Brandon Belt

Brandon Belt shares hilarious Carrie Underwood story off Topps baseball card

Brandon Belt shares hilarious Carrie Underwood story off Topps baseball card

Editor's note: The Giants sorted through stacks of their own Topps baseball cards as part of the "In the Cards" series with NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic. The first edition is with Giants first baseman Brandon Belt, who had quite the story to share from one of his cards.

Brandon Belt currently has a pretty significant beard. But that wasn't always the case.

The Giants first baseman reflected on how clean-shaven he used to look, as he flipped through old Topps baseball cards of himself before Saturday's National Baseball Card Day.

NBC Sports Bay Area Giants insider Alex Pavlovic could hardly recognize the 2016 NL All-Star, as Belt said he started sporting the beard in hopes of a more defined jawline.

"I was trying to be more attractive," Belt quipped. "I'm not sure it helped."

As Belt and Pavlovic continued flipping through the cards, they looked at the backs for some "fun facts." One card revealed that the highlight of his 2012-2013 offseason was when he and former Giants pitcher Barry Zito presented an American Country Award to Carrie Underwood, which Belt called "a highlight of my life." 

But things did get a little weird when Belt presented the award to the country music star.

"She comes up there, and I hand her the trophy and I have to give her a hug. And I give her a hug, and her hair gets all in my mouth," Belt explained. 

"But it was OK -- it tasted like oranges. I don't know why, maybe it was her hairspray. It tasted like oranges. And it was actually pretty pleasant. I know it's kind of weird to say."

Belt added Underwood apparently got wind of that, and probably believes he's a "big weirdo" now. But he said it remains one of the highlights of his life, no matter what Underwood or anyone else might think. 

You can watch the entire Topps "In the Cards" interview with Belt in the video player above.

Giants who won World Series compare current club to 'even years' teams

Giants who won World Series compare current club to 'even years' teams

The Giants are in the midst of something special. It's hard to describe it, but it could be compared to one thing ... themselves.

ESPN's Marly Rivera spoke to members of the current Giants -- the ones who earned those three World Series rings in 2010, 2012 and 2014 -- and how those three championships compare to what they have going now, especially the 2014 team. 

"I've tried to figure that stuff out, and I know with this game there is one thing I know for sure: Once you think you've got something figured out, you're wrong," Madison Bumgarner told ESPN. "It was just like somebody flipped a switch and it all started changing. If there is something to it, I don't know what it is."

The Orange and Black find themselves just 2 1/2 games behind the Nationals and Phillies in the NL wild-card hunt. They also have a record above .500 and are 14-6 since the All-Star break, and 11-2 in extra-inning games.

But Bumgarner is enjoying surprising everyone -- a mentality he's used to.

"I don't remember a time where we won that we were expected to win. And I would rather be that way. I would rather be an underdog-type of team that has a chip on their shoulder, playing with an edge, than somebody that is supposed to run away with it."

The Giants still have some of the teammates who were a part of those "even year" clubs. And leading the way then and now is Bruce Bochy.

"They have championship blood in them, and they show it, and it starts with these core guys," Bochy told ESPN. "We're fortunate that we still have our core here, and that brings stability. It brings confidence. They do such a great job with the young guys, making them feel comfortable and also holding each other accountable."

Bochy added that after their first championship, they were happy -- but still uncertain if the team was the real deal or not. 

"But when you do it two or three times, they have it. It's in their DNA, and you can see where their game has picked up and they feel it," he said.

Giants third baseman and utility extraordinaire Pablo Sandoval compared the current roster to that of the 2014 squad.

"This team has a lot of things in common with that 2014 team," Sandoval said. "The veterans on this team, Madison, Crawford, Belt, are here to show our talented young guys that it can be done, with Buster as our captain, our leader, who leads by example and has taught all of us to give everything for this team.

"We have a lot of young players, that some people would say are not well-known names; it is no longer about Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford or Pablo Sandoval. Of course, we still have our workhorse, Madison Bumgarner, and our incredible bullpen, and then you look all around at this young talent, every day someone steps up. And whether it be Mike [Yastrzemski] or Alex Dickerson or Austin Slater, any of our young players, any given day, any one of them will help us win."

"That's what we had in 2014," Sandoval added. "There were no heroes, just guys getting things done."

Sounds familiar.

