|From real estate to Bonds: Yandle works quietly as personal batting practice pitcher|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 07 August 2007 20:27|
There's no mention of him in the Giants' media guide, either.
Yandle is in his 15th season as Bonds' regular batting-practice pitcher - throwing to No. 25 for each of his seasons in the Bay Area. A commercial real estate broker by day, the former Triple-A pitcher makes all of $75 per home game from the team for pitching to Bonds and other Giants. It's $100 plus per diem for road games.
Most of the money goes to charity at the end of the season.
Yandle wouldn't trade this gig for anything, even if it typically makes for quick turnarounds to get to his day job. He doesn't always stay until the end and watches some games on TV.
Bonds headed into Tuesday night's contest with Washington at 755 home runs and tied with Hank Aaron, needing just one more to pass the Hammer and have the title of home run king all to himself.
``It never crossed my mind when I started this thing where it would lead to,'' said Yandle, a lanky left-hander in his 23rd year overall working for the Giants. ``It's certainly the biggest of his milestones, but he's had so many I just feel fortunate to be along for the ride. Realistically, he could have had anybody throw to him, and anybody would have thrown to him.''
Just a few hours later, Bonds broke Aaron's record with home run No. 756 off Washington starter Mike Bacsik.
``Anytime that I get into a situation with John Yandle, he gets me into the groove of things,'' Bonds said after San Francisco's 8-6 loss. ``I can just feel it. Days with John I can just feel I have it.''
Most years, the 52-year-old Yandle meets up with Bonds starting in January at the Giants' waterfront ballpark to get to work leading up to spring training.
``It's great,'' Yandle said of the record-breaker. ``It's a culmination from years of his dedication to the game and hard work and the God-given talent he has. A lot of people contributed to it, but it was all him in the end.''
The soft spoken, modest Yandle, a married father of three who is from Lake Oswego, Ore., retired from baseball after the 1981 season and four years of pro ball.
He has gray hair but still throws hard and has developed ``a decent 50-foot curveball.'' Some players complain about Yandle's sessions because he's hard to hit - and his ball regularly moves.
``That's why Barry likes it,'' Yandle said. ``He gets bored if it's too easy.''
Sometimes they make it a game, with Bonds spotting Yandle a strike or, if the seven-time NL MVP, is feeling especially generous, even a run or two.
``But I've never shut him out yet,'' Yandle said.
On Monday, Yandle was about to head to the field to start warming up his arm when longtime equipment manager Mike Murphy stopped him.
``White pants, John,'' Murphy said, and Yandle went to change out of the road grays he had put on by accident.
San Diego selected Yandle in the 11th round of the 1977 amateur draft out of Stanford and he pitched in the Padres' farm system for 3 1/2 years. In 1980, he had a 2-2 record and 3.52 ERA for Triple-A Hawaii - his lone year at that level - but realized at the end of spring training he might wind up the odd man out. He was released despite going into the manager's office sporting a snorkel and fins asking to stay. He signed with the California Angels about a week later, but was sent to Double-A and went 5-8 with a 3.44 ERA. After that, he called it a career. Done with baseball at age 26 - or so he thought at the time.
He moved to Portland and got a ``real job'' selling computers, then switched careers to commercial real estate and landed in the Bay Area in 1985 and soon with the Giants. He made $20 per game at first and prides himself in the fact he's never asked for a raise.
``It's been more fun every year that I've done it. Throw 'till it blows,'' Yandle said. ``You look back on all of his big home runs and the same things happen - it's tense leading up to the moment and he starts trying to do more than what he probably should be, because he's just a natural hitter and gets up there and doesn't feel pressure.
``You see over the years how they all add up, but when you try to that's when life gets tough. He's pressing a little bit now but once he gets it behind him I think he's going to go on a run for the rest of the year.''
Giants manager Bruce Bochy threw early BP to Bonds on Saturday and that famous swing sure looked good - 19 homers in 11 rounds good. Five hours later, Bochy watched his star player match Aaron's 33-year-old mark.
``I didn't get $75,'' Bochy joked about Yandle's contribution to the feat. ``John just loves it. He just loves being around here, being with the guys throwing BP. This isn't where he makes his living. He just enjoys it. We always have guys who have a real passion for the game, love throwing and watching the games. He's one of them.''
Yandle is among those who best know Bonds' tendencies at the plate.
``When he is hitting well, he is hitting hard to all fields,'' Yandle said. ``I'm certainly not a hitting coach but I've been throwing to him long enough that I tell him what I see and he'll either agree or disagree and make an adjustment accordingly. Whether it's helpful or not, I don't know. But he'll always listen. That's the good thing about him.''