Amy Gutierrez

Former Giants reveal how they'd handle spring training cancellation

Former Giants reveal how they'd handle spring training cancellation

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants told reporters today that their workout facility will remain closed for the weekend to undergo a deep cleaning amid the coronavirus outbreak, and plan on re-opening Monday for players' workouts. Major League Baseball also announced players have the green light to head home or stay in their respective spring training cities to continue baseball activities, if they so desire.

Since I wasn’t able to talk to any current Giants players, I reached out to a few former San Francisco fan favorites, who now reside in Arizona. Former Giants and current NBC Sports Bay Area analysts Rich Aurilia and Shawn Estes shared their takes on how they would handle the cancellation of spring training and postponement of the regular season from both a pitching (Estes) and position-player (Aurilia) perspective.

Here’s what they had to say.

Shawn Estes

"I would treat this as if spring training hadn’t ended. It would be business as usual, with the exception of playing real games against real competition. I would simulate my normal spring training routine as if I were pitching every fifth day and do everything I would normally do in between starts (run, lift, throw bullpen, etc).

"I would simulate game days as close as possible and build up pitch count by throwing to live hitters in the cage or on the field. I would throw 15-20 pitches an inning and try to put myself in real game situations. As soon as I built up to 100 pitches I’d yo-yo between 80 and 100 pitches every fifth day until we resumed.

"It would also be a great opportunity, with the technology and knowledge of the coaching staff, to work on cleaning up mechanics, improve spin on pitches, and study video of opposing hitters you’d most likely face when the season starts. Really, the guys that are able to stay as close to their normal routines as possible and simulate with purpose won’t need but a week or less to be ready for games that matter."

[RELATED: MLB's coronavirus hiatus hits fans hard at spring training]

Rich Aurilia

"It’s a situation we haven’t seen before. If I was a current player, the concerns I would have are the close proximity in the clubhouse. Could be anywhere from 50-75 guys in that clubhouse. They’ve taken measures to keep fans at a distance which helps, but I think as far as the illness goes, the proximity and closeness with teammates and players on the other team on a daily basis is what’s on your mind. 
 
"Being a position player and a hitter, I would say this is around the time of spring training you start to feel pretty good about yourself and you’re ready to break camp, so my concern would be the longer you have between facing live pitching, the more your timing is going to be disrupted or it won’t be the same as it was. It’s hard to make any of these decisions to the workout regimens if you don’t know the end line and you don’t know the date of when you’re going to start.

"My assumption would be once MLB decides on a start date, they may even push that back ten days or two weeks so these guys can get more reps in. So my concern would be being stale, my timing not being right. But again, in this day and age with technology and the ability to get into facilities, these guys are going to stay ready. As ready as they can besides facing live game action. It’s something no one has an answer for."

MLB's coronavirus hiatus hits Giants fans hard on spring training flight

MLB's coronavirus hiatus hits Giants fans hard on spring training flight

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It certainly wasn't the bubbly, energetic and spirited flight I'm used to taking every March, that's for sure.

I flew to Arizona on Wednesday morning to participate in the three Giants spring training broadcasts that NBC Sports Bay Area and NBC Bay Area had left. The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak had caused cancellations and rampant repercussions everywhere, but there were no updates on what Major League Baseball planned to do when I woke up at 5 a.m. and checked my phone.

I checked it again after my shower at 6 a.m. Nothing. Checked it again on the Lyft ride to the San Francisco airport from 7:30 to 9. Nothing. And there still was no word when I got on my 10:20 flight.

At that point, I boarded alongside cautiously optimistic baseball fans thinking there was a slim chance these spring training games might happen. The plane wasn't full, but it was full enough that the two seats next to me were swooped up by Giants fans.

"I'm going to fan-girl out for a minute," the woman next to me said as she scooting in.

"Hi," I replied.

"You going to work the games?"

"I hope so."

"Do you think they're going to cancel them?"

"I hope not," I said. I couldn't help but feel empathetic.

Her nails were painted orange and black. Her purse was made with Giants material, and her husband had his Giants cap on.

"We're meeting our friends in Scottsdale for their first spring training game," she said. And then the plane took off.

The majority of the passengers on board were Giants and A's fans, donning their respective teams' gear. Two-plus hours later -- almost at the exact time the plane's wheels touched ground in Phoenix -- the announcement came from MLB that the remainder of spring training games had been canceled and Opening Day would be postponed at least two weeks.

My neighbor turned to me and said, "I guess we made the trip for nothing."

