Brandon Belt recounts his strange, 'magical' trip to Florida

Brandon Belt recounts his strange, 'magical' trip to Florida
February 20, 2014, 9:30 am
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Now that I’m here and we agreed to that contract, it’s hard to sink in right now. I think it will once I start getting the paychecks.
Brandon Belt

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Brandon Belt has many more years in baseball. His future earnings will go far beyond the $2.9 million salary he and the Giants settled upon for 2014.

Heck, he could guarantee himself ten times that sum later this spring if he and the club find common ground on a multiyear extension.

But Belt doesn’t lack for perspective. Fresh off a flight back from an arbitration hearing that never happened, Belt had no acrimony over how his salary fight with the Giants played out. Quite the opposite, in fact.

“It was magical to me,” said Belt, describing his reaction after picking up a ringing phone in his hotel room Tuesday night. “I’ve been waiting on a phone call like that since I’ve been in high school.”

Belt’s agent, J.D. Smart, told him that he and the Giants settled for $75,000 over the midpoint between the two salary filings. Belt immediately called his wife, Haylee, to deliver the news.

It was an emotional call for Belt, who once expected a million-dollar draft bonus as a highly touted high school pitcher. Those dreams were dashed by an arm injury, and it took a conversion to first base at the University of Texas, along with a whole new learning curve, just to turn himself into a fifth-round pick in 2009.

“I didn’t know if I’d play pro baseball,” said Belt, who accepted a $200,000 draft bonus. “So now that I’m here and we agreed to that contract, it’s hard to sink in right now. I think it will once I start getting the paychecks.”

Belt, who is eligible for arbitration three more times after this year, filed at $3.6 million and the team filed at $2.05 million. The gulf between the two numbers nearly led to a hearing in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“I was ready to go in,” Belt said. “I had a lot of people on my side and did their work, so it was no different for me. You’ve got to be prepared to go into battle.”

The Giants were focused on a one-year deal to serve the arbitration clock. Now GM Brian Sabean said he expected to engage Belt in a contract that likely would take Belt through his arbitration years. Such deals are common because it gives the team cost certainty and the player long-term security.

Belt said there have been some very preliminary discussions already.

“I think anybody would be open to a long-term extension, especially in this organization,” he said.

Belt missed the Giants’ first full-squad workout while he traveled back from Florida, but there were more slaps on the back than carping comments from teammates.

“I’m sure as soon as I get out there, they’ll be commenting,” said Belt, smiling. “I’ve been wearing it for three years now, so it’s OK.”

Now the small-town Texan needs to pick out some solid investments. Perhaps a restaurant franchise?

“I wonder which one I’ll pick,” said Belt, who is outspoken of his love of Olive Garden and grilled cheese. “I would like to put a The Melt in Lufkin. Bring ‘em some grilled cheese.”

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