It was a preview of summer in the heat of spring, baseball that didn’t mean a great deal, such as who won or lost, but to players seeking perfection and capacity crowd of 8,330 seeking a day in the sun it meant a great deal.
Giants vs. Athletics on Saturday for the first time in 2011, an exhibition but also a celebration. The Bay’s ballclubs, 13 miles apart at home, but only 4½ here in the desert, dropping base hits in front of fielders and a couple of fielders, San Francisco’s Mark DeRosa and Oakland’s hot-dogging Coco Crisp dropping balls for errors.
A’s personnel congratulating Bruce Bochy on the Giants’ World Series victory. Giants players renewing friendships. Miguel Tejada, who used to emerge from the A’s first-base dugout, now coming out of the visitors’ third-base dugout.
Bochy, the Giants’ manager, insisting Matt Cain’s inflamed elbow was improving.
“He played catch,” Bochy pointed out. “I’ll have something to say.”
A’s manager Bob Geren was saying plenty — about baserunning. Not necessarily stealing, but doing the right things to avoid doing the wrong: getting picked off, failing to score from third on a fly ball or grounder.
“I love talking baseball,” Geren explained. “I could do it all day.”
The Giants played two on Thursday — Ernie Banks must be smiling — beating the Milwaukee Brewers 7-2 in the sunshine at Scottsdale Stadium, then motoring 25 miles out to Camelback Ranch (love that name) to whip the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-2 under the lights. Night exhibitions should be banned in spring, but L.A. wants that TV exposure. Don’t ask why.
Madison Bumgarner started Saturday in front of a crowd which, even if the game was at the A’s park, probably had more Giants fans. Win a World Series and everybody has to have a T-shirt. But among the black and orange was a guy wearing green, across which was printed in old-English type, “Matsuiland.” Unfortunately Matsui, no matter the font, didn’t get in the game.
Bumgarner got in the groove after a first inning in which the A’s had an unearned run and two hits. He has an idea what a pitcher is supposed to do now — a pitcher, as opposed to a thrower — and in this second season is able to make adjustments.
“I never knew anything about pitching until last year,” said Bumgarner, who went three innings, and allowed only the run and the two hits. “I hear guys talk about it but I would just go out and throw.”
The Giants left him in minors after last year’s spring training. He came up and helped win a championship.
“I don’t feel like I was where I needed to be until the end of last year,” he said.
Virtually everyone at Phoenix Stadium, in green or orange, felt like he or she was where they needed to be. Technically, it’s still winter, but not here where the buttes poke into the blue sky and baseball is poking its way toward another long season.
“It’s going to be great,” said ex-Giant Rich Aurilia, who lives full-time in the desert. He will be doing some TV work for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. “Looking forward to it.”
Who wouldn’t? Meanwhile, we’ll be satisfied with the tease which is the exhibition season.