Spring Training

Buster Posey's best trait, as told by Giants' backup catcher candidates

Buster Posey's best trait, as told by Giants' backup catcher candidates

Rob Brantly and Tyler Heineman joined the Giants at an interesting time. Both are catchers who spent most of last season in Triple-A, and over the offseason they chose to join an organization that's as set at catcher as any in the sport. 

Buster Posey is preparing for his 10th consecutive Opening Day behind the plate, and the Giants have top prospect Joey Bart on the fast track. Even before COVID-19 reshuffled the decks, Bart looked like a decent bet to debut sometime this summer and join Posey as an imposing duo for years to come. 

Brantly and Heineman knew they had to thread the needle to get big league playing time, but they liked the opportunity in San Francisco. Once they arrived, they both learned the same thing about the Giants' catching situation.

Heineman was on last week's Giants Insider Podcast and Brantly joined this week. Both talked about how Posey's leadership stood out right away in camp, and how the face of the franchise made sure the catching group embraced communication and collaboration.

"I think what makes him different than superstars that I've been with is he makes you feel welcome because he asks you questions about how you do stuff," Heineman said. "It makes it seem like he's just continually trying to evolve and learn, and it also makes you feel like you're better than you think you are.

"He boosts your ego because he says, 'I like the way you do this, why do you do this?' It's like, wow, Buster Posey likes the way I do this. It strengthens the bond between you guys."

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Brantly felt that too, and he pointed out that Posey was even collaborative with young prospect Ricardo Genoves, who came to camp as a 20-year-old. Genoves, Bart and Chad Tromp rounded out a catching group that looked especially close while going through daily drills. 

"I think that's so important," Brantly said. "Him as a leader, as that figure on our team, it makes you feel so much more a part of it, especially for a guy who is just coming in like Tyler or myself or even someone like Geno who is coming up from a lower level. Same thing, he would have conversations with him. 

"The impact it has on a young guy like that, you can't even imagine."

[RELATED: How Kapler will sell undrafted players on Giants]

Posey, now 33, is reaching the point where younger players are coming in and saying they grew up watching him. Brantly, 30, and Heineman, 28, aren't quite part of that group, but they still have admired Posey from afar and were eager to soak up as much as they could this spring. 

"Buster, when he speaks, he commands a lot of respect, even with the guys who have been there a while," Brantly said. "He's a leader and being around that kind of atmosphere, being around that person, you just pay attention. You watch how he goes about his day-to-day and what makes him him, what makes Buster Buster, and you learn a lot."

On this week's podcast, Brantly also spoke about his creative Instagram workouts, the differences he sees between Gabe Kapler from last year to this year, pitchers who stood out in camp and his journey through different organizations. You can download it on iTunes here. 

How spring training ending helped Giants' Sean Hjelle see son's birth

How spring training ending helped Giants' Sean Hjelle see son's birth

Everything changed for baseball on March 12 when spring training was canceled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Some players stayed in Arizona or Florida, the spring training homes of their respective teams, while others were off to their home towns. Giants prospect Sean Hjelle didn't hesitate. He was on his way to Richmond, Va.

"I immediately got in my car and drove out to Richmond from Phoenix, because we had our first son born here a month ago, so I had to get out here for that," Hjelle said on the most recent episode of MiLB.com's "The Show Before The Show" podcast. "Honestly, that was kind of a blessing having spring trained get canceled because he was supposed to be born on the 2nd, I think our last day of minor league camp was the third or something like that, so it was gonna be a tight squeeze.

"Spring training being canceled was actually kind of a blessing in that area for me." 

Hjelle's son, George, was born in Richmond and already is sporting Giants gear. 

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George is ready for baseball to be back

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Richmond isn't just the birthplace of his son, it likely would have been where Hjelle played his home games this season for the Giants' Double-A affiliate. The 2018 second-round draft pick pitched his final five games of last season for the Richmond Flying Squirrels after strong showing for the Augusta Green Jackets and San Jose Giants. 

As many players are finding creative ways to stay in shape during these tough times, the 6-foot-11 right-hander finds himself in a much more accommodating situation. With The Diamond right down the road, the historically tall pitcher can get his work at the Flying Squirrels' facilities. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

"I actually feel like I'm one of the lucky ones in all this," Hjelle said. "Having our Double-A team out here in Richmond, I'm able to go to that stadium and it's pretty much just me and a handful of field crew guys that are still there and maintaining the field and keeping it up to date. I can go use our weight room. I can go throw in our batting cages if I need it. I can hit in our batting cages if I feel so inclined to do so.

"I have a weight room, I have someone to throw to, I have pretty much anything I need. I feel like one of the few lucky ones." 

