Panda Express: Crashing Pablo Sandoval's Entertaining Gig on Giants TV Show

Categories: Media, Sports
Inside the clubhouse 105.JPG
Joe Eskenazi
Giants slugger Pablo Sandoval and his new mohawk 'do
After taking in yesterday's taping of Inside the Clubhouse -- which really is taped in the San Francisco Giants' clubhouse -- I'm left with two sparkling memories:

  • Team hitting coach Hensley "Bam Bam" Meulens pointing at outfielder Nate Schierholtz and telling the crowd, with a straight face, "You don't see it, because he has clothes on -- but he's a very strong guy."
  • Budding superstar Pablo "Kung Fu Panda" Sandoval saying ... something. Anything. God help me, I couldn't understand 70 percent of what he said. Didn't matter. He was great.
Last night's taping will air on CSN Bay Area at 6:30 p.m. on February 10. The overflowing and enthusiastic audience members -- all decked out in black-and-orange caps, jackets, shirts, shoes or all of the above -- were season-ticket holders; this is one of the complimentary perks that comes with plunking down for those. Your humble narrator likes to look through AT&T Park's right field fence from time to time and twice managed to sneak six bottles of beer into the ballpark. I am no season ticket-holder. So it was only via a generous benefactor that I managed to watch yesterday's taping. 

I'm not going to ruin the show for you, but I will say this: Sandoval -- whose girth earned him the "Panda" nickname -- appears to have worked his way from chunky to beefy. While the rest of his colleagues appear to have gotten the memo that suit jackets and dress shirts with no tie is the way wealthy young men dress these days, Pablo showed up wearing a hoodie, two shiny earrings, and what could only be described as a Latino faux-hawk. Didn't matter. He was great.

He humorously described his efforts to make his mother back in Venezuela stop feeding him so much ("It's not you, ma! It's for my career!"). When asked what made mom's lasagna the best in the world, he noted "It's the love." This got a huge laugh. Maybe you had to be there.

Listening to Meulens, meanwhile, I decided I could enjoy hearing him talk about anything. Situational hitting, theoretical physics, horticulture -- it doesn't matter. He came off as cerebral and thoughtful, and had an unhurried way of speaking. The team's hitting coach hails from Curaçao and speaks five languages (English, Spanish, Japanese, Dutch, and Papiamento); his accent is subtle and pleasing to the ear. Yet every once and a while he'll say something jarring; the word "ideas" came out as "idears."

Intriguingly, Meulens claims he played in every professional league except Taiwan's; He suited up in the American Majors and Minors, played in Japan, then Korea, and finished up in Mexico. What's more, he noted, he was the first man to play in all four winter leagues: In the Dominican, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Mexico. "There was a big writeup when I got to Mexico, the fourth," he said matter-of factly.

Inside the clubhouse 097.JPG
Joe Eskenazi
They aren't joking about the title of the show Inside the Clubhouse
During the taping of an in-house TV show within the team's locker room, you wouldn't expect to see any obvious fissures. And we didn't. But it'll be interesting to see how Meulens and his star hitter, Sandoval, get along as the season progresses. Giants hitters are famously impatient, while Meulens preaches patience. Sandoval has a reputation of swinging at any ball between his nose and his toes. Meulens would rather he didn't. Sandoval gleefully shouted "That's it! That's the one!" when a questioner from the audience asked him if his hitting philosophy was "See ball, hit ball." He said he hasn't set any benchmarks for himself at all this season -- other than the ludicrous statement he'd like to steal 20 bases. He apparently doesn't really employ any sort of strategy whatsoever and just relies on his natural and prodigious talent.

Meulens, on the other hand, couldn't have come off as more methodical. He claimed that, every day during his 17-year professional career, he wrote in a journal. He still has these journals. They're organized meticulously. "I have 17 agendas from my 17 years," he said. "Any day of any year I can tell you what I did that day." When he told a questioner he was working 10 to 12 hours a day, it was hard to imagine him taking 12 to 14 hours off.

Well, it's easy to see who's Felix and who's Oscar here. But this isn't a roommate situation; it's a superstar-coach relationship. Hopefully, if Sandoval hits .330 with 25 home runs again, everything should be fine. But the oft-disappointed Giants fan in me has an idear that there could be some friction down the road.

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