Giants

Why Giants’ Sam Coonrod didn’t kneel in Black Lives Matter moment of unity

Why Giants’ Sam Coonrod didn’t kneel in Black Lives Matter moment of unity

Gabe Kapler spent most of this week delivering powerful messages with his actions and his words, but inside the Giants' clubhouse, the manager was crystal clear with his players.

They did not have to do anything with which they were uncomfortable. They would not be viewed any differently if they chose to take a knee during the national anthem, or if they chose to stand.

On Thursday night, before the season opener against the Dodgers, many of the Giants again chose to kneel during the anthem. But it was a moment before that which really stood out. Every player and coach from both teams took a knee before the anthem and held a long piece of black fabric in a moment of unity, with the exception of one.

The outlier was Sam Coonrod, a second-year Giants reliever who said after the game that he is a Christian and "can't kneel before anything besides God." He also said he does not agree with some of what he has heard about the Black Lives Matter movement.

"I'm a Christian, like I said, and I just can't get on board with a couple of things that I have read about Black Lives Matter," Coonrod said. "How they lean toward Marxism and they've said some negative things about the nuclear family. I just can't get on board with that."

Coonrod said he did not have a chance to talk to teammates, including African-American outfielder Jaylin Davis, a leading voice in recent weeks, before the game because he did not know about the display until very late in the day, when a teammate informed him of what was going to happen. Coonrod said he decided he could not kneel, and "it was too late" at that point to talk to anyone about the decision.

[RACE IN AMERICA: Listen to the latest episode]

The Yankees and Nationals all took a knee before the anthem in Washington D.C. earlier in the night as part of a player-led movement that had the full support of Major League Baseball. The idea reportedly came from former Giant Andrew McCutchen, who told ESPN that the black fabric was a socially distanced way to link arms and show unity. Players also wore patches and Black Lives Matter T-shirts during batting practice.

McCutchen said the moment was meant to illustrate that MLB can be a force for change when it comes to addressing injustice.  

The Giants have been a big part of that this week, and during the anthem Thursday, Kapler and several players and coaches -- including Davis, Pablo Sandoval, Hunter Pence, Mike Yastrzemski and Trevor Gott -- again took a knee. Mookie Betts was the only Dodger to take a knee during the anthem. 

But it was the moments before it when Coonrod stood out.

"I meant no ill will by it. I don't think I'm better than anyone," Coonrod said after the game. "I'm a Christian. I just believe I can't kneel before anything besides God -- Jesus Christ.

"I chose not to kneel. I feel that if I did kneel, I would be being a hypocrite. I didn't want to be a hypocrite. Like I said, I didn't mean any ill will toward anyone."

[RELATED: Takeaways from Giants' loss to Dodgers]

After the 8-1 season-opening loss to the Dodgers, Kapler said he had spoken to Coonrod. The right-hander said his favorite thing about Kapler thus far is that he has made it clear he'll always respect opinions, no matter how two individuals might differ on the topic.

"He's not going to get mad if I disagree with him," Coonrod said. "I think that's part of the problem nowadays. People get mad whenever someone disagrees. I'm not mad at someone that decided to kneel. I think it's not too much to ask that I just get the same respect, you know?"

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Gabe Kapler's faith in Hunter Pence, veterans pays off in Giants' win

Gabe Kapler's faith in Hunter Pence, veterans pays off in Giants' win

Twice a day, every day, Gabe Kapler logs onto Zoom to talk to reporters. You could search and search through those hours of film and you'd have a hard time finding many moments when Kapler was even a little bit negative. 

Ask Kapler about Hunter Pence's massive struggles and he'll say he believes in the track record and the work Pence is putting in behind the scenes. Ask about the slumping Brandons and he'll say the swings are better than the results. Ask why he has so much faith in Tyler Rogers, who has gotten rocked early on this year, and he'll say that the submariner is his Swiss Army Knife and remains a valuable weapon in late innings. 

After Monday night's loss, one in which the Giants flirted with getting no-hit and committed three more errors, Kapler sat down and took all the hard questions, then asked if he could make a statement before his time was up. He talked about how great Austin Slater's batting practice was earlier in the day. 

Kapler has shown tremendous faith in a group whose play on the field often begs for more turnover, and in Tuesday's 7-6 comeback win over the Astros, that faith was rewarded. 

