It’s difficult to tell if Aubrey Huff is serious or serial. He comes across as two-thirds sarcasm, one-third smart-aleck, exactly the sort of ballplayer needed in any clubhouse and by any journalist.
You want comfort, stay on the other side of the clubhouse. With Huff nearby, complacency doesn’t have a chance. Neither does any form of self-satisfaction. He’s as abrasive as he has to be and as embraceable as he chooses to be.
Huff was the first baseman the Giants probably didn’t want — signing him in January 2010 because they couldn’t get anyone else — but he became the first baseman the Giants wanted more than anyone else. Things like that happen when you win. Things like that are the reasons you win.
“This is the only place I’ve been happy playing baseball my whole career,” Huff said.
A World Series victory. A contract offer he couldn’t refuse. And fame as the man with the rally thong, which he displayed considerably during the parade in which San Francisco honored the Giants, and in a way, itself.
“That’s funny,” Huff said of his connection to a private undergarment that became very public.
He brought it to get himself and the team out of a slump.
“The whole thing was supposed to stay in-house and it never did,” Huff said. “It leaked out. I’ve had some great years in baseball in my life, and no one ever cared. Now I wear a thong, and that’s how I get my pub.”
Along with getting his hits and RBIs, leading the Giants in almost every offensive category, including batting average (.290) and home runs (26).
“It’s just stupid,” he said. “Whatever works, I guess. People think it’s lucky, then it’s lucky. It served its purpose, and now it’s hung up.”
Huff, 34, lives in Tampa, Fla. He played for the Rays when they were awful, then the Baltimore Orioles — and they’re still awful.
“People down there didn’t care the Giants won the World Series,” he said about Florida. “They’ve got their own baseball team. No, I wasn’t recognized by anybody. In general, the fans in Tampa don’t recognize anybody, which is what I like. We celebrated with some friends.”
Huff and his wife had planned to remain in San Francisco to absorb the post-Series excitement of a town that had waited more than a half-century for a baseball title, but they made a quick exit.
“We were going to stay for a week,” Huff said, “and just enjoy it. We found ourselves leaving in three days. It was that crazy. We couldn’t enjoy it, so we just took off.”
The Huff story was told more than once last season.
How when Aubrey was a boy in Texas his father was shot and killed trying to wrest a gun from an assailant. How Huff’s mother, working at a supermarket while attending Carlton State University, saved enough to buy her son a batting cage.
“While other guys were partying,” he has said, “I was taking swings.”
But not the verbal kind.
Painfully shy, Huff was brought out of his shell by the good-natured insults of University of Miami teammate Pat Burrell, who, as the fates would have it, was picked up by the Giants in the middle of last season and re-signed for 2011.
“The pieces are in place,” Huff said about the coming season. “We got a young, dominant pitching staff, if they stay healthy. I think the offense, all the guys we picked up last year contributed heavily. They’re here the whole year.
“I think the goal is just to get to the playoffs. Then the goals change to winning the World Series. But we’re not going to sneak up on anybody this year.”
Nor will Huff be sneaking out on a golf course this year or any year.
“I play a frustrating sport already,” Huff said about his refusal to join so many other ballplayers at golf. “I’m not going to add another one. And I hate watching golf. A guy’s in the middle of his backswing, somebody yells and everyone goes crazy.
“Concentration? We’re facing a ball coming in 96 [mph] with 50,000 people screaming at you. Come on, that’s real concentration, isn’t it?”
Anyone prepared to disagree?
Catching up with the champs
The San Francisco Examiner will profile a series of Giants players leading up to the season opener against the Dodgers on March 31.
Pitcher Tim Lincecum
Outfielder Cody Ross
First baseman Aubrey Huff
Shortstop Miguel Tejada
Pitcher Barry Zito
Catcher Buster Posey