Giants

How Pablo Sandoval captivated young Giants Mauricio Dubon, Logan Webb

How Pablo Sandoval captivated young Giants Mauricio Dubon, Logan Webb

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.” 

[RELATED: Pablo, Bochy fittingly share one more emotional moment]

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.

Justin Viele explains what Giants hitting coaches are focused on

Justin Viele explains what Giants hitting coaches are focused on

Justin Viele was a shortstop at Santa Clara University as the Giants were taking over the even years, and he took advantage of his school's location. Viele and friends would hop on Caltrain a few times every year and head straight to Oracle Park, the home of his future employer. 

The ballpark will look different when Viele finally walks through as the co-hitting coach. The fences are coming in, a boost not just to the hitters but to the men -- Viele, Donnie Ecker and Dustin Lind -- tasked with getting the most out of them. That's not their focus, though. 

On this week's Giants Insider Podcast, Viele said the focus remains on what hitters can control. The ballpark is still going to heavily favor pitchers, and the new staff will continue to preach having a proper swing and controlling the strike zone. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

"If the ball doesn't carry but we hit it really hard, in the expected numbers that really looks good," he said. "It doesn't look good in the batting average, but the expected numbers look good because you're hitting the ball hard. That's really what we can control. Swing at the right pitches and hit the ball hard."

The hope is that a solid approach leads to more success over time, and even if the Giants get Oracle'd, they still hope to hammer teams offensively on the road. They were much improved last season, but over this three-year dip, they rank 23rd in runs scored away from home, 27th in road homers, and 28th in road wRC+. The new staff is trying to teach a better approach, and Viele summed it up neatly. 

"We like to break it up into three different bullet points," he said. "It's (first), how well are you moving. That's so many things. Some people say it's dancing with the pitcher, it's the timing, how you pick up your leg, how you move forward, all these different things. Do you have a big swipe act? Do you have a big jump forward? Are you controlled? All these different things, but ultimately it's how well are you moving. Can we make you move better?"

The second focus is on the bat and what it's doing as it comes through the zone. 

[RELATED: Justin Viele recalls Yaz calling his shot]

"How adjustable is your path, are you able to get on plane with multiple pitches," Viele said. 

Finally, what are you swinging at?

"How prepared are you to face that certain pitcher, how is he going to attack you and how are you going to beat him. How is he going to win," Viele said. "It's understanding those three things: How well you're moving, the bat path, and then the game-planning portion of it."

2020 MLB Draft: Three hitters Giants could target with No. 13 pick

2020 MLB Draft: Three hitters Giants could target with No. 13 pick

The shortened 2020 MLB Draft that begins June 10 now is less than one week away. In what could be the strangest draft we've seen, the Giants are in good position with seven picks over five rounds. 

This is your first reminder that the MLB draft is unlike the more popular drafts of the NBA or NFL. This isn't about team needs, and it's extremely unlikely any player drafted plays in the pros this season, if there even is a season. Baseball fans have shown a lot of patience this year, and they'll need more when it comes from prospects drafted, especially this year as players' seasons either were shortened or canceled. 

Will the Giants continue their pattern of taking hitters in the first round? They have done so with their last four first-round picks, and certainly could do so again this year.

They're in an interesting spot at No. 13, right above the halfway mark of Round 1. With money slots and odd circumstances when it comes to scouting challenges this year, players could rise and fall for many reasons. After looking at multiple mock drafts and lists of top prospects, here are three hitters the Giants could target with their top pick.

Tyler Soderstrom, C, Turlock High School

Soderstrom has been connected to the Giants time and time again throughout the draft process. He's listed as a catcher, however, he's much more than that. The prep star split time at third base, can play first base and has the athleticism to possibly play a corner outfield spot.

That certainly could help his case with the Giants. President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi values versatility around the diamond. Zaidi was the Los Angeles Dodgers general manager when they took Will Smith in the first round of the 2016 draft. Smith, like Soderstrom, is listed as a catcher but also played third and second base in the minor leagues. 

Soderstrom will be picked for his bat, though. Defensive versatility is nice, but hitting dingers is much sweeter. The left-handed hitter packs plenty of power, too. 

Prior to his senior season being shut down, he hit .357 with one homer through five games. As a junior, Soderstrom hit .450 with four home runs and 1.340 OPS. Soderstrom also has a strong track record against top talent with a wood bat, and hit .364 with 10 RBI over nine games for the Team USA on the 2019 18U National Team.

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Garrett Mitchell, OF, UCLA

Mitchell might have some of the best tools in the entire draft. Baseball America gives him 80-grade speed, the highest a player can have. He is a true center fielder who only got better and better at the plate throughout his college career. 

After a strong freshman year, Mitchell broke out as a sophomore by hitting .349 with six homers, 14 doubles and a UCLA single-season record 12 triples. He also stole 18 bases. Before his junior season ended, Mitchell was hitting .355 with six doubles and ended the year on a 10-game hitting streak. 

Mitchell also has Type-1 Diabetes, and some teams might be worried about his health risks. As far as tools and skill set go, the 6-foot-3, 215-pounder is one of the best in this year's draft class.

[RELATED: How 2019 Giants would've looked in shortened MLB season]

Robert Hassell, OF, Independence High School

Hassell might be the best pure high school hitter in the country. There also is a real chance the top of the draft goes college-heavy, especially with shortened seasons and scouts not able to see as many prep prospects this year. 

If Hassell still is available at No. 13, the Giants should seriously consider him. The two-time Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year hit .423 with 14 homers and 22 steals as a junior, and then slashed .514/.548/.866 for the 18U USA National Team last September at the WBSC 18U World Cup in South Korea. 

With the 13th pick in the draft, the Giants could be in prime position for this young, advanced bat to fall to them. They also could look at high school outfielders Pete Crow-Armstrong and Austin Hendrick, along with high school shortstop Ed Howard. 

It would be a shock if Arkansas slugger Heston Kjerstad still is available at No. 13. But if he is, the Giants would have a hard time passing on his bat after hitting .345 with 35 homers over his college career.