Sandoval afforded no time for reflection

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Sandoval afforded no time for reflection

SAN FRANCISCO -- Babe Ruth. Reggie Jackson. Albert Pujols. Pablo Sandoval. It's one of baseball's most elite groups -- the offensive juggernauts who flexed their muscles under the brightest spotlight.

Sandoval's three home runs in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series etched his name in stone, but the big third baseman barely had time to read the 300-some text messages he received, let alone process the magnitude of his accomplishment. After all, he had homework to prepare for Doug Fister and Game 2, less than 24 hours later.

"You have to realize what's going on right now in your life," Sandoval said hours before Game 2. "So you have to keep your head up and keep focused."

The performance that earned him a tweet from Hugo Chvez, the President of his native Venezuela, will go down as one of the single greatest offensive games in World Series history.

The first player ever to hit three home runs in Game 1 of any postseason series. The first player to homer in his first three at-bats of a World Series Game. The second most total bases recorded in a World Series game. The list goes on, but so does the series, and Sandoval and his teammates have to be ready for Game 2.

RELATED: Sandoval writes name among World Series legends

Having a player of Sandoval's caliber dialed in at the plate in late October is an asset that can't be understated.

"Occasionally you get great athletes who get in a zone, and it really slows the game down," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I'm sure last night Pablo just saw the ball so well and it really slowed down for him. It's a credit to his talent. It's fun to watch great athletes when they get in the zone, especially when they're playing for you."

Tigers manager Jim Leyland didn't have that luxury, but he appreciated what he witnessed nonetheless.

"You can't sit up here and say what he did tonight was a fluke," Leyland said. "I mean, it was unbelievable. The guy had one of those unbelievable World Series nights that they'll be talking about for years.So I tip my hat to him."

Plenty of others tipped their virtual hats to Sandoval. The face of the division-rival Dodgers, Matt Kemp, joined Chavez on Twitter to express his wonder.

Wow! That's all I can say. panda Matt Kemp (@TheRealMattKemp) October 25, 2012
All va el tercero, pues! Pablo pa' la Historia! Viva Venezuela!! Hugo Chvez Fras (@chavezcandanga) October 25, 2012
Sandoval is doing his best to take it all in.

"For me," the five-year veteran said, "it was exciting to see Matt Kemp -- he played with LA -- he sent me a tweet saying that. That means a lot me.

"There's a lot of things you have to realize in your career, you have to pay attention to all that. When your friends do good things, you want to support them."

Sandoval's immediate focus, though, is supporting his teammates in the World Series.

He already has half as many home runs this postseason (six) as he did during the regular season (12). And Sandoval just set the Giants franchise record with a six-game postseason RBI streak -- a record previously held by Barry Bonds. Over those six games, Sandoval is 12-for-25 (.480) with two doubles and five home runs and 10 total RBIs.

The Giants have scored 61 runs in 13 games these playoffs, and they've done in just about every way possible. But the key behind their 4.69 runs-per-playoff-game average (up from their 4.43 regular season average) has been striking first. The Giants are 7-1 when they score first this postseason, and a locked-in Sandoval would aid the early production quite a bit.

With success comes heightened levels of celebrity. But don't expect Sandoval to disguise himself, especially when he returns to Venezuela.

"I'm the kind of guy that spends time with fans out there, spend time with kids," Sandoval said. "That's what makes me happy out there."

What makes him happy right here in San Francisco, though, is playing baseball, and playing baseball well. Whether or not he's processed what he achieved, he'll be back in the batter's box at AT&T Park in Game 2.

Amidst a brighter media spotlight than he's ever been exposed to, Sandoval is doing his best to keep his mind in the right place.

"You have to keep focused and keep playing and keep working hard," Sandoval said.

There will be plenty of time in November for reflection -- and responding to text messages.

Cody Ross joins NBC Sports Bay Area's Giants TV coverage

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AP

Cody Ross joins NBC Sports Bay Area's Giants TV coverage

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — While rehabbing an injury in 2014, Cody Ross played for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. When he walked to the plate, Ross got a standing ovation. 

“I absolutely didn’t expect that,” Ross said. “I really didn’t know that there was such a big Giants following there. It was pretty neat. I got teary-eyed. It was incredible.”

That experience, along with recent trips to Napa and Pebble Beach, showed Ross that his contributions to the 2010 title run will never be forgotten in Northern California, Nevada, or anywhere else you’ll find Giants fans. This season, Ross will once again be in front of an adoring fan base. The longtime Major League outfielder will work with NBC Sports Bay Area as an analyst on Giants pre- and post-game shows.

