KANSAS CITY — Tim Hudson, who has logged more than 3,000 regular-season innings during his 16-year major-league career, couldn’t help but smile sitting at a table marked with his name during World Series media day at Kauffman Stadium on Monday.
"I’m as excited as I’ve ever been," the Giants’ right-hander said. "I’m 39 years old and feeling like a kid out there."
Hudson is appearing in his first World Series after six prior trips to the playoffs without advancing past the division series round. He is slated to start Game 3 against the Kansas City Royals at AT&T Park -- but said the significance will begin to register far earlier.
Hudson said his father and brothers are flying up from Alabama for the games in Kansas City, along with his wife’s parents. As important as the experience is for Hudson, he said it’s equally so for his family, who has "been on this journey as long as I have." When the Giants clinched the pennant in San Francisco and Hudson’s wife, Kim, and three children met him on the field, he said: "I’ve never seen my wife cry so hard in her life."
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"For them to be able to sit in the stands and watch some of these games, to see us finally get here to this stage," Hudson said, "it’s really exciting for me."
▪ Travis Ishikawa, whose walk-off home run in Game 5 of the NLCS sent the Giants into the World Series, had on his table at media day a copy of a Japanese-language newspaper with his picture on the cover -- presented to him, Ishikawa said, by a reporter.
"She said I’m famous in Japan now," Ishikawa said.
Ishikawa said he didn’t have to tell the reporter he couldn’t read the newspaper. At World Series media day in 2010, Ishikawa had at his podium a sign -- written in Japanese by the Giants’ bullpen catcher Taira Uematsu -- that said: "I don’t speak Japanese."
"She goes, ‘Where’s your sign this year?’" Ishikawa said. "I said I was hoping everybody remembered."
▪ Hunter Pence fielded one of the odder questions of media day, when a reporter asked the Giants right fielder why he wears his pant legs pulled up above his knees (other players pull their pant legs up, but between the knee and calf).
"It’s comfortable," Pence said. "I don’t like it tugging at my knee when I’m running. And I just got really comfortable with it, and it feels good."
Pence was then asked if he’s surprised the look hasn’t caught on.
"No, I don’t expect it to catch on, because I know I don’t look good," he said. "I’ve kind of accepted the fact that I’m not going to look that great or graceful when I play the game of baseball. To me, it’s about what’s going to give me the most chance to be at my best."
▪ Royals manager Ned Yost, who grew up in the Bay Area and attended Chabot College in Hayward, said it’s a "special treat" to be facing the Giants in the World Series.
"I bet you I’ve worn out 15 San Francisco Giant hats as a kid growing up," Yost said. "That was my team."
Yost also told a story about getting Vida Blue’s autograph once at the Oakland Coliseum. The set-up: Yost had snuck into the Coliseum early before a game and noticed Blue was throwing in the bullpen. The rest of the story, in Yost’s words:
"I ran down to get his autograph, but I didn’t have anything for him to sign," Yost said. "The only thing I had was a dollar bill. So I asked Vida if he’d sign it for me, and he signed ‘Vida Blue’ on the dollar bill. And I was the happiest guy in the stadium until about the sixth inning, and I got hungry and I spent it on a Colossal Dog.
"The cool thing about it is 20 years later, I was doing a clinic with Vida Blue, and I told all the kids, ‘Vida won’t remember this,’ but I told the story and they all laughed. At the end of the clinic, Vida came up and handed me an autographed dollar bill. So that was cool."
▪ Multiple Royals players cited their win over the Oakland A’s in the A.L. Wild Card game as a pivotal event in their run to the World Series. The win, obviously, kept their season alive. But the way they won -- rallying from four runs down in the eighth inning to win in extra innings -- also had an effect.
"You’re playing with your season on the line and you get behind the eight ball against a guy like (A’s starter Jon) Lester, a proven pitcher in the postseason who’s really become one of the best pitchers in postseason baseball over the last couple years, it’s tough," said the Royals’ Eric Hosmer.
"But you realize your season’s on the line and to come back from a deficit like that, I’m not saying it was easy, but it’s kind of a breeze going into a best-of-five-game series after that."
The Royals still have yet to lose in this postseason. They went on to sweep the Angels in three games in the division series and the Orioles in four games in the ALCS.
"It gave us a lot of confidence after that (wild-card) game," said left fielder Alex Gordon. "The next couple games were extra-inning games too, and I think we didn’t really panic when we got into those games. We’d been in that wild-card game and we knew we could get it done."
▪ Royals outfielder and ALCS Most Valuable Player Lorenzo Cain was asked about the dwindling number of African-American players in Major League Baseball and recalled that in his own experience growing up, "Baseball was just not the first thing for some reason. It’s mostly basketball and football."
How did Cain wind up on the baseball field?
"I actually tried out for basketball and I got cut," he said. "And my mom wouldn’t let me play football. So for me, baseball was it."
▪ Royals set-up man Wade Davis, a converted starter who was dominant this year posting a 1.00 ERA in 71 appearances, attributed his uptick in velocity this year to an interesting source. Davis said that last winter the baseball facility in New York where he works out in the offseason moved to a new location, next to a CrossFit gym. Davis got to know one of the strength trainers at the CrossFit gym and took up the workout regimen.
"It got to a point where after a month or two of doing it I started feeling a difference in everything I did -- the way I walked up stairs, everything started feeling better because I was getting stronger and faster than I ever had been in my life," Davis said.
According to FanGraphs, Davis’ average fastball velocity this year was 95.7 miles per hour -- more than 2 mph higher than any of his previous major-league seasons.
"The first time I started throwing bullpens I could tell the difference then," he said. "Just in my delivery and everything, it was going to be a little easier to repeat, because I wasn’t having as much trouble holding my own weight."
Davis said he was initially worried about the effect of heightened weight training on his joints, but those subsided when he didn’t lose flexibility. He also found out some things about himself.
"I didn’t know how weak I was in a lot of places," he said. "We made a lot of improvements."
▪ Finally, to underscore what is being billed in this series as a contrast in styles. Speedy Royals outfielder Jarrod Dyson was asked whether he would put much time in studying Madison Bumgarner and the Giants’ pitchers for anything that might help out the Royals running game, and he said they have a man on that.
"(First base coach) Rusty Kuntz does his homework on ever pitcher, as far as getting a key where we can steal a base, something like that," Dyson said. "We don’t have to do too much homework. We can go home, get our sleep, knowing Rusty’s doing his job."
Bumgarner, meanwhile, will not be rivaling Kuntz for time spent in the film room.
"I don’t watch a whole lot of video," Bumgarner said of preparing for his Game 1 start. "Actually, I don’t watch any video on guys. I just get myself prepared and ready to go out and make pitches, and try to read the situation and make adjustments when I need to. I don’t want to have one game plan and be stuck in that game plan if it’s not working.
"There is a little bit of scouting that goes into it," he said, "but I’m not a big video guy."