B/R Exclusive: San Francisco Giants' Buster Posey Talks 2011 Season and Beyond
The former Florida State Seminole was selected by the Giants with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2008 Major League Baseball draft after he was done ruining psyches in college baseball. I'd make a "Sherman through the South" reference here, but Posey's a good ol' Georgia boy so it might be a sensitive subject.
Nevertheless, scorched earth is appropriate imagery when speaking of Buster's collegiate exploits.
He was a Louisville Slugger All-American as a shortstop in his freshman year before switching to catcher for his sophomore year and finishing as the runner-up for the Johnny Bench Award (goes to the top catcher in college baseball).
Then he had a junior year that can stand on its own as a career-worth of accolades—he hit .463 with 26 home runs, won the Johnny Bench award, was the 2008 Collegiate Player of the Year and won the Golden Spikes award which is given to the best amateur baseball player in the country.
Consequently, it's no surprise that Gerald Demp III was touted as the best catcher in the draft, handed the largest signing bonus in the draft's history at the time ($6.2 million) and engendered the sort of hype San Francisco rarely sees over a baseball player not named Barry Lamar Bonds.
Nope, the surprise came when Posey not only delivered on all that hype but when he even managed to outpace it en route to the 'Gents 2010 World Series Championship.
And he continues to see expectations in his rear-view mirror as the 2011 season rolls on.
On Thursday, the franchise catcher sat down with Bleacher Report for an exclusive look at that magical '10 ride as well as the current campaign and what the future may hold.
Technically a Youngster, but Wise Beyond His Years
In 132 games spanning parts of three seasons, the 24-year-old has demonstrated a facility behind the dish that is genuinely shocking to anyone who has been around the game.
Catcher is by far the most demanding defensive position from both a physical and mental perspective (that's coming from someone with an instinctual and hard bias toward shortstops), especially when asked to handle one of the filthiest pitching staffs in the Show.
While we're at it, hitting effectively against major league pitching when you're wet behind the ears is no picnic either.
Yet the cherubic-faced Posey has shown the baseball acumen of a grizzled veteran.
Add Public Relations and Interviewing To the List...
So it should be no revelation that the 2010 National League Rookie of the Year shows the same poise when confronted with a Bank of America full of cheering fans and/or a barrage of inquiries.
He gave each smiling adorer the same personal attention and, even when tossed throw-away, wheel-greasing questions, Buster gave answers with at least the pretense of thought.
For instance, when I asked him how the trip in from Colorado was just to get the ball rolling, he answered: "It was good, wasn't too bumpy. Leaving Denver. sometimes you can get bad weather, but it was fine."
It's not rocket science and the backstop didn't dissect the intricacies of manned flight, but he did give the question the respect of a few brain cells' worth of effort. Believe it or not, that's more than a lot of superstars give you. Even on pointed questions.
And Posey did it while maintaining steady, comfortable eye contact.
Another small thing; another that's impressively rare amongst athletes of his caliber.
The Exception To the Rule That Experience Wins Out
I've been a diehard baseball fan since sometime in the 1984 season when I began snipping St. Louis Cardinals out of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and making my own baseball cards (cut me some slack, I was five).
I've been a diehard San Francisco Giants fan dating back to sometime in the 1988 season, the first full one after my family moved to the Bay Area in 1987. Since then, I haven't missed too many pitches and even fewer games.
In other words, I've watched a LOT of baseball.
I can't recall ever witnessing a debut campaign remotely like Buster Posey's.
You just don't see a rookie face those kind of odds and thrive—consider that Posey was expected by many to be the offensive savior of the club without weakening the rotation. Nothing major, just fix the team's most glaring weakness while leaving its primary strength intact.
The Final Word on the 2010 Rollercoaster and World Series Win
Furthermore, Posey was asked to do this for a contender while playing the most difficult position on the field, a position he'd only been contemplating for a few years.
Shoot, most veteran catchers aren't asked to do half of that because they can barely swing a bat once the dog days of summer take their toll. Yet GDIII helped power los Gigantes right through the Fall Classic, and the pitching didn't skip a beat.
But don't expect Buster to tell you that.
"I don't know, that's a tough question to answer, whether it's sunk in or not. You know, I think it'll be something that's easier to reflect on years down the road rather than right now. I'm just trying to stay in the moment and continue to work and get better."
Perhaps therein lies the difference between myths and mortals—the ability to look at an absurd body of work and see, not the litany of highlights, but the gray linings where improvement can be made.
And, like that, the 2010 joyride was put to bed.