[RELATED: How Bishop's hustle, effort remind Kapler of Bryce Harper's]

Hjelle is ranked as the Giants' No. 9 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. He went 7-9 with a 3.32 ERA between the three levels last season.

While he was expected to begin the season in Double-A again, Hjelle is seen as someone who certainly could make his MLB debut this season.

Mauricio Dubon seeks advice from Barry Bonds, Buster Posey to improve

Mauricio Dubon seeks advice from Barry Bonds, Buster Posey to improve

Editor's note: Check back next Monday, May 4, for Part 2 of our sitdown with Mauricio Dubon, where he discusses moving from Honduras to Sacramento and dominating high school baseball and soccer.

From the moment Mauricio Dubon made his Giants debut on Aug. 29 last season in a 5-3 loss to the San Diego Padres at Oracle Park, he quickly became a fan-favorite in San Francisco. Whether it be his story of moving from Honduras to Sacramento in high school and being a huge fan of the World Series-champion Giants, or the contagious joy he displays on the field, it’s easy to gravitate towards the 25-year-old. 

And Dubon quickly has gravitated toward two Giants legends.

He still finds it a bit surreal he can seek advice and ask non-stop questions to people like Brandon Crawford, the same player he fawned at while in high school. Dubon has turned to Billy Hamilton for help in center field as he learns the position in his new utility role, but he also is listening to two former Giants MVPs: teammate Buster Posey and even Barry Bonds. 

Dubon and Bonds have formed a relationship, and he asks questions about playing the outfield and, of course, always wants to know Bonds’ thoughts on hitting. When Bonds talks, nothing else matters to Dubon. 

“I mean, he’s one of the greatest hitters ever,” Dubon said of Bonds when talking with NBC Sports Bay Area on a recent Zoom call. “Just kind of listen to him. Listen to him, ask questions and just listen.”

When it comes to Posey, Dubon wants to know all about the thinking side of the game. Posey is the eyes of the field behind the plate, a three-time champion and has a decade in the majors under his belt. Pretty much anything you can think of asking about the game, Posey has an answer. 

“His mindset, it’s unreal so I ask him a lot of questions about this, that, hitting, approaches -- about a bunch of different stuff,” Dubon said.

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

The Giants traded pitchers Drew Pomeranz and Ray Black to the Milwaukee Brewers on July 31 last year in exchange for Dubon. He hit .279 with four homers in 28 games for San Francisco while spending time at second base as Crawford’s double-play partner, and even played a handful of games at shortstop as well. But with his speed, athleticism and strong arm, manager Gabe Kapler expects Dubon to be featured in more of a utility role to keep his bat in the lineup as much as possible. 

In Kapler’s first spring taking over for Bruce Bochy, Dubon played shortstop, second base, third base and even center field. The moment president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi mentioned the option of learning center field and moving all around the diamond, Dubon was all-in.

“As long as I’m on the field, as long as I’m in the lineup, as long as I can contribute, I’m good to go,” Dubon said. “I know if I’m in the lineup we have a really good chance. As long as I’m in the lineup, I’m good.”

When you watch him play, it should come as no surprise that it’s the little things in baseball Dubon misses most right now while MLB has suspended its season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It’s not making diving plays, celebrating walk-off wins or even hitting home runs off Clayton Kershaw. No, it’s much simpler than that for Dubon, and it all goes back to that joy. 

“I think for me, it’s just being on the field,” Dubon said. “Being with the guys, being on the field. Getting ready for something knowing that I’m playing against the best. Just getting ready before the game. Listening to music, putting my cleats on, putting my eye black on. 

“Just getting ready for the game. That’s the biggest thing for me.”

[RELATED: Check out the 10 most successful trades in Giants history]

The Giants were 13-16 in spring training when sports came to a crashing halt, however, records are far from what matter in the tune-up to the regular season. Dubon hit .345 with two homers and three doubles over 29 at-bats in the spring. He felt good about himself, and even better about this team. 

Entering the Cactus League, it’s no secret the Giants were seen as underdogs this year. After three straight losing seasons, they’re still going through a bit of a rebuild but there was a buzz growing this spring. The players could feel it, making the postponed season that much of a tougher pill to swallow. 

“Oh, we were really good,” Dubon said. “We felt really good. I mean, we were a team. I keep telling people, ‘When were the Giants the favorites to win a World Series? They were never favored in 2010, ’12 or ’14. So why don’t we have a chance, right?’ We have a pretty good team. We have guys that are hungry and guys that have experience. 

“I thought we were gonna be really good, and right now with all this going on, this will give us a different perspective and we’re gonna be even better.”

No matter where Kapler pencils him in when the season begins, Dubon will be ready and better with the help of two Giants icons.