Pence, 2-for-32 at the time, hit a three-run homer in the seventh. Brandon Crawford, hitting just .204 this year, had the game-winning hit in the 10th. Rogers entered with an 11.88 ERA and stranded a runner in scoring position for his first career save. Tyler Heineman, who has taken some heat for three catcher interference calls this season, picked up his own save by gloving a wild breaking ball with the tying run on third. 

"He has expressed confidence and understands that these kinds of things go on in baseball and it's about the process, it's about doing the work and having good approaches," Pence said of Kapler. "I'm really enjoying a lot of work these hitting (coaches) have done and also the support of Kap. It's been really a big lift for me."

While Pence has seen all the highs and lows one can expect in this game, Rogers, a second-year reliever, is dealing with his first real doubt in the big leagues. He pitched well in Triple-A, dominated in a September call-up, and had two camps this year that were so impressive he looked like a potential closer. 

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But Rogers has had high-profile blowups in the first three weeks of his first full season. After he gave up a game-swinging homer to A.J. Pollock in Los Angeles on Sunday, Kapler approached the reliever. 

"He came to me and was like, 'I haven't lost any confidence in you, you're still one of my guys,'" Rogers said. "That's big when a manager does that. After a couple tough games, to be able to validate his decision tonight to put me back in there was just rewarding for me."

Rogers took the mound the first time the Giants ever dealt with the new extra-innings rule, a game that ended up being an embarrassing loss. The Giants gave up six runs in the top of the 10th that night and Kapler pulled Rogers when he wasn't allowed to, a move he later apologized for. Given another shot, though, he went right back to Rogers. 

"I tell you what, it was good to get another crack at it," Rogers said. 

With George Springer on second, Rogers got a grounder and two strikeouts to pick up his first save. His twin brother, Taylor, has 36 of them in the big leagues, and you can bet at some point Kapler will give his version another shot at closing the gap. 

[RELATED: How Slater's adjustment hints at a breakout with Giants]

There will be nights when Kapler pays dearly for being so loyal. He already has several times this season. But on Tuesday, it all led to perhaps the best win of the year for a team that's proven to be pretty resilient. 

"We've been scoring a lot of runs late," Pence said. "We do have a team mindset of keep fighting, be as scrappy as we can, grit it out and keep going."

Giants takeaways: What you might have missed in 7-6 win vs. Astros

Giants takeaways: What you might have missed in 7-6 win vs. Astros

BOX SCORE

The Giants' second experience with the new extra-innings rule was considerably better than the first. San Francisco completed a huge comeback in the ninth and held on in the 10th for a 7-6 win over the Astros, bringing the placed runner home in the top half and then stranding him in the bottom of the inning. 

The Giants started the 10th with Wilmer Flores on second and Brandon Crawford brought him home. George Springer started the bottom of the inning on second but Tyler Rogers stranded him on third for his first career save. 

A night after a comeback attempt fell just short in the ninth, the Giants trailed 6-2 after six but tied it up. Hunter Pence hit a huge homer in the seventh and his single pushed the tying run to third in the ninth. Darin Ruf found a hole on the left side, completing the comeback. 

Welcome Home 

Pence started his career in Houston and spends his offseasons there. He even has a coffee shop in the city. It was the perfect spot, then, for Pence to finally get going. 

Gabe Kapler sent him up with two outs in the seventh and Pence lined it the other way, sneaking a three-run shot just over the wall in right as Josh Reddick's jump came up a few inches short. The homer, Pence's first of the year, cut a four-run deficit to one. It was the fourth pinch-hit homer of Pence's career. 

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A (Bad) Record 

When Alex Bregman took Tyler Anderson deep in the fourth, it marked the 15th consecutive game that the Giants had allowed a home run, a franchise record. Three previous Giants teams had allowed a homer in 14 straight. The staff entered the night with 28 home runs allowed, which was tied for the Mariners for second-most in the majors. The Diamondbacks had allowed an astounding 39 homers coming into play Tuesday. 

[RELATED: How Slater's adjustment hints at a breakout with Giants]

More Pitching Issues 

Anderson was good in Denver, but Houston wasn't so kind. The left-hander was charged with four earned in five innings, walking three and striking out two. Most of the damage was done in the second, when the Astros scored three runs on doubles by Martin Maldonado and Reddick. 

Rico Garcia followed Anderson and continued his slide. The hard-throwing right-hander gave up two runs on five hits and was saved from more trouble by a slick double play by Evan Longoria. After starting his Giants career with six scoreless outings, Garcia has allowed five earned in his last three appearances and recorded just five outs.