Former Giant Molina surprised, honored by retirement bash


Former Giant Molina surprised, honored by retirement bash

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Bengie Molina couldntunderstand why his in-laws wanted to browse in the sporting goods store for solong Saturday afternoon. He couldnt figure out why they suddenly wanted toleave. And when he approached his house, he didnt recognize the carsparked on the street. Thats when I knew, Molina told me.Something was going on.

Hewalked into a surprise retirement party and a room full of former teammates,coaches, trainers and clubhouse personnel. Matt Cain, Barry Zito, JeremyAffeldt and Travis Ishikawa were there from his years with the Giants. Heplayed with Ramon Ortiz and Ervin Santana with the Angels. And there wereothers he never counted as teammates: catchers like Ramon Hernandez and MiguelMontero, and yes, newest Angel Albert Pujols. Thatsthe impact Bengie had on guys around the league, Cain told me. It was great.We had a good time. Its always fun to be around Bengie. He was a great teammate,such a great family guy, and really, a great friend. You know youve got alifetime friend with Bengie. He always cared about all his teammates and itshowed. It showed last night." Molina hasnt playedsince Game 5 of the World Series, when he was the starting catcher for theTexas Rangers -- a team he joined after a July 1 trade that basically freed upthe catching position for Buster Posey with the Giants. Hedidnt play last season but hadnt announced his retirement. The party made itofficial. It was a special night, said Molina, whosesurprise bash was organized by his wife, Jamie. I cant thank enough all thepeople that came. At some point they touched my life and helped me be who I amright now. Molina retires with a .274 average over parts of13 major league seasons with the Angels, Blue Jays, Giants and Rangers. Hesalso the eldest of the history-making Molina clan, joining Jose and Yadier asthe only trio of brothers to own World Series rings. Infact, theyll each own two. Yadier claimed his second ringlast season with the St. Louis Cardinals. Jose owns a pair as well; he andBengie were teammates on the 2002 Angels club that defeated the Giants. Josewon another with the 09 Yankees. And yes, Bengie has tworings in his collection. Even though he played on the losing side in 2010, theGiants saw fit to give him a ring for the contributions he made prior to theJuly 1 trade for reliever Chris Ray. Giants vice presidentBobby Evans arranged for one of the Tiffany sparklers to be sent to Bengieshouse. Yeah, I have it with me, Bengie said. Im veryproud of that. Even though I didnt play for them in the World Series, I felt Ihelped those kids. I wasnt part of the winning team, but I contributed in manyother ways. It was a really good feeling when they gave that tome. The Giants are sure to stage many, many reunions andevents for the 2010 World Series champions in the future. Bengie said he hopesto be a part of them. Oh, I would enjoy it with all myheart, he said. You dont have any idea. Ill go back in a heartbeat. Anyday, doesnt matter. Giants fans treated me with respect and gave me theirlove. I have nothing to be ashamed of to go back. I stillcheer for the Giants. All my friends are there. It all depends on whatownership wants. Its common for retiring players toreflect on their careers and appreciate the time that they enjoyed in the bigleagues. Molina didnt need to stop playing to appreciate what he had. Hewasnt drafted, signed for 500 and paid every due imaginable in the minorleagues while proving he was more than an organizationalplayer. In addition to his big league friends, members ofthe Angels front office and clubhouse staff were at the party to congratulatehim. So were his old coach and pitching coach (yes, he was once a pitcher) fromArizona Western College. Im a kid who wasnt supposed tomake it, he said. I was one step lower than everyone else. So Im very happywith what I was able to make and what I did in my career. I wake up every dayand thank God for the opportunities I had. I have no regrets inbaseball. Hes especially happy for the pitchers he workedwith over the years. I always wanted them to be greatpitchers to help us win, but I also wanted them to be able to make a living andbe able to take care of thief families, he said. I look back at a JarrodWashburn or John Lackey, or a (Tim) Lincecum or Cain. They were able to makegood money to support their families. Do you know how great I feel aboutthat? Those pitchers felt just as good about pulling thesurprise on him. It was important to support Bengie becausehes been such a supportive person when he played, Zito told me. Hes one ofthe best teammates Ive ever had. It was important to take time to let him knowI wish him well in the next phase of his life. It can be a daunting thing for aplayer to go to the next stage. This is a lifestyle, not just ajob. Next up for Molina is some traveling, fishing andenjoying time with his wife and two daughters. He wants to take a trip to seethe Olympics in London.Then, in a year or two, he plans to look for a coaching position where he canmake an impact. His late father, Benjamin, was deeply invested in youthbaseball in Puerto Rico until the day he diedof a heart attack in 2008. He was crossing the street with boxes of baseballsin his hands when he collapsed. I want to dedicate myselfto do what my dad did: teaching kids how to play, and also how to be a betterperson and how to love their families, Bengie said. Im going to try to passit on. For now, he has one more message to pass along tofans: They made a difference in my life, he said. Pleasetell the fans, and not only Giants fans, but wherever I played, tell them I saythank you so much for all the support and the cheers. Everything I did, I didfrom the heart. For the Giants, tell them congratulations from me for the WorldSeries, and thank you. And tell them theyve got a youngcatcher theyll enjoy for a long, long time. Buster Posey is a superstar. Hesso serious. He wants to get better every day. Were always texting each otherand hes a great kid. I love him a lot. I think of him as one of my brothers,too.