The disappointment was palpable. The groans were unanimous. It was a very good reminder of just how much sports mean to people.

I've been doing this long enough to be able to compare this day to when baseball halted for a week after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In a time like this, the coronavirus is bigger than all of us, and much bigger than these games.

But when people say, "It's just a game," no -- it's not. It's an outlet for so many, and a source of income for some. It's an escape. It's fun, competitive, social, uniting ... and it's understandably disappointing to see it come to a halt, even though it's the right thing to do.

[RELATED: Giants players react to coronavirus delaying 2020 season]

However long the hiatus lasts, it will feel even longer than that. But it will be so, so sweet when sports returns -- and they will.

To the nice woman sitting next to me on the plane: Continue to paint your nails with your favorite team's colors and proudly carry your Giants purse. I'll be looking for you at the yard when baseball comes back.

Four ex-Giants living up retired life as neighbors in Atlanta suburb

Four ex-Giants living up retired life as neighbors in Atlanta suburb

Editor’s note: “As Told To Amy G,” presented by Toyota, will feature exclusive conversations with Giants staff, players and alums, as well as interesting figures around Major League Baseball, throughout the 2019 season. Today, Amy catches up with four former Giants who all live in the Atlanta, Ga. area: Ryan Vogelsong, Javier Lopez, Mark DeRosa and Jeff Francouer.

While the Bay Area is known as Giants country, there's another pocket of America -- 3,000 miles away -- that has become a "Giants village": Suwanee, Ga. 

This visit to the South has been in the works for a long time … and finally, we got it done. I first heard about this when Javier Lopez was still playing for San Francisco and he mentioned that he and his wife, Renee, were building a home near Atlanta.

“Atlanta?” I thought, “Why?”

Atlanta didn’t strike me as a destination for a retired ballplayer. But then the story began to unfold. Jeff Francoeur, who played a brief stint with the Giants in 2013, was from Atlanta and still resided there. He found a gorgeous gated development near good public schools which included the key to it all: It was on a golf course.

Lopez was in. Former Giant Mark DeRosa was in. And soon, Ryan and Nicole Vogelsong came to take a look. The Vogelsongs didn’t bite on a house in the development, but opted for 15 acres about, oh, five minutes away.

The fellas golf ... a lot. Their children take the bus to school together, and you can tell there is a strong sense of community -- a factor that seems to very much emulate their relationship as Giants. They’ll forever be teammates and now, forever neighbors. And of course, once a Giant -- you got it -- you're forever a Giant.

[RELATED: Astros manager Hinch loves Bochy, Bay Area]

We switched up this "As Told To Amy G" and gave all four of the fellas one Toyota fan question.

@reformedcrush: I’d like to know what they consider a pivotal or career defining moment?

DeRosa: "Pivotal moment was tearing my ACL at end of 2004 with Atlanta and being designated for assignment. Major crossroads moment. Made it a point to find the best hitting coach in MLB and sign there regardless of contract. Signed a minor league deal with Texas in 2005 and completely revamped everything from an offensive standpoint with Rudy Jaramillo. Changed my career." 

Volgelsong: "It’s easy for me. Game 3 of the World Series in Detroit (2012), bases loaded, 2 outs, Miguel Cabrera at the plate. We’re winning two to nothing. Changes the whole game, changes the whole series maybe. If we don’t get him out right there, it changes everything."
 
Lopez: "Well I would say the pivotal part for me is ... it’s a two-part answer, can I do that? Getting fired. Getting fired multiple times tested me. So that made me understand that I really wanted to play baseball. And then 2010 game 6, in Philly (NLCS), when we end up clinching to go to the World Series, I get to pitch against the beef. With Howard and Utley and Polanco and I go 1,2,3 and then Uribe goes opposite-field homer. And so, selfishly, I get the W for that game but I mean just being, again being in that spot. Boch felt I could pitch in that spot, and being able to help send a team to the World Series, their first World Series in the Bay was pretty cool."
 
Francoeur: "I’ll say for me, mine was probably going back to Triple-A in 2014 and getting back to the big leagues and grinding because you know I was a first-round pick, I got to the big leagues pretty easy, and I spent eight and a half years playing pretty decent, and then all of a sudden it was like, I stunk in Kansas City, came out to San Fran struggled and had to go back to the Minor Leagues. And it just reminded me how hard you have to work for something sometimes. I got back for three and a half more years and I appreciate that. And, I hit a walk-off grand slam in '06 against the Nats, and that was the only game my grandpa ever saw me play before he died. He died and we got the ball and put it in his casket, so that was cool.

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