Dear San Francisco

Brad Mangin

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Dear San Francisco,

Tonight I get to do something one last time — something that’s been one of the biggest honors of my whole life: I get to put on a Giants jersey. And before I go do that, I just wanted to write this letter, and share some thoughts with you all. Thanks for reading.

1. My dad could play. Man…. I’ve been around a lot of great baseball over the years, and a lot of great pros. But my answer to who’s the best amateur player I’ve ever seen will never change. It’s my dad. Every Sunday when I was a kid, he’d take me with him to his semi-pro games in Mexico. We’d drive down from Brawley, usually for a doubleheader, and I swear he wouldn’t go two games without a home run. He played short, third, first, he pitched lights out, he hit for average, he had pop, he had speed … and he loved all of it. He had this incredible passion for the game. My dad’s dreams were to go to college, and to be a major league player. He never got there, because he was working to support our family — but I think as I grew up his dreams passed down to me. And while I could never hit like him (nobody could!), in every other way he’s who I wanted to be. I saw how baseball made my dad light up … and ever since then it’s made me light up the same. It’s the one thing in life that always made me feel visible.

2. My baseball career has really been about keeping two promises. The first promise is the one I made my dad at 11 years old: that I’d do well enough in baseball that he could retire. It took 14 years as a pro, but finally in 2018 he called me up and said, “Mijo, I filed the papers today. I retired.” I broke down crying. I don’t think even my dad knew how much that meant to me. Or how much that promise had kept me going so many times on my journey. The second promise was to Bobby Evans and Brian Sabean, after they drafted me in 2005: that they didn't waste their pick, and that I wouldn't let them down. And it’s funny, because now I’m filing my own retirement papers….. and I’m hoping you all feel like I kept that second promise as well. Like I made the most of the opportunity given to me by the Giants.

Courtesy of Sergio Romo

3. My first day at practice after being drafted, we were scrimmaging, and guys were out there pumping FUEL — 97, 96, 97, I swear. And I remember staring at the radar gun, and thinking to myself, O.K. … not a day in my life have I touched 92. But I also wanted to keep up, you know?? So when it was my turn to pitch, I was like, Man, I’ve gotta light up this gun here. Of course, I couldn’t do that (I might have hit 90). And for a moment I started to question if I belonged. But that moment was also the start of a lesson — one that I kept on learning for the rest of my career: I can only be me. And what was such a blessing about the Giants is that they only wanted me to be me. They never asked me to throw 97. It was more like, they helped me figure out how to make my 90 different from the next guy’s 90. How I can use movement, control, precision, conviction, all these other tools, to be effective in my own way. “A power pitcher without power stuff” — that became my thing. I’m grateful the Giants let me find it.

4. I’ll tell you the moment I realized I could make it in the big leagues. I was with the San Jose Giants, so this is ’07. A-ball. We’re playing the Lake Elsinore Storm. We’d taken a one run lead in the bottom of the eighth, and now I’m on the mound for the ninth. First pitch, David Freese (a prospect for the Padres at the time) hammers one off the wall for a leadoff triple. Immediately Jim Bennett, our pitching coach, calls time-out — and he starts walking my way. And I'm so pissed, man. I’m thinking, Time-out?? Nah. What’s this B.S. Let me do my thing!! I’m GOOD. So I turn toward Jim … and I stare him down. Like all the way down. Like real mean. Then he gets to the mound, and it’s crazy intense — he just stares right back at me. Doesn’t say a word. So then I’ve gotta keep staring at him, you know? I’m trying to put out the gnarliest look, and not saying a word either. This goes on for a while. A while. Until finally — real calm, still silent — Jim turns around and walks his way back to the dugout. In my head I’m like, Yeah. KEEP walking. I’ve got this. Then I strike out three of their guys for the win. And I honestly think from that moment forward, after Jim tested me like he did…. it’s like I understood something important about myself. I understood I had another gear.

