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Giants top catching prospect talks his big 2017 season, learning from Posey

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USATSI

Giants top catching prospect talks his big 2017 season, learning from Posey

The Giants are set at catcher. That hasn't been questioned since Buster Posey took over for Bengie Molina in 2010. But for the first time in years, a future piece has emerged behind Posey. 

Aramis Garcia, 25, is the Giants' No. 6 prospect according to Baseball America and No. 7 in MLB Pipeline's rankings. He showed why at two levels in 2017. 

"I think it was best year stat wise," Garcia said Thursday on the Murph & Mac Show, in what he said was his first radio interview.

Garcia said his biggest focus last season was driving the ball more often. That resulted in 17 home runs in 103 games. The former second-round draft pick started off the season in Single-A San Jose where he hit all 17 of his homers. With the San Jose Giants, Garcia slashed .272/.314/.497. He also drove in 65 runs and belted 20 doubles. 

Those numbers prompted a call-up to Double-A Richmond, where most hitters struggle. 

"When I got to Richmond I just tried to continue playing my game," Garcia said. "It was a little bit of an adjustment phase. But I feel like I was able to adjust quickly and I finished the year strong."

In the final 22 games of the season, Garcia did not hit another home run, yet his batting average rose to .282 and his on-base percentage to .360. Now in big-league camp with the Giants in spring training, Garcia is soaking up every moment to learn around Posey. 

"Honestly, I just think he's just one of the guys and it's awesome having him. In previous camps that I've been to, he's made it clear that whatever questions we have or anything that we need, he's there for us," Garcia said. "And I think that's awesome because he's been in the game for almost 10 years now and he's done some pretty amazing stuff.

"So, having him as a resource -- and also just getting to watch him on a day-to-day basis is an honor."

Garcia showed his power at the plate in 2017, but he's also known for his strong arm and pop time. Using Posey as a resource, however, the young catcher is focusing on another area of the elder statesman excels at. 

"He's one of the best in the big leagues at receiving pitches and getting strikes and that's something that I picked his brain on," Garcia said. He is also picking up on a tip Nick Hundley uses to be a better blocker of balls in the dirt.

When Garcia was drafted out of Florida International by the Giants in 2014, all he wanted was to play for a winner. The Giants went on to win their third World Series in five years just months later. Now, his goal is to show he can one day be a part of that winning formula. 

"I think that my way to get there [the major leagues] is just to show these guys that every time that I take the field, whatever I'm asked to do, I'm gonna do it to help this team win. And other than that, just playing my game, not trying too hard."

Learning from Posey, Hundley and others this spring in Scottsdale, Garcia is in the perfect position to gain the knowledge needed to one day help bring another ring to this team. 

Sacramento native Rhys Hoskins reaches Home Run Derby semis

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USATSI

Sacramento native Rhys Hoskins reaches Home Run Derby semis

WASHINGTON — Bryce Harper thrilled the home crowd and surely made his father proud, winning the All-Star Home Run Derby on Monday night with an exceptional display of power that carried him past Kyle Schwarber of the Chicago Cubs 19-18.

Harper hit the contest-winning blast in extra time, the reward for hitting two homers at least 440 feet during the 4 minutes of regulation. After he connected with the game winner, the Washington Nationals slugger threw his bat in the air and pointed both index fingers toward the sky as a shower of streamers rained upon the crowd of 43,698.

The six-time All-Star arranged to have his dad, Ron, pitch to him in the annual contest on the eve of the All-Star Game. Harper responded with a performance that drew the loudest cheers of the night at Nationals Park.

It’s been a trying season for Harper, who’s hitting only .214 for the disappointing Nationals. He won a contest that many sluggers avoid, fearful it might wear them out and throw them off.

Harper can only hope this helps him get back into the swing.

The 2015 NL MVP beat Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves and Max Muncy of the Dodgers before trumping the fifth-seeded Schwarber, who put the pressure on with a solid outing before Harper stepped to the plate.

Wearing a headband that resembled the District of Columbia flag and displaying a right sleeve with stars and stripes, Harper trailed 18-9 with 1:20 left before rallying. He homered on nine of his last 10 swings before entering extra time.

Hours before the session, Harper spoke excitedly about having his dad pitch to him in the contest. The 25-year-old said his father “worked his tail off every single day to provide for me and my family” and “now being able to have him throw to me in a big league ballpark is the cherry on top.”

Harper advanced to the final with an astonishing spree of long-ball hitting. He trailed Max Muncy of the Dodgers 12-4 with 2:20 left, then peeled off six homers in 47 seconds before calling a timeout.

Harper returned to hit three more home runs in 22 seconds, the last of them inside the right-field foul pole.

The semifinal matchup between Schwarber and Philadelphia’s Rhys Hoskins was a thriller. After stunning top-seed Jesus Aguilar of Milwaukee in the opening round, the eighth-seeded Hoskins ripped 20 long balls to put the pressure on Schwarber.

Using a late surge, Schwarber pulled one ball after another over the right field wall to squeeze out a 21-20 victory — by far the highest-scoring matchup of the night.

The fans dutifully cheered most home runs during the first round, but they saved their loudest cheers for Harper, the last player to step to the plate.

After Freeman hit 12 home runs over the 4-minute span, Harper unleashed six shots of at least 440 feet and secured the victory with a drive to center long before the clock expired. As the ball cleared the wall, the left-handed hitting Harper walked out of the batter’s box and thrust both arms in the air.

Freeman was the oldest player in the field at 28, and the first Braves participant since Andruw Jones in 2005.

Milwaukee’s Aguilar, the NL home run leader at the break, was eliminated in the opening round by Hoskins 17-12.

Aguilar hit too many balls to straightaway center, where the wall stands over 400 feet from the plate. Hoskins pumped most of his drives into the left-field seats, where it’s 336 feet down the line.

The most thrilling first-round match featured a near buzzer-beater by Houston’s Alex Bregman, who fell to Schwarber 16-15. The difference was the pair of homers that Schwarber hit during 30 seconds of extra time, the reward for hitting two long balls of at least 440 feet.

Bregman — the lone AL representative — appeared defeated with a minute left, but he mounted a late surge and lost when his final swing produced a drive that landed at the base of the center-field wall.

Muncy advanced by defeating No. 6 seed Javier Baez of the Cubs, 16-15. Baez hit the longest shot of the Derby, a 479-footer.

Aaron Rodgers hits fan jumping off a boat in Tahoe in stride with perfect throw

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Aaron Rodgers hits fan jumping off a boat in Tahoe in stride with perfect throw

Green Bay Packers quarterback (and former Cal Golden Bear) Aaron Rodgers is known for his downfield accuracy. 

Rodgers has three successful Hail Marys to his name. The first, on Dec. 3, 2015 against the Detroit Lions, kept his team's playoff hopes alive. Another, on Jan. 16, 2016 against the Arizona Cardinals, sent the Divisional game to overtime, and a third came en route to a Wild Card game win against the New York Giants on Jan. 8, 2007. 

At the American Century Championship Celebrity Golf Tournament in Lake Tahoe on Friday, Rodgers added another notch to his belt.

His latest effort won't be confused with the other three, but it's not like any of those receivers landed in a body of water, either. 

The real question? Whether or not that's a catch under the NFL's new rules.