His duty was to get in shape, is to stay in shape. When he walked around last year with a gut and could not field his position or get around on certain pitchers, he was derelict in his duty even though he is a nice man and jokes with his teammates. The Giants do not need him to joke and laugh. They need him to dominate games.
After a while, I walked over to Sandoval who sat in a chair at his locker. I was with Erwin Higueros from the Giants public relations department because my Spanish is weak and Erwin would facilitate the conversation between Sandoval and me.
"Are you a different hitter now than when you first started?" I asked.
"I do it the same way," Sandoval said in English, without waiting for Erwin to translate. "I no change anything that I was doing before. I've been the same hitter."
"Do you have a certain style of hitting?"
He stared at me and I wasn't sure he understood. "Do you like to hit low," I said. "Do you like to hit high?"
A big grin took hold of his face. "I love to hit anything anywhere," he said. He understood me and he was answering in English. He came down on the word "love" with love. He laughed a full body laugh, what you call a hearty laugh. Love was in the air.
We continued in English, his English better than my Spanish.
"You enjoy hitting," I said.
"I do. It's my favorite part of the game."
"Do you like hitting more lefty or righty?"
"What do you like about hitting?"
For the first time, Erwin had to translate my question into Spanish. Sandoval answered right away in English. "It is the best time of the game when you grab a bat and you swing the bat. It's the most important thing in baseball."
Lots of assumptions in that sentence. That grabbing a bat is the best time of baseball — it clearly is for Sandoval. That batting is the most important part of baseball.
I thought about all that but I didn't say anything. What I said was, "When you hit a home run, do you smile?"
"I always smile." He smiled.
We kept going in English.
"It makes you happy?"
"Yeah. For sure."
"Do you talk to yourself in the batter's box?"
"Yes, I always talk to myself."
"What do you say?"
"Try to get a good pitch that I can drive the ball."
"You say it out loud?"
"I say it to me."
"If you swing at a pitch and miss, do you say anything to yourself?"
"Yeah, I get mad."
"What do you say?"
"I say bad things." And he laughed the Sandoval laugh.
"When you speak to yourself at the plate, do you speak in English or Spanish?"
"Do you like to be a third baseman? Do you like catching a ball?"
"Yeah, I do. I love to play third base."
"You have very soft hands."
I looked at Erwin. "How do you say soft?
"Manos suaves," Erwin and Sandoval said at the same time. Soft hands.