5. My Giants debut came in June 2008 against Cleveland. I can still tell it to you pitch by pitch like it’s yesterday. First batter, Shin-Soo Choo: fly out. Second batter, Casey Blake: strikeout (fastball, top of the zone). Then my third batter, David Dellucci, we’re battling. The count goes full. And here’s what I’ll remember most. Bengie Molina, the legend, is catching me that day.... and at 3–2, with a pitcher making his first-ever big league appearance.... Bengie calls for a backdoor slider. Backdoor slider, no hesitation!! Throwing me right in the deep end. And you know what? I hit it. I hit my spot — struck out Dellucci looking to end the inning. And I feel like in that one pitch call right there, you’ve got the Giants and their culture summed up pretty good. It’s like, it’s just a call…. but it’s also Bengie telling me everything. It’s him saying, “You’re here for a reason. We have total confidence in you. Now have that confidence in yourself.”

6. 2010 will always be special because it will always be THE FIRST. They called us a “band of misfits” — we had so many guys who’d been cast off at various points, guys who for some reason or another people didn’t see as championship caliber players. We had a city that hadn’t won a World Series, ever. And we did it to ’em, man. All of us, together, for real. If you’re reading this you played a part. For me on a personal level, 2010 was big because it’s the year we got Javier López. Javy, he’s the teammate who really changed my career — who really pushed me to ask the right questions of myself. He’d be like, “Sergio, is this you? Is this who you are?” And I’d tell him, “Yeah, bro, this is me. Come on. I’m doing great. Dominating out there.” And Javy, he’d say, “Cool. You’re right. But is this you, too, the guy who’s late to meetings? Who’s out of the dress code? Who’s partying at bad hours?” He kind of held that mirror up and showed me what it means to be a pro. And when I look at the career I went on to have, how I made it 15 years in a league where the average is like three.... it’s because of the work I put in, sure. But I think it’s just as much because of the people I met, people like Javy.

Brad Mangin/MLB Photos/Getty

7. 2012 is my favorite Giants team. It’s just a collection of guys that felt incredibly rare, and it’s the most cohesive team I’ve ever been on. We lost Brian Wilson to injury early that season, and I had to be the next guy in line — and it freaked me out a bit, if I’m honest. A lot of athletes will tell you they’re gunning for the “#1 spot” or what have you, but that’s not how it was with Brian and me. I called myself Robin to his Batman, and I meant it. When he went down, I wasn’t trying to fill his shoes, I can promise you that. And I’ll always be grateful for how the team never asked me to. It was never, like, O.K. — now go do what Brian does. It was, Sergio’s going to go be Sergio for us. And when I’d doubt myself in those moments, my teammates never took that for weakness. They just gave me even more support. I can’t tell you how many times that year I’d be on the mound to close, and feel doubts creeping in….. and I’d glance toward the dugout and see Cain, Pence, Lincecum, Bumgarner, Buster, Vogelsong, Affeldt, Casilla, everyone.... all of these guys out there, top step, hanging over the railings. Supporting me, believing in me, cheering me through it.

8. 2014…. you know what? I’ll just say this: We created a mini-dynasty. For our city and for our fans. There’s only nine of us who were there for all three — four of us from the bullpen. Romo, Lopez, Affeldt, Casilla. The Core Four, the Band of Brothers. And I’m proud as hell to be in their company.

9. And then the last thing I want to write here, it’s simple. It’s thank you, San Francisco. I love you. This place means so much to me, in so many different ways. And it represents a lot of things I’ve never taken for granted about my baseball journey. Maybe the closest I ever came to giving up on this dream was in college, when I was at North Alabama. I played there as a junior, and I won’t lie: being a brown person in that part of the country was an eye-opening experience. It gave me a real perspective on who I am — and who I want to be. And in San Francisco, I felt like I was able to be that person. We have fans who look and who live every which way at the ballpark, and I see diversity in who’s wearing Giants gear wherever I go. And that’s not a small thing to me, it’s a big thing, so I wanted to thank you all for it. Thanks for making this brown kid from Brawley feel like a part of your family.

I’m excited to put on that jersey again … and then I’m excited to see what’s to come. Next chapter, it’s FAMILY TIME. I have a beautiful, loving, patient wife, and five boys — Rilen, Rex, Rhys, Mateo, Lucas — about to get more of me than they’ll know what to do with. I’m going to make sure they follow their dreams, like my dad made sure I followed mine. It’s time for new journeys and new promises. It’s been an honor. I’ll see you tonight.