I didn’t know.

We had our workout first, and then the Giants go the field after us. I was walking toward right field to shag some flies and suddenly Matt Cain is hugging me. All the Giants were walking in a line out to an area beyond right field where they were going to be interviewed by the media. Every guy stopped to hug me and tell me how great it was see me and could I believe how it all worked out. It was such a great feeling.

“Wow, isn’t this amazing?” Aaron Rowand said. “The World Series!”

            When our team spoke with the media, reporters kept asking me how it would be to play against Giants players that I considered like brothers. The reporters saw how the Giants players threw their arms around me when they saw me on the field. They saw how real our affection is for each other. But I told them: Look, I played against my actual brothers! And once I’m on the field, it’s all business. I don’t care who you are. If you’re on the opposing team, I’m going to try to beat you. And I know they’re going to try to beat me. Maybe people don’t understand how much pride we have as ballplayers. You want to win. That’s what this is all about – especially at this point.

            The writers also asked how much I contributed to the scouting report on the Giants. The truth is our scouting department did such a thorough job, there was nothing left for me to add.

            Today was my mother’s birthday. She’s with me here in a connecting room at the team hotel. We gave her presents and flowers and now we’re taking her to our favorite Puerto Rican restaurant in San Francisco. Jamie came to pick me up at the ballpark, and as I was getting in the car, we ran into Giants president Larry Baer. He gave me a big hug.

            “Buster [Posey] learned so much from you,” Larry told me. “That’s the reason we brought him up at the end of last year. To learn the craft from you, how to handle the pitchers, for him to be able to absorb that from you, that was so important.”

            “That’s the first thing I told him,” I told Larry. “I said, ‘Your talent will take over with your hitting and catching. What you have to learn is how to handle the pitchers. They’re all different. So how do you do that?’ So that’s what we talked about, and he took it all in. When I left the Giants, I told him, ‘You got to take care of my boys, man.’ And he has.

“You are so lucky to have him so young.” I said to Larry. “He’s going to be such a superstar that Jamie and I’ll come back just to watch him.”

            “It’s come full circle for you to be back here now,” Larry said.

            Can’t wait for tomorrow. We’ll see how the Giants fans greet me when I’m introduced. No matter what they do, I’ll always have a place in my heart for the fans here. They have always been so supportive.

            OK, let’s go. We have Cliff Lee out there and an amazing lineup behind him. We’re ready. 

 

 

Back in San Francisco

10-25-10

6 p.m.

 

            We flew into the Bay Area this afternoon. Instead of driving over the Bay Bridge to the home I leased for the first half this season, I rode the Rangers team bus to a hotel in the heart of San Francisco. It was weird on the plane to be reading scouting reports of the Giants’ hitters. It’s so strange how things work out. I’m really looking forward to seeing the Giants players at the ballpark, either tomorrow at workouts or Wednesday before the game. Throughout the post-season, Jamie’s been communicating with Kristen Posey, Chelsea Cain, Blanca Kelly (the wife of first-base coach Roberto), Nate Schierholtz’s family, a bunch of others, everyone wishing us luck and Jamie wishing them luck. But we’re not going to be socializing this week, at least I won’t be. I can’t. There is just too much to be thinking about and focusing on.

            As Jamie and I were running errands yesterday in Dallas, we were talking about how lucky we are to have landed with the Rangers. I can’t imagine any other team being as welcoming as the Rangers have been, from the players to the clubbies to the front office staff. After we won the pennant Friday night, our families were invited to join us in the dugout.  Even thought Jamie’s pretty new to the Rangers’ family, every coach and half a dozen of the team owners came up and hugged her and told her she and I were 100 percent a part of this victory. She was holding Jayda in her arms, and they were just looking all around as if it were dream. Jayda was trying to grab the red, white and blue confetti falling everywhere.

            One moment that will stand out for me in the ALCS was the three-run home run.  It wasn’t so much because I was able to come through under pressure, though that’s part of it. You always want to be the guy who steps up. For whatever reason, I’ve had success in the big moments. People started calling me “Big Money” when I was with the Angels and it carried over to the Giants. I think I do well in those situations because I’m not afraid to fail. I feel calm. I put my faith in God. I go to the plate believing absolutely that I will get a hit.

            But two other things were happening when I was rounding the bases that day. First, I was just so happy and grateful that I almost cried. After struggling most of the season with an injured elbow, and getting traded, it was an emotional thing to be able to help my team win. Second, I was thinking of my father, who, as many of you know, died two years ago. I thumped my fist on my heart as I was heading to home. I was thinking, “Pai, this is both of us.” Then I pointed up to my mother and Jamie. None of this means anything without them.

