You gotta like these kids.
Posted on August 28, 2015
Kelby Tomlinson #37 of the San Francisco Giants celebrates with his teammates Marlon Byrd #6, Buster Posey #28, and Brandon Belt #9 at home plate after hitting a grand slam home run against the Chicago Cubs in the bottom of the 8th inning during the game at AT&T Park on Thursday, August 27, 2015 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Brad Mangin)
In 1986 the San Francisco Giants were coming off a dismal 100-loss season. Under the new regime of general manager Al Rosen and skipper Roger Craig there was hope when spring training camp opened in Scottsdale that February. Rookies like Robbie Thompson and Will Clark would be in the starting lineup on opening night in Houston. Giants marketing genius Pat Gallagher came up with the club’s marketing slogan that year: “You gotta like these kids.” The fans embraced the slogan as the young ballplayers helped the team get off to a great start that led to a winning 83-79 season. The young nucleus went on to win the National League West in 1987.
Fast forward to the 2015 Giants, yesterday specifically, and you will find a team that is relying heavily on a hungry group of young kids to keep this M*A*S*H unit of a squad in the pennant race, 2.5 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West. Injuries to to many of starting position players and starting pitchers have ravaged the roster, but recent minor league call-up Kelby Tomlinson has done a fabulous job filling in at second base for the injured Joe Panik. Tomlinson’s teammate and roomie last season in AA ball while playing for the Richmond Flying Squirrels, Giants starting third sacker Matt Duffy, proved how tough Long Beach State Dirtbags really are by starting yesterday’s game at third base (his 44th straight start) after suffering a bad ankle sprain the night before. Duffy knew there was no one else on the bench who could play third, and he hates taking days off.
On a spectacular 80-degree day at AT&T Park the Giants were hosting the insanely hot Cubs in a 12:45 matinee. I had just seen the Cubs sweep the Giants in four straight games at Wrigley Field a few weeks ago. I know how loaded the Cubs are, especially with their great rookies Kyle Schwarber and Kris Bryant having monster freshman campaigns. I was excited to shoot the Cubs kids, especially since they were wearing their classic grey tops, as opposed to their awful dark blue jerseys they usually wear on the road. Luckily for the Giants and the sellout crowd it was the Giants kids, and a guy named Bumgarner on the hill who were the stars of the day.
Not showing any signs of a limp, Duffy strode to the plate in the bottom of the third inning with a runner on third base and put the Giants ahead to stay 2-1 with a ground single up the middle for his 60th RBI of the season. As he rounded the bag at first his cat Skeeter made an appearance on the scoreboard, much to the delight of the cheering fans (see above).
When Tomlinson came to the plate with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 8th inning, the bespectacled kid from Oklahoma was already a crowd favorite. He is hitting .346 since he was called up on August 3, 2015 and is improving every day at second base, which is not his normal position. By the time he floated around the bases after belting his first big league home run, a grand slam no less, his name was etched forever in Giants lore. San Francisco Chronicle sports writer Ann Killion was a wrote a wonderful column about the Giants kids “Kelby Tomlinson makes grand contribution to cool, calm Giants” that is worth checking out for some great quotes from the post-game clubhouse after the 9-1 win.
The last five weeks of the season are going to be exciting. The Giants are lucky to have all these home-grown kids on the club. Without them they would look a lot more like the 1985 team, and that would not be pretty.