Thoughts on the 2011 Season To Date
The 2011 regular season got off to a bizarre start for San Francisco.
There was all the hoopla from the 2010 championship—not only were the Giants preoccupied with their own business, but other teams used the World Series as a rallying point as well.
Additionally, there was the individual spotlight thrown Posey's way.
Finally (not in a sequential sense, but in terms of gravity), there was the horrifying incident in Los Angeles where Giant fan Bryan Stow was attacked by two shameless cowards in the Dodger Stadium parking lot. Incidentally, those two bottom-feeders are still at large; way to step up La La Land...
Suffice it to say, the fellas had plenty on their plates.
"You know, we opened up in LA and the rivalry itself is gonna bring an extra something to the table. Then with it being Opening Day there, Opening Day in San Diego, Opening Day here and then the ring ceremony and the Rookie of the Year Award presentation for me...it was a lot to digest in the first week and a half."
In the face of all that, the catcher's next sentiment was understandable
"We enjoyed it, but it's nice to get back to just playing baseball."
Giant Fan Appreciation
Have no fear, though. As Buster revealed to my trusty sidekick Alexandra Bigley in response to her question about the fan support and reception, the man flat-out gets it.
Perhaps wary that he might sound ungrateful or unappreciative (he did NOT), Posey was quick and effusive in his praise of the fans, showing he understood the show was for us, not necessarily the players:
"The fan support here is unreal. I mean, obviously I'm still pretty new at this, but for the different places I've gone—like we were in Colorado yesterday and they've got a good team this year—you can't really compare their fans to our fans."
He didn't stop there:
"The passion our fans have for the Giants is pretty unique, I think. I always like to mention last year when we were about 6.5 back in August and they're still packing the ballpark with a month and a half to go. When you're 6.5-7 games back at that point, it's pretty tough to close that gap, but our fans were still coming out and supporting us each day."
And you thought the players didn't care.
Chemistry 101: New Faces in the Clubhouse...
Though the Gents aren't getting the respect they deserve based on their triumphant 2010 season, even diehards must concede that the whole was more than the sum of its parts last year (actually, we brag about that fact, but the other world seems to feel it's an insult).
For that reason, team chemistry was a very real asset for San Francisco.
So clubhouse changes during the offseason were a legitimate concern at a minimum. The roster lost two valuable pieces from last years' cast of characters—Edgar Renteria and Juan Uribe—while adding a vibrant new voice in Miguel Tejada.
That's not a ton of turnover, but it doesn't take much new blood to drastically change the dynamic.
Chemistry 201: Same Old Results
Thankfully, any change has been lateral or for the better:
"I think we have the core group still intact, so it's a great clubhouse. Everyone gets along really well and enjoys coming to the park and working together each day. It's kind of hard to believe we've played 18 games already, it always goes by fast. We're having fun and working hard each day."
The product on the field reinforces Posey's comments.
After a ragged first week, the Giants are cruising along nicely. They've got nine wins in their last 13 games following a 1-4 start, including two victories against a single loss on the road against the white-hot Colorado Rockies.
Furthermore, doesn't that picture look like the boys are having fun?
The Multimillion Dollar Question
That man in the Rockies uniform was Public Enemy No. 1 for about five minutes in San Francisco. That's because Ty Wigginton not only launched a crippling three-run bomb of Matt Cain, but he also caught Buster Posey's left hand with his backswing.
Fortunately, one of San Francisco's most valuable players was able to shake off the ding after a few tense moments. On Thursday (the day after the incident), his paw looked no worse for the wear:
"[The hand] is fine. It went a little numb there right when it happened, but all's good."
So you can exhale.
But those "holy $%*!" moments remind the Bay Area of the simple truth that catching is a 162-game assault on the body. There is a reason the backstops come roaring out of the gates with their bats every spring, only to fade to the back of the offensive leader boards once August broils away their last resolve.
More Good News To Close
Naturally, that reality begs an obvious question about Buster's future: how long does he intend to catch?
"I'm committed to catcher...I love to play the position. You just understand that you're gonna take some whacks."
With a little cooperation from the Baseball Gods, that proclamation is wonderful news for Giants fans across the globe.
Buster Posey has embraced his role with the club as well as his spot in the pecking order and he seems genuinely bent on continuing to evolve as an athlete. He's got the physical and mental constitution to be a franchise-stabilizing superstar for years to come.
There aren't many teams in all of baseball who can say they have one of those; maybe only one or two who have one behind the plate.
They're not on that list quite yet, but the San Francisco Giants seemed destined to join it.
Sooner rather than later.