PHOENIX When Giants center fielder Angel Pagan hit his 13thtriple of the season Saturday night, breaking the San Francisco-era franchiserecord, the presence of the two men who previously held it could be felt inChase Field.
One was Steve Finley, because he was in the flesh to witnessit. Coincidentally, Finley was in the building to play in an ArizonaDiamondbacks alumni game later that night.
The other, Willie Mays, was there in spirit. But what apowerful spirit it was.
Pagan hit his triple in the first inning. He made a basketcatch of a ball hit directly over his head in the second inning.
It wasnt justreferential. Mays actually taught Pagan this spring how to catch a ball likethat.
As Pagan explained, he had a similar play early in the spring and he couldnthaul it in.
The next morning, the first person I see is Willie Mays,said Pagan, smiling at the memory. And he said, 'Hey, I gotta talk to you.'
He told Pagan the trick is to run full speed and then slowdown. That way, your head isnt moving as much and you can track the ball intoyour glove.
It was good advice from him and I applied it on that play,Pagan said. That really helped me because Im always full speed, man.
When Pagan tied the triples record a couple days ago inColorado, he was unaware of it. But he was thrilled when he heard the news frommanager Bruce Bochy, calling Mays his mentor.
He repeated some of those sentiments after taking thatrecord for his own.
Now that we won, I can celebrate, he said. Its a specialrecord. Thats my game. Every time I hit a ball in the gap, I think three.
Finley hit his 12 triples in 2006, when he was in his 40s and not the player he used to be. But he used the dimensions of AT&T Park to his advantage, and had seven triples in his first 30 games.
"But probably five of them should've been home runs," Finley said. "I got frustrated, of course, and so I started to swing harder. I might have hit more if I had stayed with my swing. Even playing as long as I did, I let the park get in my head. San Francisco is a triples ballpark."
Perhaps this should be pointed out, then: Pagan has hit six triples at home, and seven on the road. His three-bagger Saturday was the first one he's hit from the right side.
"You always wonder why he hadn't broken out yet," Finley said. "He's got a great swing, he can run, he has all the tools. If a guy like that gets enough opportunities, he gets a chance to figure it out. So good for him, and good for the Giants."