Scott Michaux

Sports columnist for The Augusta Chronicle. | ScottMichaux.com

Augustans feel special connection to Sandoval, Giants

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If your mailman shows up this week wearing a San Francisco Giants world champions cap, it’s only because his Tiffany World Series ring comes out just for special occasions.

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San Francisco's Pablo Sandoval hit .265 in 117 games in his one season with the GreenJackets.  FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
San Francisco's Pablo Sandoval hit .265 in 117 games in his one season with the GreenJackets.

Mike Anderson, 57, has been a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service in Augusta for 32 years, delivering a route around University Hospital. His job introduced him to his wife, Jennifer.

It’s his side hobby of videotaping that started with his daughter’s ballet recitals that earned him a World Series ring when the Giants won in 2010. He doesn’t know if the Giants’ sweep of the Detroit Tigers last week will get him another one.

“I hope for the best,” he said.

The Augusta Green­Jackets hired Anderson in 2006 to take video of every home game and edit a highlight reel overnight for the parent club in San Francisco.

Shortly before the 2011 season, Anderson got an e-mail asking for his ring size. At a luncheon at Carrabba’s Italian Grill on Washington Road, Anderson and six other GreenJackets from the coaching staff and front office were presented official world championship rings.

“That one is probably my best possession,” Anderson said of the prize he keeps under lock and key most of the time.

The ring is nice, but it’s the connection that is the biggest reward for Anderson and GreenJackets season ticket holders like Jim Tar. When series MVP Pablo Sandoval joined the company of Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols as the only players to hit three homers in a World Series game, Tar and Anderson could say them know him on the ground floor.

“It’s like a silly brush with greatness,” said Tar, a long-time ticket holder near first base at Lake Olmstead Stadium where Sandoval played in 2006 as a clumsy, chubby 19-year-old. “You could see he had a lot of potential. But he was a young kid and needed to learn a few things and developed into what he is.”

Fans who watched Sandoval hit only one home run in 438 at-bats the entire 2006 season for the GreenJackets could hardly have imagined that six years later he would triple that output in Game 1 of the World Series. Sandoval hit the first two out off of Tigers ace Justin Verlander before hitting his record-tying third off reliever Al Alburquerque.

“It’s the game of your dreams,” Sandoval said.

The kind his fans dreamed of as well.

“Just the first home run blew me away,” said Anderson. “The second one I was almost as shocked as Verlander was. Then a third. What an incredible game. That was historic.”

Sandoval batted .500 (8 for 16) in the World Series and .364 (24 for 66) in the entire postseason with five doubles, six homers and 13 RBI in 16 games. The sweep of the Tigers probably denied him another record for most hits in a postseason – he came up one shy.

Hard to believe he was the same guy who batted only .265 when the GreenJackets posted the best record (92-47) in the South Atlantic League in 2006.

Still, the man now known as “Panda” was a popular player when he was a relatively svelte 5-foot-11, 240-pounder in Augusta (he’s grown since, though not any taller). The Venezuelan spoke little English, and Sergio Romo (the Giants closer) served as his translator in Augusta.

“He was such a fan favorite,” said Anderson. “They loved him here. He had such a great personality. He spoke the universal language with that smile.”

“Just seemed like a real likable fellow,” said Tar. “One of those guys who was within arm’s reach. I never realized he was going to be this elite, but you never know with these fellows.”

Sandoval and Romo were just part of the Augusta links in the latest World Series. Pitcher Madison Bumgarner pitched in Augusta in 2008 and Giants first-base Roberto Kelly was the GreenJackets manager
in 2006.

“I felt almost like a family member getting to know guys like Bumgarner,” said Anderson. “Working for the team you feel like you’re a part of it.”

That’s the beauty of being part of a minor-league franchise. You never know what major accomplishments lay waiting down the road.


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