Posey agreed with Pablo's sentiments.

"The main difference thus far for me is that three weeks ago we were like 12 games below .500 and now we're a game over, whereas in 2014 there was more consistency than there has been to this point," Posey said.

"But we see guys stepping up, and I think that has been true from 2010 all the way to now. Guys come in from other teams or through the organization that have been able to impact the team in a big way."

When it was two-time All-Star shortstop Brandon Crawford's turn to chime in, he said the first few months of the season were a shock to the team's system. But they refused to accept it.

"It's about that fighter spirit. We were going to figure out a way to get this done."

First baseman Brandon Belt has two rings of his own he can show off, and despite some of the teammates becoming well ... older, he likes what has happened during this unexpected season.

"Looking back at the last couple of years, yes, there were really bad years, but I think a lot of that had to do with injuries and guys missing time. A lot of things that kind of came together to kind of form a perfect storm of awfulness. But I believe that all along we had it in us to kind of come back and make this run that we're doing right now."

The guys remain humble despite the recent success. As Posey says, the team still has around 60 games to go and "baseball, like a lot of sports, will humble you very quickly."

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But until then, the win column has been good to the team just as the team has been good to it.

And as MadBum says, "Winning changes everything."

Giants still hoping to 'ride it out' as MLB trade deadline approaches

Giants still hoping to 'ride it out' as MLB trade deadline approaches

PHILADELPHIA -- After taking a few questions from reporters, Giants manager Bruce Bochy put a spin on his nightly session. He asked reporters a question.

"Has anything happened?" Bochy said. 

This time of year, that refers to just one thing. Bochy was curious about the MLB trade deadline, and something had in fact happened. As Bochy spoke to reporters about the Giants' 4-2 loss to the Phillies, Trevor Bauer got dealt to the Cincinnati Reds and Yasiel Puig to the Cleveland in a three-team deal that also included the San Diego Padres. 

Bochy took interest, then smiled when asked what was cooking in Farhan Zaidi's lab. He held his cell phone up, scrolled through his call list and swore that the Giants president of baseball operations had not checked in during the night. 

It was once again all quiet for the Giants, and that's what the players continue to hope they see Wednesday before the 4 p.m. deadline. First bsaeman Brandon Belt, who broke a skid with a solo homer, said he believes July is a truer statement about this team than the season's first three months. 

"For me, we just hope everybody stays here and let's ride it out, because we really think we can do something special," Belt said. 

The players will have to wait a few more hours to get answers, but their final statement wasn't a great one. The lineup again struggled from the right side -- this time against Drew Smyly, who entered Tuesday with a 7.69 ERA -- and Tyler Beede gave up four runs in five innings. 

The Giants are 54-53 heading into the deadline and will need a lot to go right the final two months if Zaidi allows a push. That includes figuring it out against lefties, and they haven't gotten much from Tyler Austin and Austin Slater recently. Bochy was confident they could piece it together, although that's a place to start if Zaidi wants to add.

The rotation also could use a boost, and that's no knock on Beede and Shaun Anderson, who have helped save this season. But Anderson had a rough July and Beede has given up 20 hits in his last two starts. They are promising and look like big parts of the future, but there's some danger in leaning on rookies in September and October. 

Beede worked around traffic for the first three innings, stranding two in the first, one in the second and one in the third. But the Phillies put two on the board with two singles and a double in the fourth inning, and Rhys Hoskins delivered a big blow in the fifth, Beede's final frame. After a one-out walk of Bryce Harper, Hoskins crushed a two-run shot to left-center. For a second straight start, Beede's fastball command was an issue. 

"I don't feel I'm pitching carefully or aiming the ball," Beede said. "I feel convicted when I throw the fastball. We'll take a look at it."

Beede said he would be excited to get a shot at meaningful starts in September, and he seems headed for that barring a great sell-off. The Giants are not concerned about his innings count and Beede solidly is in this rotation. A lot of the rest of the roster will have more trouble sleeping Tuesday.

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Madison Bumgarner still is thrown around in talks and most of the bullpen is at least a little bit on edge. Bochy and Belt both said they're looking forward to the hours after the deadline, but for now, the clubhouse must wait it out one more night, hoping not too much changes. 

"It's part of baseball and it has been forever," Bochy said. "And next year we'll be talking about it again."