For Pablo Sandoval, his two-and-a-half years with the Boston Red Sox were a time to forget. Giants infielder Mauricio Dubon, however, remembers those days much differently.
Dubon, selected by the Red Sox in the 26th round of the 2013 MLB Draft, was in his third season with the organization when Sandoval started his stint in Boston after signing a five-year, $95 million contract.
Quickly, the player Dubon adored growing up became a role model for him.
“When he was on the Red Sox, too, it was pretty crazy. I got to know him personally," Dubon told NBC Sports Bay Area after the Giants' 8-4 loss to the Padres on Sunday. "I asked for advice, I asked for everything, and he’s always been that guy -- a great teammate, a great person.”
Fast forward four years later, and Dubon became teammates with Sandoval in San Francisco. But before the two wore orange and black together, the veteran taught the young infielder how to last in the big leagues.
“Be early, be professional about everything," Dubon said. "Make [coaches] stop you, you don’t stop. He’s been a role model since I was with the Red Sox and now with him here. He helps me out a lot.
"It’s special seeing something like that, to watch it firsthand, to watch him workout and bust his behind every day. It’s pretty special.”
Dubon, a native of Honduras who moved to Sacramento 10 years ago, tweeted a picture of himself wearing a Giants hat, jersey and jacket a decade ago at what was then known as AT&T Park when the Giants called him up to the big leagues Aug. 27. He grew up watching videos of shortstop Brandon Crawford, but Dubon always has been just as big of a fan of Pablo.
“There’s a picture of me with my little brother when he’s about two years old. I’m wearing the Panda hat and his jersey and everything," Dubon remembered. "He was a figure to me.”
That's what made Sunday an emotional day at the ballpark for the 25-year-old Dubon.
Before he undergoes Tommy John surgery on Wednesday, Sandoval had one final at-bat with the Giants. He grounded out as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the seventh inning during Sunday's loss, but it was a moment Dubon never will forget.
As Giants fans rose to their feet at Oracle Park, he couldn't help but put himself in their shoes.
“As a fan, me growing up as a fan, it was kind of emotional watching him doing that and to be a part of it," Dubon said. "It’s just sad when you see something like that, but at the same time as a fan you're thankful for the stuff he did and the sacrifice he put on when he was playing.”
Fellow Giants rookie Logan Webb, 22, grew up in the Sacramento area and he too has found it almost surreal to go from watching Sandoval on TV to being teammates with him while Pablo likely took his last at-bat for the franchise. From the moment Sandoval stepped into the on-deck circle, the young pitcher found himself immersed in the moment.
“He’s done so much for the city. It’s pretty special," Webb said. "I think I was as fired up as anyone. One of the greatest guys, one of the greatest teammates that I’ve ever met and I’ve only been here for two weeks.
"Like I said, he’s a special guy. He’s one of a kind.”
Dubon and Webb are separated by two-and-a-half years in age. Both of them brought up Sandoval's three home runs in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series against the Detroit Tigers when asked about their memories of Pablo on the Giants. They're not alone there.
It's a "Where were you" moment sports fans never will forget. Dubon was 18 years old, watching the game at home with his family. Webb was less than a month from turning 16, likely doing the same. I was 21, stealing my neighbor's Wi-Fi and streaming the game on my laptop with my college teammate in Savannah, Ga.
Before being teammates with Sandoval, two Giants rookies were fans, like so many others. Webb perfectly summed up Pablo's impact on fans everywhere.
“He’s the Panda, man. He’s special, not only around here but everywhere.”
Special. It's a word Dubon and Webb said five times in just over three minutes. Sunday was a special day for Sandoval, the Giants and so many others.
It was also a stark reminder we're all fans of a player or team at some point, so enjoy the moments, both big and small.