SF Giants’ unsung hero wins over Marlins in opening day

SAN FRANCISCO – As Austin Slater’s line drive bounces around the left-field corner, every pair of eyes inside Oracle Park fixates on Darin Roof, the big man losing his way around second base, then back to third. Around, and finally home, the walk scoring—the off run—in the Giants’ Opening Day win.

Everyone in the ballpark was watching Roof, but Roof was zeroed in on the right hand of third-base coach Mark Hallberg, who was spinning like a windmill at hyper speed. As Roof slid into home plate, there was Hallberg, who made it to home plate with the runner he sent for almost the full 90 feet. His curved arms changed the direction of motion “Safe!” Together with home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez.

It was the end of Hallberg’s major league debut as the Giants’ third base coach, earning an unexpected postgame shout-out from manager Gabe Kapler.

“Obviously,” Kapler said, “our third-base coach made an excellent, excellent decision that helped us win the baseball game.”

Hallberg, 36, had been a member of Kapler’s staff the past two seasons, but he made his first opening day job in the third base coaching box in Friday’s 6-5 win over the Marlins. No pressure, the longest-serving member of the Giants’ coaching staff is Ron Votus, who debuted as Dusty Baker’s third base coach in 1998 and finished third in the last five years before stepping back into a special supporting role. But hinting. Season.

Roof relied on the intuition of his first-year third base coach. There was only one thing running through his mind: “Don’t fall,” he said.

Roof prides itself on the finer aspects of base-running, such as making tight turns to take a step or two, but the reality is that last season his sprint speed, 25.9 feet per second, ranked in the 27th percentile leaguewide. Was.

To score from first, everything had to be perfect, with Hallberg’s job packing more pressure at third base as Roof turned to second base.

“There was no spare gear,” Roof said. “The left fielder was well out of line, so I knew when Slater hit the ball, he would have his ways to go to get it.”

Split-second decision making in game-critical situations such as that is unique to third-base coaches in baseball. Prepare and practice as much as you want, nothing can ever be repeated in any game, in front of 40,000 screaming fans, whose outlook on the season depends on this one play.

Hallberg was already 1-for-1, already sending Joey Bart home, on a Bunt of Brandon belt and an impending error from the Marlins in the second inning.

“I was already congratulating Bart for sending him early in the game because he had to make the first close call,” Roof said. “I think that really calmed him down.”

Hallberg, who was born in Saudi Arabia and spent six years teaching there and in Dubai, prepares like an MBA boy, because he does. Had the season started two weeks earlier, Kapler said, Hallberg would have been ready.

As Roof betrayed his third-base coach and watched, he recalled the preparation he saw from Hallberg as he joined Kapler’s staff as a major league assistant in 2020, also Roof’s first year in San Francisco .

“I’ve spent a lot of time with them in cages over the years,” Roof said. “Super smart. Knows the game, knows the conditions, prepares a lot, knows the weapons of the outfielders, things like that.”

Added Kapler: “Mark is a tireless preparer, so if there’s anyone who’s been able to step up and not miss a beat, it’s Mark Hallberg. … He understands the power of opposing outfielders. He’s on the bases. Knows speed. Mark is leaving no stone unturned.”

So, like Roof, Hallberg noticed that Marlin left fielder Jorge Soler was playing well off the line in left field. The ball bounced and rolled around the warning track as Roof headed for third. As he rounded the bag, it was a race between a throw from the roof and cutoff man Miguel Rojas. Roof entered the house and as soon as his companions surrounded him.

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