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The two Gold Glove center fielders Steven Duggar always watched growing up

The two Gold Glove center fielders Steven Duggar always watched growing up

Not Madison Bumgarner. Not Buster Posey. Not even the new stars Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria. 

No, the talk of Giants spring training has been a 24-year-old center fielder who started last season in the Arizona Rookie League thanks to elbow and hamstring injuries. Whether it's a diving catch or crushing a home run off the Dodgers, everyone wants to know what Steven Duggar will do for his next act. 

Based off his looks, build and ability, Bruce Bochy sees a young Steve Finley in Duggar. He didn't reveal who he tries to be like, but the two players Duggar couldn't keep his eyes off as a child make sense when you see him glide in the outfield. 

"I watched Andruw Jones a good bit just because I'm from South Carolina and he was playing with the Braves. I always liked Jim Edmonds too. Those two guys. It was a lot of fun to watch them play," Duggar said Thursday on KNBR

As he looks to force his way on to the Opening Day roster as a rookie, the former Clemson Tiger is just trying to be himself every day. 

"I just try to be the best player I can be in my own way," Duggar says. 

The Giants are moving McCutchen, the former National League Most Valuable Player, to right field this season. In doing so, Hunter Pence will slide to left field. Both these moves certainly had Duggar's future in center field in mind. Between the two players Duggar watched the most as a kid, Jones (10) and Edmonds (8) combined for 18 Gold Glove awards. Finely won five. 

"I just take a great deal of pride into defense. I enjoy going out to center field. I got the best view in the house. I see everything in front of me. Just getting some good breaks on ball, tracking them down, just playing fundamental defense," Duggar said. "I feel like defense and pitching is what wins. If we can be good at that, then we're all set."

While Duggar prides himself on defense and the scouting report on him has always put his glove ahead of his bat, Duggar is making noise at the plate too. Heading in Thursday's slate of spring training games, Duggar is hitting .350 with three home runs and a .409 on-base percentage in eight games. 

The Giants signed veteran center fielder Austin Jackson this offseason. They also brought back Gregor Blanco on a minor-league deal, and Austin Slater and Gorkys Hernandez will vie for time. And still, plenty have already pegged Duggar into the Opening Day lineup. 

Instead of add to expectations, the youngster of the bunch is taking a different, day-by-day mindset. 

"It truly is one day at a time," Duggar said. "Whatever happened the day before, whatever happened the previous days, you turn the page. Wake up, you go through your drills with one focus and that's to be the best player you can be that day. Whatever I can do to help the team win. That's kind of how I approach things."

So far, that's worked. It's one day at a time for Duggar, and his days in center field at AT&T Park will come sooner than later. Only time will tell if flashes of a Finley, Jones or Edmonds will join him.

Sacramento native Rhys Hoskins reaches Home Run Derby semis


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


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.