“I’ve always had some interest in doing that,” Ross said. “I can’t say that was the first thing that came to mind when I was a player, but now that I’m out of the game and looking for different avenues to stay in the game, TV is probably the next best thing besides being on the field.”

Ross, 36, actually has been on the field this spring. He has worked with the Giants as a camp instructor, paying particular attention to the outfielders, naturally. The Giants are hopeful that Ross can help a promising group of minor league outfielders, and he has spent much of his time this spring working with infielders — Aaron Hill, Jae-Gyun Hwang and others — who are trying to add left field to the resume.  

Getting back on the field was something Ross was eager to do, and the Giants were the perfect fit since they train near his home north of Scottsdale. Ross still is inundated with autograph seekers at Scottsdale Stadium, despite the fact that it’s been six years since he wore orange and black. When he visits San Francisco, the greetings tend to be the same. Fans constantly approach Ross to shake hands and simply say “thank you for what you did in 2010.”

“That means a lot,” Ross said. “They don’t have to do that. It just kind of goes to show how amazing the fan base is and how passionate they are. They don’t forget.”

It would be hard to. Ross joined the Giants on a waiver claim in August of 2010 and ended up as a key bat during the title run, hitting .294 in the playoffs with five homers and 10 RBI. He was the MVP of the NLCS. 

Ross played one more season with the Giants before stints with the Red Sox, Diamondbacks and A’s. Throughout his career, he said, he would watch pregame shows to try and get updates on opposing teams. He'll get on the other side of the camera for the first time in late April. 

"I’m excited," Ross said. "It should be a fun experience, and it's going to be nice to be back in the Bay Area."

Javier Lopez joins NBC Sports Bay Area's Giants TV coverage

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AP

Javier Lopez joins NBC Sports Bay Area's Giants TV coverage

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Javier Lopez walked through the clubhouse the other day casually flipping a weighted ball into the air. He looked like a left-hander getting ready for another season, and Lopez will in fact spend plenty of time in San Francisco this year. He won’t be on the field, though. He’ll be watching it. 

Lopez will join NBC Sports Bay Area as a studio analyst this season, adding to a schedule that also will include a fair amount of time in the booth with Duane Kuiper. The transition is one Lopez has been thinking about for years, and he said he used to do mock broadcasts from the bullpen in order to mix it up and keep his attention on the game. 

[RELATED: Matt Williams joins NBC Sports Bay Area's Giants TV coverage]

“It’s something I definitely was considering toward the end of my career,” Lopez said. “Being recently retired and knowing a good amount of the guys that are on this team still, I think it’ll be a different perspective that I’ll be able to give.”

Lopez is the second left-handed reliever and Core Four member to jump into TV work in the first year of retirement. Jeremy Affeldt joined the network last season and the two will split the road games that Mike Krukow will miss this season, with Affeldt focusing primarily on NL Central series and Lopez handling most of the East Coast trips. 

To prepare, Lopez, who has had two stints in camp as an instructor, has been chatting with former teammates about the intricacies of playing other positions and taking at-bats. He has bounced ideas off players like Buster Posey, but he’s also looking forward to providing the unique perspective of a side-arming left-handed reliever

“Even with the pitching staff, I see things through a different lens than most people,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean I can’t learn from everybody.”

Lopez was a clubhouse leader throughout his time with the Giants and he was a co-winner of the Willie Mac Award last season, his seventh in San Francisco. When the postseason was over, Lopez wasn’t sure he would be taking the TV step right away. He made a small list of contenders he would play for in 2017, with a focus on trying to win a fifth ring. 

“There were a couple of phases for me in particular,” he said. “I think I was thinking about knowing for sure that I wasn’t going to be a San Francisco Giant again. That was tough, but in another sense, this isn’t my first team that I’ve been on. I know how the business works. They have a lot of hard throwers as they’ve shown this spring and that’s the way that baseball is trending in the bullpen. We knew that the opportunity here wasn’t going to be there, and I was okay with that. 

“There were some teams I really wanted to go to and some places that I wanted to play, but ultimately those places started filling up pretty quickly with the relievers. The opportunities were available and I could have played — there were offers out there — but I didn’t see myself in those uniforms. If my heart’s not in it, that’s not a good way to go.”