            When reporters talked to me afterward, I made a comment like, “Not bad for the fat kid who everyone made fun of for being so slow.” I was joking but I have to say there was a lot of satisfaction in proving people wrong about me. When I warmed up the starting pitchers during our games in Yankee Stadium, fans near the bullpen chanted, “Ben-gie’s fat! Ben-gie’s fat!” It was kind of funny, of course. They sounded like fourth-graders in the playground. The best part was they chanted in English AND in Spanish to make sure I was absolutely clear about what they were saying. So to drive in the go-ahead runs in front of those fans put a smile on my face.

            Another memorable moment for me was Vladdy’s big hit after the Yankees again intentionally walked Josh Hamilton.  I sat in the dugout and said a little prayer: “Please let him be the man today. If I have a hit coming to me today, give it to him instead.” And then bang – two-run double. I was so happy for him. He’s such a great player and was really struggling during the series. He deserved to be the hero.

            When the game was over, the families not only got to come into the dugout, they were welcomed into the clubhouse for the champagne and beer showers. My mother went home with Jayda, and Jamie came in. She had told me earlier that if she ever got to join in the celebration, she wanted the full deal. She wanted to experience what it was like. As soon as I saw her, I poured two 20-ounce cans of beer over her head. We sprayed champagne at each other – and everyone else. We had a blast. Two hours later, she was still so drenched she could probably have filled a champagne bottle by wringing out her clothes. It was the best night.

            Now back to work. We have a workout tomorrow at AT&T Park, then Game 1 Wednesday.

            When we get back to Dallas, Yadier and Jose will be there. They’re in Puerto Rico right now but they’ll be there cheering me on for Games 3, 4 and, if we need it, 5. With me going to the World Series, now each of us Molina boys has been to two World Series each. Pretty amazing.

             I’m going to try to post on the blog every day. So keep checking in!

 

 

Who Would Have Thought?

October 23, 2010

11:30 p.m.

 

            Just finished watching my former team win a spot in the World Series against my current team. It’s amazing that it has turned out this way. I wonder if that’s ever happened before: one player who, in a single season, has been a starter for the two teams that end up playing in the World Series.

But believe me, I’m pulling 150 percent for the Rangers. I love the guys on this team, and I love these fans. When the umpire rung up A-Rod for the final out of the game, all I remember is bolting for the mound and jumping onto Feliz. Everyone else on the team ran in from the bullpen and the dugout and threw themselves on us. I suddenly found myself flatted on the bottom of the pile. I could hardly breathe – that’s a lot of poundage in that pile. I had the ball in my glove and suddenly someone took it out. I later learned it was Feliz, which was fine. But I’m lying there on the infield dirt. I can’t move a muscle – and my face is smashed into Feliz’s Afro. That was nasty. And Matt Treanor is kissing me on the cheek. It was crazy.

When everyone finally peeled themselves away, I looked up into the stands. It was incredible. All through the stadium, tiny bursts of light flashed from thousands of cameras. I could see people cheering and crying. I saw signs that said, “We Believe!” Confetti fluttered all around us. I saw the scoreboard blazing with the words, “Hello World Series!” I felt as if I was in a dream. When you’ve been around the game as long as I have, you take nothing for granted. You know how rare and special these moments are. I loved making a lap around the field. The fans here have waited so long for this, and I’m so grateful I got to be a part of it.

I sought out Colby Lewis on the field and hugged him and told him how much I respect and admire him for how he pitched. With so much at stake and so much pressure, he was absolutely locked in. He is exactly what this team is all about: guys who believe in themselves and in each other.

I admit that it’s going to feel weird to play against the Giants. But it’s also a great feeling. I have lots of brothers over in that clubhouse, not just the players but the coaches and clubbies and trainers. So, of course, I was rooting for them all the way, yelling and cheering at my TV.

 I know one of the story lines of this Series will be me and Buster Posey, the rookie who replaced me on the Giants. People seem to have a hard time believing that Buster and I have nothing but affection for each other. He’s a talented, smart and humble kid. I appreciate how he conducts himself and the credit he gives me for teaching him a few things. He texts me all the time, including after we won the pennant Friday night. And I texted him and other Giants players tonight, congratulating them. I’m so happy for all of them. I know how hard they worked.

