New dad Belt delivering big hits for Giants

First baseman, who battled injuries during season, coming through in playoffs

New dad Belt delivering big hits for Giants

SAN FRANCISCO -- Brandon Belt recently said that he struggled to see the proverbial "light at the end of the tunnel" while enduring concussion symptoms. That light currently bathes Belt, and has taken the symbolic form of a raging bonfire that has helped the Giants stay hot in the postseason while bringing warmth to his personal life.

Overcoming not only a concussion but also a broken left thumb, the first baseman made his imprint on each of the Giants' three postseason games this year by contributing handsomely to their 2-0 lead in the National League Division Series against the Washington Nationals.

  Date Time Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 3   SF 3, WAS 2 video
Gm 2 Oct. 4   SF 2, WAS 1 (18 inn.) video
Gm 3 Oct. 6   WAS 4, SF 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 7   SF 3, WAS 2 video
Belt drove in three runs with a pair of singles in San Francisco's 8-0 triumph at Pittsburgh in the NL Wild Card Game, went 2-for-4 with an RBI in the Division Series opener against Washington and, most dramatically, drilled an 18th-inning homer to win the Game 2 epic.

"If we're going to go anywhere, he's got to be in there," Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens said.

Belt also wants to make his presence felt away fom the diamond. His wife, Haylee, gave birth to the couple's first child, Greyson Ellis Belt, on Aug. 27.

"I look back on this season, and if you can pick out one bright spot out of it, it was having my kid," said Belt, 26, who relished being around during Greyson's first few days. "You know, being able to take care of him. It puts stuff in perspective as well. I think that is the big thing. You realize that this is not the end of the world. That, combined with what the doctors said, was a huge weight off my shoulders."

Belt referred largely to Dr. Micky Collins, a Pittsburgh-based expert on sports-related concussions. Complaining of blurry vision and headaches, Belt initially visited him Aug. 18. As Belt related, Collins told him that once the vision issues were addressed, everything else would follow. Belt visited Collins once more before returning to action Sept. 17 by drawing a walk in a pinch-hitting appearance.

Belt might have spoiled observers by hitting a go-ahead, two-run homer at San Diego on July 5. That was his second game back after Dodgers left-hander Paul Maholm fractured his thumb by hitting him with a pitch May 9. Returning from the concussion wasn't as easy. In fact, it put him on the disabled list on two separate occasions.

Said Belt, "It is kind of like, 'Is this ever going to get better?' ... It freaks you out a little bit."

But Belt remained driven to rejoin the lineup. And the Giants wanted him in there, but he plainly wasn't ready.

"When he came back, he didn't have the feel at all," Meulens said. "His hand speed was slow."

So Belt devoted a large percentage of his waking hours to hitting.

"I wanted to play against big league competition for a couple of weeks," Belt said. "I knew if I could do that, I would have a strong chance of getting my timing back at some point. I didn't have quite that long. Fortunately, you know, I was in the cage quite a bit. The coaches were helping me out quite a bit."

"Quite a bit" included batting-practice sessions every half-hour during games at whatever indoor batting cage happened to be handy. Sometimes Belt would hit off a pitching machine dialed up to high velocities; sometimes hitting coach Joe Lefebvre or infield coordinator Jose Alguacil would throw to him.

Belt began to show progress in a 13-inning game Sept. 22 at Los Angeles, where he went 2-for-6. The extra at-bats helped. During the regular season's final weekend, Belt went 6-for-12 with two doubles and a homer in four games against San Diego. If he wasn't at his best, he was sharp enough.

"He worked hard," Meulens said. "You have to give him a lot of credit."

Meulens paused before adding, "And, then, who can't get up for these games?"

Chris Haft is a reporter for Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.