After the third pitch he saw Tuesday night in New York, Brandon Belt dropped his bat and started the slow jog around the bases. The Giants first baseman watched as the ball sailed into the dark sky and landed on the huge red apple that sits out in center field at Citi Field to celebrate home runs by the Mets.
Belt now has made that jog 157 times in the big leagues and a career-high 19 times this season, but none were as emotional as this one.
After the 8-0 win over the Mets, Belt joined NBC Sports Bay Area's "Giants Postgame Live" for an on-field interview. For a decade, he consistently has been one of the funniest and most entertaining interviews in the clubhouse, but as he talked about his four-hit, two-homer night, Belt paused and asked if he could say something. His voice shook as he announced that his grandmother, Margaret Peterson, had died earlier in the day.
"I'm a pretty private person, but I just want to dedicate this game to my grandmother, who passed away this morning," Belt said. "I'm not looking for anybody to feel sorry for me. I just wanted to dedicate this game and the rest of this season to her and let everybody know that I love her so very much."
Belt could not possibly have done more to honor his grandmother Tuesday night. He homered in his first two at-bats, getting his seventh career multi-homer game. For the 11th time in his career, Belt picked up at least four hits. The 10 total bases were one off his career high.
"The bat whistled through the zone in his first at-bat," Giants manager Gabe Kapler said, "And it kept flying through the zone in each subsequent one."
Peterson had watched that swing for years, and she was one of Belt's biggest fans. He said he wasn't sure if she grew up a baseball fan, but she embraced every aspect of her grandson's career. Belt's grandparents helped pay for a lot of his trips to showcase events when he was one of the best high school pitchers in Texas, helping him continue down a path that would take him to the University of Texas and then the big leagues.
"They played a huge role in getting me where I am today," Belt said.
Years later, Peterson would ask her grandson to sign his baseball cards. She would hand them out at her assisted living facility and her church.
Belt said Peterson was in her early 80s and had contracted COVID-19. The news hit him hard, and he sent a text to his wife and parents before the game letting them know that he was struggling.
"My dad just reminded me that she would want me to go out there and do the best I could, and I think that really kind of locked me in as much as it could," Belt said. "Obviously I want to do well every day, but I really wanted to do that for her, just let her know that I appreciate everything and I love her."
Belt played with a heavy heart, but most of his teammates didn't know it. Kapler was one of a small group informed of Belt's loss before and during the game, saying Belt told him in part to get out in front of potential services for his grandmother, which would necessitate a trip back to Texas. Kapler said Belt has the team's full support if he needs to miss games.
On this night, Belt wanted to play, and that led to some emotional moments in the dugout. After the first homer, Kapler turned to longtime trainer Dave Groeschner, part of the small circle that knew of what Belt was going through. He told him something powerful was at play.
"It was a pretty emotional at-bat, it was pretty emotional the whole game," Belt said. "It was one of those things that I just had to stop and go be by myself for a little bit and just kind of take it all in and know that there was something higher at play there."