Do I think my knowledge of the Giants will help me and the Rangers? I sure hope so. But I don’t think it will help to the degree people might think. Obviously, I haven’t been watching their hitters lately, so it will be our scouts and our pitching giving the pitchers and catchers the most accurate and up-to-date info. And as far as hitting the Giants pitchers, I might drive myself crazy trying to out-think them. They know that I know what they like to throw in certain situations, so they’re not going to throw it, or maybe they will because they’ll think I won’t be expecting it. Or something like that. Anyway, I could twist my brain into a pretzel instead of just getting into the box and hitting the ball.

I can’t wait to get to San Francisco and start playing. This is going to be an amazing Series. Both teams have heart. Both teams are fearless.

It’s amazing to think that no matter who wins, I’ll have my second World Series ring. If this is my last year in baseball, what better ending than to have contributed to both teams in the World Series? I couldn’t ask for anything more.

OK, I could ask for one more thing.

Another rush to the pitcher’s mound, another stadium filled with flashing cameras and a scoreboard ablaze with the words, “World Series Champion Texas Rangers!”

 

 

The Best Kind of Hangover

10-13-10

3:30 p.m.

 

            So I’m back home, slumped on my couch, still smiling from last night. I’m also feeling completely beat up, like I’ve been in a 15-round fight. First of all, I hardly ever drink. I’ll have a drink maybe three times in a year. But last night in the clubhouse celebration, I found myself drinking champagne out of the bottle, then having a little bit of beer and then Vladdy handed me a shot of great rum that he had. I was thinking, “Oh my God, where am I?”

  

            We left the park around 1 a.m. and got on the plane home. Some of the guys just passed out, but I was still too excited to sleep. I watched CSI and Without a Trace on my iPad, thinking about what an amazing game we had just played, how happy I was for everyone on the plane, how happy I was for the fans, wondering if any of them would be there to greet us at the airport. When we landed and got off the plane, there must have been about a thousand fans waiting. It was so amazing. They were cheering and holding signs.

  

I wish everyone could experience what all of us players and coaches felt at that moment. You never forget as a ballplayer that you’re playing for more than the other guys wearing the same uniform. You’re playing for an entire community, for all the people who buy tickets to cheer us on and wear T-Shirts with our names on the back, and send all their good thoughts and prayers our way. We don’t always get a chance to feel that connection as directly as we wish we could. So to see those fans up close, right when we landed back home, almost moved me to tears. And it was 4 in the morning! Wow. I can’t thank all of them enough for putting the perfect cap on a perfect day.

  

            I know a lot of people might think the highlight of the game for me was my stolen base, which I will get to in a minute. But the story for me was Cliff Lee. He was amazing – again. He had total command – mixing speeds, making his locations, keeping the ball off the middle of the plate. It’s such a pleasure as a catcher to work with a pitcher of his caliber. He’s unflappable. He’s fearless. And he’s smart.

  

            What I loved about last night’s game was how smart everybody played. We didn’t wait for Tampa Bay to give the game away. We took it. That was our mentality. Look at our base running. We did all the little things. These are very smart baseball players and coaches. They see everything and take advantage of every opening.

  

            Which brings me to my unlikely steal.

  

            I was on first base with Elvis up at bat. First base coach Gary Pettis saw that every time Elvis swung and fouled off, no one covered second. When the count when to 3-2, Pettis mouthed to me, “Go!”

  

” ‘Go’ or ‘No’?” I mouthed back.

 

“Go!”

 

When the ball left the pitcher’s hand, I went. After the first couple of steps, I saw Elvis swing and miss. I was thinking, “Oh my goodness, I’m toast.” But there was no one covering the bag. So the catcher didn’t even make a throw.

 

I looked into the dugout, and everyone was giving me the antlers. It was unbelievable. But that’s what kind of a season this team has had. 

  

I’ve been in the league a long time, so I know how special it is to get this far into the post-season. So I’m trying to soak everything in. I’m thinking about so many things, but one thing I’m not thinking about is pressure. All we can do is work as hard as we can, and the result will be what it will be. That’s why I’m so calm. I believe in this team, and I believe in God. What is supposed to happen will happen.

 

We have today off and will practice tomorrow. Then we open with the Yankees Friday night. Every major league player in October has a body covered with bruises and muscles that are strained and tired. But once the game starts, adrenaline kicks in and you don’t feel anything. You become a warrior out there, with nothing on your mind but winning.

 

Vladdy just stopped by – he lives three hours away. He’s having a bunch of players over to his house for dinner tonight. I’d like to go, but right now I don’t know. I think my body needs to rest. But if I do join them at Vladdy’s house, one thing I know for sure – no rum.

 

See you at the yard on Friday. Thanks for your amazing support of the team. You don’t know how much it means to all us.

 

 

 

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