SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The lockers were filled with jerseys, pants, workouts shirts and sweat shirts, socks and belts. Some stalls had cleats lined up at the bottom, others unopened shoe boxes stacked up on the seat. Boxes of bats sat across the top.
The clubhouse inside Scottsdale Stadium didn’t look much different than any other time at the start of spring training, with one exception: The miniature replica of the San Francisco Giants’ World Series banner tacked to an overhang on the ceiling.
One subtle change that said everything about what the Giants accomplished last season and what they’re hoping to this season.
“It’s the first day!” Giants reliever Sergio Romo said on Monday. “Holy cow, it’s the first day!”
San Francisco’s pitchers and catchers reported to spring training on a postcard-perfect day in the desert, readying themselves for their first workout as defending champions the next day.
With dozens of fans lining the entrance, the players trickled in one by one, sharing handshakes and hugs with teammates and club personnel they hadn’t seen in a while.
One group of players gathered for a card game at a round table, others sat around chatting with reporters or clubhouse attendants. Catcher Buster Posey used a utility tool to work the laces on his glove and closer Brian Wilson, his shaggy black beard seemingly taking on a life of its own, was in full intensity mode already, complaining about his lunch being late before heading off for a workout.
Romo practically bounded down the hallway into the clubhouse, patting backs and shaking hands all the way to his locker, where he held an animated discussion about the Twitter page devoted to his beard.
Yeah, these guys are already juiced. And who can blame them? At a time when every team has the optimism that comes with spring, the Giants have the extra bounce of knowing they’re the defending champs and have nearly everyone back.
“It’s going to be crazy here for the next couple of days,” Posey said.
The Giants had a wild offseason that started with a victory parade through downtown San Francisco and ended with a fan event just over a week ago at AT&T Park that drew about 40,000 fans and many more who had to be turned away.
The Giants deserve it after what they accomplished last season.
Its roster filled with misfits and other teams’ unwanted, San Francisco came together at just the right time down the stretch of the regular season, clinching its first NL West crown since 2003 on the final day. The Giants then dispatched the Phillies in the National League Championship Series and took down Texas in five games to win their first World Series since 1954 — four years before moving cross country.
“What we did last year, we were just playing games, having fun with each other, never thinking this would happen,” Romo said. “Everything kind of fell into place, but we were just having fun.
So, yeah, I’m extremely excited.”
It’s easy to see why.
San Francisco has nearly its entire roster from last season intact, losing World Series MVP Edgar Renteria and utility infielder Juan Uribe, but gaining veteran Miguel Tejada.
Third baseman Pablo Sandoval lost some of his waistline through a rigorous offseason workout regime in hopes of shaking the funk he went through in 2010. Wilson kept growing his unusually dark and scraggily beard, hoping to keep up the mojo it gave him the last half of the season.
Other than that, there weren’t a whole lot of changes.
San Francisco still has ace Tim Lincecum and that deep pitching staff. Posey is looking to build on his NL Rookie of the Year season. NLCS MVP Cody Ross is still here, too, as are fellow outfielder Pat Burrell and first baseman Aubrey Huff.
Lefty Barry Zito also comes back hoping to regain the form that earned him the 2002 AL Cy Young Award with Oakland and infielder-outfielder Mark DeRosa returns after playing just 26 games due to a lingering wrist injury that eventually required surgery.
They’re all back together, hoping to prove last season wasn’t a once-in-52-years fluke.
“After what we were able to do last year, I wanted to be back hanging with the boys,” left-hander Jonathan Sanchez said. “It’s fun to get together for practice, in the bullpen and joke around, have a good time.”
They’ve already started.
(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)