An electric team follows eclectic rituals 

It could be about maintaining a routine for all those games, or finding the right preparation techniques to stay focused during a long season or it may be that they’re all just plain weird.

Whatever the reason, baseball players are certainly a superstitious lot, and this year’s Giants’ team is a shining example of that kind of quirkiness.

In a locker room full of colorful personalities, some Giants players have pretty basic superstitions — rituals designed to keep a good thing going, but nothing really zany.

Nate Schierholtz, for example, has said that he’ll eat the same kind of food every day (he has a particular fondness for Cheetos) if he’s in the midst of a hitting streak, although he chalks that up more to preparation than a particular superstition. Schierholtz’s ploy can’t be deemed that weird, considering former player Wade Boggs went his entire career eating the same meal (chicken) before each game.

Another Giant with a distinctive routine is Pablo Sandoval, aka the Kung Fu Panda. Before each at-bat, Sandoval pounds the batters’ box four times with the knob of his bat, taps it four times against his toes, four times against his shins, once against his helmet, then draws a cross in the dirt to the side of home plate.

Sandoval’s ritual, although elaborate, is nothing out of this world, since many baseball players (Nomar Garciaparra notably) embark on a series of twists, pulls and yanks before stepping into the batters’ box.

Things get a little weirder when discussing some of the Giants’ facial grooming strategies. Relief pitchers Sergio Romo and Brian Wilson are both sporting rather unruly beards, with Wilson’s drawing particular notice since its obvious he’s been dyeing it jet black.

The duo’s scraggly whiskers (not to mention their pseudo-mohawks) have managed to freak out opposing hitters while also establishing a rallying cry embraced by the fans — “Fear the Beard.”

The aforementioned traits may be a little odd, but they can’t hold a candle to the bizarre machinations of Aubrey Huff, the Giants’ 33-year-old offensive savior, unofficial team spokesman and chief-prankster. Huff is certainly not shy on divulging personal matters, but nothing could have prepared the public for the bombshell he dropped in September.

Trying to break out of a 3-32 slump and get a stagnant Giants offense going, Huff admitted that he took to wearing his wife’s red thong underwear as a momentum-shifting tactic.

Huff, who regularly paraded around the clubhouse in the revealing undergarment, began touting the power of the thong with 30 games left in the season, and predicted it would be good for 20 wins. His forecast was perfectly accurate — the team finished the season on a 20-10 roll.

The “Rally Thong,” as it has since been dubbed, capped off a remarkable season full of close wins, impressive individual performances and head-scratching, if not endearing personal displays by the Giants’ eclectic cast of players.

“We’ve got a bunch of characters,” said Huff, in the understatement of the year. “No doubt about it.”

Strange behavior

Nate Schierholtz
Ritual: Eats the same thing every day during hitting streak
Is it working? While Schierholtz has been a key contributor for the Giants, his longest hitting streak this year has been only four games, so he might want to mix up his eating habits a little.

Pablo Sandoval
Ritual: Goes through an array of bat thumps, whacks, and crosses before each plate appearance
Is it working? A revelation last year, the Kung Fu Panda has struggled offensively in 2010, hitting just .268 with only 13 homers.

Aubrey Huff
Ritual: Wearing his wife’s red thong
Is it working? Huff first donned the lacy undergarment with 30 games to go in the season, and the Giants finished on a 20-10 tear. He also singled home the tying run in Game 3 of the NLDS. Yes, the rally thong really works.

Sergio Romo and Brian Wilson
Ritual: Growing out beard
Is it working? Wilson (who also dyes his beard black) led the league with 48 saves, and Romo posted a sparkling 2.18 ERA. The two have had a few minor hiccups in the playoffs, but the beards are still worth fearing.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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Will Reisman

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