Aubrey Huff grew up in the Fort Worth area wanting to be a pitcher like Nolan Ryan, only to find out, "I didn't throw very hard."
So he became a slugger and made the majors. Now he's in the World Series with the San Francisco Giants, taking on the Texas Rangers club he grew up rooting for, and he just hit a home run that helped his club win Game 4 on Sunday night and move to the cusp of winning it all.
"It's pretty surreal right now," Huff said.
Huff hit a two-run homer in the third inning for the game's first runs, and all the scoring rookie Madison Bumgarner would need on the way to a 4-0 victory and a 3-1 Series lead.
It was Huff's first postseason home run in 51 at-bats - in his first postseason after 11 years in the majors. Giants manager Bruce Bochy tweaked his lineup and used Huff as the designated hitter instead of at his usual spot at first base, so all Huff had to focus on was hitting.
Rounding the bases, Huff could've thought about the 100 or so games he's attended as a fan at this ballpark and its predecessor. He may have looked for Ryan in the stands or pictured guys like Juan Gonzalez, Rafael Palmeiro, Ivan Rodriguez and Julio Franco trotting home after putting one in the seats. He certainly could have seen his old high school teammates and other faces in the crowd he recognized. They were probably among those chanting "Aubrey! Aubrey!"
Huff, however, has tried to avoid strolling down memory lane this week. He said no to pretty much anyone who asked for tickets - "I'm not going to spend 100 grand on tickets" - and had to skip a lunch reunion with some buddies planned for Sunday afternoon.
"My two kids and my wife got a little sick this morning, so I wasn't going to be able to connect with those guys," he said. "You see so many faces you recognize in the stands during stretching and stuff. But once the game starts, you don't even really realize how many people are out there probably that I went to high school with or what have you."
UPON FURTHER REVIEW: Umpire Jeff Kellogg appeared to have a rough night at first base.
He had two tough calls to make and replays indicated he went 0 for 2. Both went against the Rangers.
In the top of the second inning, he ruled San Francisco's Travis Ishikawa safe on the back end of a double-play attempt. It would've ended the inning.
In the bottom of the sixth, Kellogg ruled Texas' Elvis Andrus out on a double play that ended the inning.
Had either or both been called differently ...
"You never know what would have happened after that, but that's the human nature of calling a ballgame," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "I thought he missed both of them, but there wasn't much you can do about it."
TWIN BILL: With a beer in one hand and a fajita in the other, Baron Atkins enthusiastically explained how he and three pals pulled off the doubleheader of attending a World Series game and an NFL game on the same day.
"It was a pipe dream," he said.
Atkins is among four guys who own season tickets together for the Cowboys, so he already knew he would be spending his Halloween afternoon watching Dallas play the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Then, two weeks ago, one of the other guys snagged four tickets behind home plate for Game 4 of the Series, which also was Oct. 31. The rub, of course, was that the Rangers had to make it.
They did, and the foursome headed out for a sports dude's dream day - and a wife's nightmare.
"Three of us left nine kids at home with our wives trick-or-treating," said Peter Naus, also part of Atkins' group.
Luckily, the ladies were understanding.
"They were behind us all the way, knowing this probably will never happen again," Naus said.
It has happened before, though. And, in every instance, the stadiums were within walking distance of each other.
In 1985, it even happened twice in Kansas City. Games 2 and 7 of the Series between the Royals and St. Louis Cardinals were on the same days as Kansas City Chiefs home games.
Last year, it was even a New York-Philadelphia doubleheader. The Eagles and Giants played, followed by the Phillies and Yankees.
Atkins, Naus and their pals Joseph Whelan and Jeff Chandler arrived at Cowboys Stadium at 7:45 a.m. and began tailgating under a tent, grilling food and sipping beverages. With the Cowboys well on their way to a 35-17 loss, the group headed back to their tent during the third quarter, swapping blue Cowboys gear for red Rangers gear.
LINCECUM'S NEW ROUTINE: Giants ace Tim Lincecum still feels strong this late in the season thanks in part to his new routine between starts.
The two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner tried just about everything during a career-worst five-start losing streak in August, and he has stuck with what worked to get him back on track. The hard-throwing righty tossed 212 1-3 innings in the regular season on the way to 16 wins and has gone 29 more innings this postseason heading into his start in Game 5 of the World Series on Monday night against Texas. It will be the second matchup of Lincecum and Rangers ace Cliff Lee.
Lincecum credits his work between starts to avoiding fatigue so late in the year - the deepest Lincecum has ever pitched as a postseason first-timer. These days, he spends more time maintaining his leg strength and on core work.
"It's been one that's stuck and worked for me," Lincecum said. "Just being that it's new, it's not as tedious and it's exciting. Obviously the nature of the games that we're playing help that. That stuff kind of helped me just ease my mechanics, and it becomes more second nature for me."
DETOUR: Peter Magowan, the Giants former controlling owner, attended the Dallas Cowboys' game against Jacksonville on Sunday before heading across the parking lot to Game 4.
Magowan said he originally was supposed to be on a safari in South Africa this weekend, but because the Giants were in the World Series, he stayed behind while his wife went.
"I was there the last time we won - in 1954, Game 2, at the Polo Grounds," he said.
HAMMERIN' LIKE HANK: Toronto's Jose Bautista and Cincinnati's Joey Votto received the Hank Aaron Award in a pregame ceremony that featured the Hall of Famer.
The award honors the most outstanding offensive player in each league. Voting was done by fans and, for the first time, Aaron's fellow Hall of Famers. The award began in 1999, the 25th anniversary of Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's record of 714 homers.
"I was voted into the All-Star game by the fans, and this is another fan award, so that means a tremendous amount to me," Votto said.
Said Bautista: "It's a great honor to sit here and to be put among the list of recipients of this award."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times