“McDeep Dive” is our new series that spotlights one Giants player every day for a week. We’ll move backwards and forwards through time, look at on the field stuff, off the field stuff, and see if we can learn something new about them. Here’s our last look at Brandon Belt.
This is less of a dive and more of a recollection: look how far Brandon Belt has come.
After the Giants won the World Series in 2010, premium cable network Showtime commissioned a sports documentary, “The Franchise” to go behind the scenes of a professional sports team. The subject of that first season was the 2011 season of the Giants, and one of the big stories of that Spring Training was the emergence of a now-familiar first base prospect.
NLCS hero Cody Ross
had been let go after the championship and the thought was the 2010’s starting first baseman was injured, so it would be Aubrey Huff, who’d played the outfield before, who’d fill in as the right fielder temporarily. This was to open up that first base position specifically for Belt. All Brandon had to do was have a great Spring Training.
And he did.
Of course, it hasn’t been easy for Belt since then, and those first few years after the call-up were full of pressure from within and outside the organization as everybody wanted him to be somewhere between the next Will Clark and the next Barry Bonds. That’s how desperate the Giants have been to develop a power hitter. He had the swing and strike zone judgment of someone you thought might just be that next great power hope.
Instead, what we got was a talented player with a good heart who gives a team always on the verge of being stodgy and pointless a personality with a streak of mirth.
For a long time, though, he got labeled as “soft” or a “bust” because of this one scene. Bruce Bochy delivers the news to him that he’s been called up to the big leagues. I thought it’d be worth rewatching this moment to see if the years have been “kind” to it. If everything we’ve learned about Belt and, to a lesser extent, Bochy, might shed new light on the scene.
I don’t think that actually happens. Instead, I note that it’s heartfelt and uncomfortable. Like the way he commands the strike zone, Belt really commanded the pace and mood of the room after Bochy’s pronouncement. It’s great in that specific way, but otherwise, there’s clearly a big, cathartic moment here that’s only made awkward by the presence of a camera. And, of course, two baseball men who don’t have time for some kid’s feelings.
A few notes before you press play: the clip begins with 37-year old Marc Kroon being cut, has a lot of Aubrey Huff in it, and ends on Brian Wilson speaking nonsensically, as he does:
Brandon Belt might not pound 40 home runs a year, but he’s delivered for the Giants plenty of times over the years.
Still, it’s hard to believe that the quiet, shy guy we saw there in 2011 is now this guy: