The Giants’ Gregor Blanco on Baseball and San Francisco
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.
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 wheretraveler.com