The people from the Giants Community Fund and Junior Giants were nice enough to invite me to today’s Play Ball Lunch at the Hilton near Union Square. Even though we donated money to Junior Giants last year from our “Marty Lurie Bingo” game at the Public House, and even with all the radio ads where Duane Kuiper asks us to donate our cars, I learned a lot today about a pretty extraordinary community program.
I had no idea Junior Giants had leagues all the way to Nevada, Bakersfield and Southern Oregon (including my hometown of Eureka). Over 22,000 kids are currently in the program, and girls make up over a quarter of the participants. I’m for anything that helps underprivileged kids get a chance to play baseball — a game that’s gotten too expensive to play for a lot of families — and the kids are exposed to programs that teaches life skills including good nutrition, the importance of reading and bullying prevention.
There was a powerful speech from a mother/coach/commissioner who had seen the positive effects from Junior Giants in her community, which included some tears and was capped by Dave Flemming asking the woman for a hug. Jon Miller responded by telling Flemming how he’d been waiting for a hug from his broadcasting partner for years. So, Flemming obliged.
“Hmmm … it’s not really all that special,” Miller deadpanned.
And that was the kind of atmosphere that marked the last part of the lunch.
When Kuiper and Mike Krukow took over for Miller and Flemming, they led a panel discussion with Hunter Pence, Tim Hudson, Sergio Romo, Mike Morse and Bruce Bochy.
Kuiper asked the team to raise their hand in response to two questions. Marco Scutaro and Jeremy Affeldt are both on the disabled list, so they’re currently in Arizona.
“How many of you miss Marco Scutaro?”
Everyone raised their hands.
“How many of you miss Jeremy Affeldt?”
Only two hands shot up in the air — Pence’s and Hudson’s.
That was only the start of the Affeldt roast. As the panel took questions from Junior Giants kids in the crowd, Bochy thought for a moment after a boy asked if he played favorites. Bochy said he couldn’t lie — he does play favorites.
“That’s why I don’t pitch Affeldt all the time,” Bochy said.
Another kid asked the Giants manager a great question: who made Bochy laugh the most during Spring Training, and what did that player do?
“That’s a great question,” Bochy said. “I hate to keep burying the guy, but it’s got to be Affeldt. Just watching him field his position.”
Bochy added that it’s not “if” Affeldt is going to get injured, it’s “when.” So there’s nothing else to do but watch something weird happen to the lefty reliever and laugh.
Poor Affeldt, he didn’t even have a chance to defend himself. If/when word gets to him about today’s roast, he’ll definitely have a lot to say when he meets the team in Phoenix in a couple days.
More quotes and photos
— The kids asked some great questions. One asked Morse what he thought about playing left field at AT&T Park. Last night Morse looked dreadful out there, letting a routine fly ball hit off the heel of his glove and making an awkward diving attempt at a sinking liner that got by him and rolled all the way to the wall.
“It’s pretty fun … first time you get a fly ball, you drop it,” Morse said, sheepishly. “It can only get better.”
Morse was better with the kids today than he was in the field last night:
— Krukow asked Romo the words to “El Mechon.”
“It’s just a dance song,” said Romo, whose expression and demeanor looked strikingly similar to Morse’s when asked about playing left at AT&T.”
“If I gave you the definition, it probably wouldn’t be PG-rated.”
— Pence fielded a two-part question: where he rides his scooter and if he can do any tricks.
His answer to the first part was the Embarcadero, which he compared to heaven. The answer to the second part reminded me of how Barry Zito wasn’t allowed to surf during his time with the Giants.
“Tricks? I can do scooter tricks,” said, who’s starting the first year of a five-year, $90 million extension. “But I would never do such a thing.”
— Lincecum and Buster Posey drew the longest autograph lines, and Lincecum looked pretty dapper today:
— Nobody, I mean NOBODY, was happier to be there than Derek Law.
— Cain was probably happy to be there, but he didn’t look all that pleased that I took this photo of him as the team headed to a bus that would take them to AT&T:
— Overall, no earth-shattering news. Dusty Baker was one of the many former Giants in attendance, and both Renel and Larry Baer made sure to thank him for attending. Baker hasn’t been a part of the “Giants Kingdom” (as Krukow called it today) for a while, so maybe we’ll see more of him in the coming weeks and months.
Thanks to the Giants Community Fund for the invitation and letting me sit at their table. It was fun to see so many kids who were so elated to see, talk to and take pictures with their heroes. I’m looking forward to our next chance to work with Junior Giants, but most of all, I’m can’t wait to hear Affeldt’s reaction(s) to all the jokes made at his expense.