The Giants’ Gre­gor Blanco on Base­ball and San Fran­cisco

Where San Francisco - - Front Page - BY ZACHARY CLARK

From Venezuela With Love

Gre­gor Blanco is sit­ting in the dugout. It’s still a few hours be­fore the crowds show up and com­pe­ti­tion starts. The out­fielder is all smiles, point­ing and wav­ing at just about ev­ery­one who walks by. Known for his small- ball ap­proach, the out­fielder has thrived in San Fran­cisco— inspired by the city as much as he and his team­mates in­spire fans. Read on for a glimpse into the life of the San Fran­cisco Giants’ dy­namic out­fielder, both on and off the field.

When did you start play­ing base­ball?

When I was four years old. It was a learn­ing process for sure. I re­mem­ber just play­ing in the dirt and not watch­ing the game at all, but I al­ways wanted to be­come a base­ball player. When I was eight or nine years old, I re­ally had it in me that one day I wanted to be a base­ball player.

What po­si­tion did you first play?

All my ca­reer I’ve been play­ing cen­ter­field. That’s my main po­si­tion. Even when I was a lit­tle kid, I was play­ing cen­ter­field and lead­ing off. I think it’s part of me. But now here I can play all three out­field po­si­tions, and I hit what­ever they need me to hit.

Did you have a fa­vorite team grow­ing up?

We watched them all. We watched the Braves. I guess be­cause at that time when I was grow­ing up, the Braves were a huge team. They had 14 straight post­sea­sons, some­thing like that. That was my team. I had a Chip­per Jones poster in my room. I later made it all the way up to the ma­jor leagues and signed with the Braves. I got to play with Chip­per Jones. It was awe­some. I never told him that grow­ing up I had his poster in my room.

You started play­ing in At­lanta and then went to Kansas City and Washington be­fore com­ing here. What’s dif­fer­ent about play­ing in SF?

Wow man, it’s a lot dif­fer­ent. The base­ball that I played where I come from in Venezuela is like a re­ally pas­sion­ate base­ball. And I al­ways wanted to find that in the States, and for some rea­son I never had that. Even with the Braves and then the Na­tion­als and Roy­als— I didn’t find that. So when I came to SF, I saw all the fans cheer­ing for ev­ery­body and peo­ple wanted to know me. I just feel like this is my home, this is where I be­long. And ev­ery day that I play, I play for the city, I play for the fans and I play for my team­mates who re­ally be­lieve in me.

Fa­vorite mo­ments as a Gi­ant?

I would say the lead­off homer that I hit in the 2014 World Se­ries. All three fi­nal outs in the World Se­ries in 2012 and 2014, the pa­rades, the Matt Cain per­fect game catch and when they told me that I made the team in 2012.

What do you like about liv­ing in SF?

My wife and my kids live here with me. We live re­ally close to the ball­park and re­ally en­joy the city. I like the views of the ocean and bay. I like how any­where you want to go is walk­ing dis­tance and you can take the ca­ble cars. I have fam­ily com­ing— my broth­ers and my dad—and they’re go­ing to walk around and see the city too.

Where will you take your fam­ily?

The first thing for sure is the ball­park. Then the Em­bar­cadero for the views and the walk, Pier 39, the Golden Gate and Bay bridges, the restau­rants and Lom­bard Street. My wife and I did the Ride the Ducks tour and saw the view of AT&T Park from the wa­ter. And Al­ca­traz is awe­some. I’ve been like three times al­ready.

Fa­vorite restau­rants?

There’s one here on Em­bar­cadero called La Mar that’s a re­ally good place. And I love to eat sushi so I al­ways go any­where that I feel is go­ing to be a good sushi place. The food is amaz­ing at al­most ev­ery res­tau­rant here.

Does Venezue­lan cul­ture have a big pres­ence in SF?

There’s some. There are some Venezue­lans that come to the field of­ten and you can see their flags. I’m re­ally proud and I wish I could meet them, but I’m play­ing the game. But I met some in 2012, and we’re still friends and we hang out a lot.

Your broth­ers are Gre­gory and Gregs­man. Why is the name Greg so pop­u­lar in your fam­ily?

My mom made it the name of the house we grew up in, “the Gregs.” Then I had the first son of the fam­ily, of the broth­ers, and we all talked about how we should fol­low the same path that my mom did. So I named my first son Greyner. Then my brother had a son named Greyver. And now I have another son who’s four years old and he’s Gre­gor Jr. Now my wife’s preg­nant with a lit­tle girl and her name’s go­ing to be Gra­cia.

Of all the English speak­ers on the team who has the best Span­ish ac­cent?

I think Vo­gel­song is the one speak­ing a lit­tle bet­ter. He played in Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries a lit­tle bit so he un­der­stands the most. He tries to speak Span­ish and we laugh.

Do your kids play base­ball?

My youngest one is go­ing to be good. He’s only four years old and he has nat­u­ral skills that I’m re­ally im­pressed by. We have a nanny that brings him ev­ery day to bat­ting prac­tice when we have home games. Af­ter bat­ting prac­tice is done, I put him in the cage be­low the dugout and I pitch him 50- 60 balls each day.

How is base­ball in Venezuela dif­fer­ent from base­ball here?

Play­ing in this par­tic­u­lar ball­park and in Venezuela is the same. You feel the fans here. You feel it ev­ery play. You feel ev­ery pitch. But if you go out­side San Fran­cisco, other ball­parks don’t have many peo­ple, it’s not too crowded and you don’t feel the same pas­sion. You feel like you’re do­ing a job, not just play­ing the game. That’s the dif­fer­ence. Over there it’s al­ways packed and ev­ery­body is scream­ing at you. It’s awe­some.

Do you fol­low base­ball on your days off ?

No. Even when I go home af­ter games I don’t watch base­ball. I try to put my mind on some­thing else be­cause it’s not easy. I don’t know how guys do it—all 24 hours base­ball, base­ball, base­ball. I feel like some­times we need to take a break. We spend so much time here that we for­get about things that are im­por­tant for us like fam­ily and time to your­self.

Do the seag­ulls ever get in your way?

No, no [laughs]. Some guys get pooped on and say “Get out of here, I don’t need this right now.” But I don’t let them bother me. For the full in­ter­view, visit where­trav­

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