SAN FRANCISCO – The Giants received a surprise visit Wednesday morning from Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant, who appeared he might have to duck to fit his 6-foot-9 frame into their dugout.
The Thunder are in town to play the Warriors on Thursday night, and with a day off in the Bay Area, Durant paid his first visit to AT&T Park.
The three-time NBA scoring champion said he tried playing baseball as a high school junior. He was a 6-foot-9 first baseman but knew his future was on the hardwood.
Could he hit a curve ball?
“I didn’t hit any ball,” he quipped.
Durant chatted in the dugout with another first baseman, Brandon Belt, who played baseball as a kid with one of Durant’s University of Texas teammates, Damion James.
Durant also looked forward to watching “my man Buster.”
“I just like his intensity,” Durant said of the Giants’ catcher. “That’s what I look at with guys now. I know they can play. I just look at the mental part of their game. I could learn a lot from guys like that.”
Durant, who grew up in Maryland, said he’s a big Washington Nationals fan but added that he also roots for the Giants.
“Seeing these guys win the World Series, that road they took,” he said, “you can kind of take some things from them and put it into your game. Being down, how they came together as a team.”
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said there’s also lessons for his team to learn from other sports.
“I’ll go back to the playoffs, we did talk about (other teams),” Bochy said. “Being down 0-2 to the Reds, teams that had come back. You have to keep believing. There’s been a lot of teams going against all odds.”
Bochy added that he’s a big fan of Durant’s game. It turns out the manager’s first love growing up was basketball.
“My dad built me a basketball court,” Bochy said. “I lived in North Carolina, so that’s what you did.”
He turned his attention to baseball after getting cut from his junior high basketball team. Those memories are still vivid.
“I thought for sure I made the club,” Bochy recalled. “I was pretty cocky but I was a pretty good basketball player. I got cut, and I was devastated. That was the end of my basketball career. That was back when they put outside the gymnasium (the names of those) who made the team. There’s no worse feeling for a young kid to look up, especially when think for sure you made the club, and you’re not on it.”
Chatting with Durant gave Belt something to take his mind off his hitting struggles. After a torrid spring in which he hit .410 with eight home runs, Belt entered Wednesday’s game against Colorado hitting just .091 and without a single RBI.
He did line a single to center in his first at-bat Wednesday.
“For the most part I feel pretty good,” he said before the game. “It’s more about pitch selection. You have your good at-bats (when you get) good pitches to swing at. When you start getting out of that practice a little bit, you make it a little harder on yourself.”
Pablo Sandoval was out of Wednesday’s lineup. Bochy said Sandoval still feels some after-effects from the inflamed nerve in his right elbow that bothered him at the start of the season, but that Sandoval’s day off was more a precaution than anything. Joaquin Arias played third in his place and had an RBI single in the Giants’ two-run first inning against Rockies lefty Jeff Francis.