NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — When Ryan Vogelsong was let go after the 2015 season, many Giants officials insisted that the breakup would be a short one. It’s believed that Vogelsong, a fan favorite and contributor to two title teams, will eventually return in some respect, as a coach or team employee or possibly a member of the broadcast team.
It turns out Vogelsong, who is currently a free agent, has already been playing a role for the Giants. He was a secret recruiter for Mark Melancon.
On a conference call to discuss his four-year, $62 million deal with the Giants, Melancon said Vogelsong consistently had good things to say about the Giants when the two played together in Pittsburgh. The veterans were teammates for barely half a season, but Vogelsong, without being asked, often would sing the praises of the place that would become Melancon’s new home.
“He was very open about how much he liked the Giants organization, and he never had a bad thing to say,” Melancon said. “And that was without prying, because I had no idea this opportunity would come up, and that speaks volumes and that kind of initiated my excitement (about the Giants). My visit to San Francisco (in November) basically proved Ryan’s point, and I saw what a great front office that we have and the ability they have to go out and get guys when they want to. I saw the reason that they’re such a good organization and why they want to win so much and the effort that they put into winning.”
In recent weeks, current Giants joined the effort. Melancon talked to George Kontos, who was a member of the same 2006 Yankees draft class, and Hunter Pence, a former Astros teammate and yoga partner. He listed Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford among the players who reached out.
The process is not a coincidental one. The Giants have focused on building a family atmosphere, and they have benefited from players serving as recruiters. Posey has attended meetings with marquee free agents in previous years, and other players talk quietly during the season about stars who have relayed that they would like to join the organization in the future.
The list of recruiters has a common thread. Vogelsong has a son who was always around during his Giants tenure. Crawford has three children, Posey has two, and Belt has one.
Melancon has two daughters, ages five and one, and a two-year-old son. He said the Giants made a big deal about the family-friendly atmosphere in their organization.
“I’m a huge proponent of making sure that my family is taken care of, and I’m excited about that and all the guys I’ve spoken to on the team have backed that up,” he said. “My wife is extremely excited, and as you know, happy wife, happy life. My kids are already talking about San Francisco and they don’t even know what it is. They know about the Golden Gate Bridge and they’re excited. They’re five, two, and one, and they’re going to bleed black and orange.”
The Melancons will also bring their dog, Lou Holtz, to San Francisco.
The Giants hope the comfort factor leads to Melancon continuing the run that has made him a three-time All-Star. Over the past three seasons, Melancon has an MLB-leading 131 saves, but he has never been part of a team that has won a postseason series. As Melancon narrowed the field, the Giants’ tradition of winning stood out. Had those recruiters all gathered in one room, Melancon would have been looking at 13 World Series rings.
“It was obvious that this organization knows how to win and that’s their top priority,” he said. “They’re set up with the Gold Glovers up the middle, Buster Posey, Crawford and (Joe) Panik. And being a ground ball guy, that’s a huge priority. Being on the other side, you can tell how much character is in that other clubhouse, so to be able to join it and join the group of guys that are veterans and winning, it was the total package in my opinion.”