Camilo Doval

Giants catching coach survives close call during Doval's new entrance

NBC Universal, Inc.

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants have been waiting months to unveil Camilo Doval's new entrance, a carefully choreographed show meant to take advantage of Oracle Park's upgraded speakers, new LED lights and spotlight capabilities that are a first for an MLB ballpark. Staff members checked in with people close to Doval in the spring and carefully crafted a light show around his music preferences, and then they waited patiently as one night game after another ticked off without an opportunity for the closer to pitch the ninth.

The ballpark operations staff was ready for the moment on Monday night, even though it wasn't a save situation, but one small but significant detail was forgotten. The lights turned off as Doval was getting ready to take the field, but the ballpark went dark just as one last warm-up fastball was coming off Doval's fingertips. That left catching coach Alex Burg 60 feet, six inches away, waiting for one of the game's hardest pitches to arrive in the dark.

In what might be the play of the year for the Giants, Burg caught it cleanly. That allowed him to smile about it a day later, and he said the scary moment is now "funny because I caught it."

"It was a four-seam fastball from Doval, so you have a chance to catch it," Burg said Tuesday. "If it would have been a sinker or a slider I probably would have died. No chance I catch those, because they're so nasty. But the four-seamer stays pretty true, especially in the 'pen. That gave me a little bit better of a shot to catch it."

Burg was wearing a catcher's mask but no chest protector, which could have been a huge issue had the upper-90s pitch hit him squarely in the chest. But he caught a few breaks during an otherwise scary moment. There are some soft lights in the bullpen, which kept it from being completely dark, and Burg also said Doval has great command when he's warming up, hitting the glove over and over.

That might surprise some given Doval's occasional bouts of wildness on the mound, but Burg said he's very consistent in the 'pen. It's funky right-handers Tyler Rogers and Ryan Walker who can make life difficult for bullpen catchers because their stuff is so unorthodox and nasty. 

Rogers and Walker had both pitched already as Doval started warming up, but the other relievers were glued to the closer, knowing that some kind of light show was coming. Fellow right-hander Sean Hjelle said everyone was looking at Doval during that final pitch and some hearts jumped into throats when the lights shut off.

"It was definitely a scary moment," he said. "We all immediately looked at Alex but he caught it perfectly. That was amazing."

The Giants were all able to laugh about it a day later and give Burg some much-deserved praise. Catcher Patrick Bailey smiled, shook his head, and said Burg's catch was the most impressive of the year. Burg even came away with a gift: The Giants gave him a headlamp.  

The pitch-in-the-dark was all over social media, with a lot of mystery surrounding where it ended up and who was on the receiving end. But Burg has been around long enough that he has plenty of friends around the game who knew he was likely the one waiting for a fastball that's hard for hitters to track even in perfect conditions.

The 36-year-old is in his third season on the Giants staff after three years of serving as the run production coordinator with the Texas Rangers. Joining the Giants was a homecoming for Burg, who was taken in the 24th round of the 2009 MLB Draft and played for the San Jose Giants in 2011-12, hitting 24 homers in 172 games. 

Burg said he had about 40-50 messages from friends and former teammates on Tuesday morning, with former Giants coaches Andrew Bailey and Craig Albernaz among those who checked in. 

"I've been messing with all my buddies and going like, 'You can't teach these hands,' " he said, smiling.

Giants general manager Pete Putila also reached out to make sure Burg was okay and assure him that changes would be made so it doesn't happen again. 

"It's the first time they were doing it," Burg said. "I'm sure they were excited to do it. I'm okay with them jumping the gun -- I didn't get hurt, so it's fine."

Overall, the first entrance for Doval was met with positive reviews. The Giants will make some tweaks, though, including being a bit more careful with that last pitch. The plan was always for the lights to go out while Doval was still in the bullpen, allowing the moment to fully build, but nobody anticipated such a close call.

"I knew they were going to do something, but obviously I didn't know when it was going to happen," Burg said. "That was a little bit of a shock that it was right as he was releasing the ball. I thought [the entrance] was really cool. Seeing him come out there with all the lights off -- we've got to work on the spotlight a little bit -- but I thought it was really cool. It was fun to see him go out there and do that."

Download and follow the Giants Talk Podcast

Contact Us