Report: Giants calling up infield/outfield prospect Ryder Jones

Report: Giants calling up infield/outfield prospect Ryder Jones

SAN FRANCISCO -- A week ago, Bruce Bochy sat in the visiting clubhouse at Coors Field and told reporters that Ryder Jones was probably the next prospect to get the call. The move happened a bit earlier than expected.

Jones will join the Giants on Saturday, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported. The team did not immediately announce a corresponding move, although both veteran third basemen -- Aaron Hill and Conor Gillaspie -- have struggled at the plate. 

Jones, 23, is batting .299 with the River Cats this season with 10 homers. He is growing into his power, and he has increased his patience at the plate, a problem at previous minor league stops. The one-time second round pick is a third baseman, but he can play first and the Giants have tried him in the outfield this season, with positive reviews. Jones is athletic for his size and could give the Giants plenty of options.

Bochy raved about Jones earlier this month.

“His confidence has really grown,” Bochy said. “He’s a power threat. He’s a guy I’m watching. He’s a guy we don’t have here, who has a lot of power.”

Down on the Farm: Is there a two-way star in MLB's future?


Down on the Farm: Is there a two-way star in MLB's future?

This game is supposed to be hard. Somehow in the 2017 MLB Draft, two of the top prospects have so much talent they put teams in a tough spot. 

High School phenom Hunter Greene and University of Louisville star Brendan McKay were both options to go No. 1 overall to the Minnesota Twins. The only question with them was, where would they play? No, this isn't because the two are DH-type players who can't stay on the field. Instead, the two are marvels at the plate and on the mound, making the idea of a possible two-way MLB star, start to seem real. 

“I think it’s really just that hard," says Sacramento River Cats pitcher Michael Roth. "I don’t really know if that’s possible." 

If it was up to Roth, he would have made MLB scouts fret over what to label him as well. Roth, who wound up as a College World Series legend on the mound for South Carolina, came to the school with intentions of a career at first base. 

The most games Roth appeared in as a hitter in college were 17 as a senior. He batted .211 that season and the lefty wound up going to the Angels in the ninth round of the draft after completing one of the greatest college careers ever as a pitcher.

As strictly a pitcher, and serving as both a starter and reliever, Roth knows the rigors he must put in before a game. This is hours of work, all prior to a three-hour game. 

"From a pitcher’s perspective, I know how much work goes into honing our craft and you’re never perfect," said Roth. "I mean, you’re always working on it and there’s still something each day that you don’t think you did well enough."

With his past of a former two-way player himself in college who focused more on offense when first arriving on campus, Roth says the same when it comes to position players. 

"I mean they have to put time into honing their craft whether it be on the field fielding ground balls or taking fly balls in the outfield and then taking swings. And it’s a lot of work,” Roth continues. 

For Greene and McKay, the numbers speak for themselves. Maybe they really are the ones.

Greene, a 6-foot-4 right-handed pitcher and shortstop, hit .324 with six home runs in 30 games as a senior at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif. On the mound, with a fastball that can touch 102 miles per hour, Greene allowed a total of three earned runs in 28 innings pitched with 43 strikeouts.

Maybe he is the one.

College baseball's Colossus of Clout put up numbers among the best bats and arms in the country for the Cardinals. McKay led Louisville to the College World Series where his amateur career ended in a 4-3 loss to TCU, going out with a bang as he bashed his 18th home run of the year, 20 rows deep into the right-field bleachers. He finished his junior year at the plate hitting .341 with 18 home runs. His pitching stats weren’t far behind, going 11-3 as he posted a 2.56 ERA and struck out 146 in 109 innings pitched. 

McKay is the only person to win the John Olerud Award, given to the top two-way college baseball player in the country, more than once. He won it three straight years, every single season of his college career. 

Maybe he is the one. 

These are two supreme athletes at 17 years old (Greene) and 21 (McKay). They have not peaked and theoretically can only improve their bodies in the next few years. That’s not the problem.  

“As a pitcher, we’re constantly doing things for our body and same thing for position players,” Roth said. “That’s the biggest thing, recovery. 

“I remember days where I would actually pitch and hit sometimes. I would start on a Friday and then every once in a while on Sunday I would get the DH spot in college and at DH sometimes I could feel on the follow through of my swing, I was tight in my shoulder. Things like that can inhibit your swing.” 

On draft night, Greene went No. 2 overall to the Reds while McKay was selected No. 4 overall by the Rays. Officially, Greene was announced as a right-handed pitcher and McKay a first baseman. Maybe their way to the majors is a one-way street. But maybe in the case of Greene or McKay, there's a two-lane road.

Roth is running down the path of a realist. Don’t mistake him for a pessimist. Like any other baseball fan or player that grew up throwing as hard as they could and trying to hit balls to sights unseen, he wants to see a two-way star in the bigs. 

“I just don’t know how it would really work. Obviously, they’d have to be a specimen too,” Roth said before he smiles with a short laugh and says, “I think that would be really cool if someone could do it because that means they’re a freak. That would be cool, but tough.”

All it takes is one.