Signed by the San Francisco Giants at 16 years old, Pablo Sandoval's career has taken every twist and turn.
The burly third baseman burst on the scene with a .330 batting average and 25 home runs in his first full season as a Giant back 2009, looking like a future star. As the Giants pushed for their first title since moving from New York the next season though, Sandoval only played in one World Series game.
And then he was an All-Star in 2011 and a hero in 2012, becoming the fourth player in MLB history to swat three home runs in one World Series game. He declined the next two seasons, and then left the Bay for Boston, leaving San Francisco with a sour taste in the mouths of Giants fans.
After hitting bottom on the baseball field in Boston, Sandoval returned home last season and has that old smile that made Giants fans love him. While he is far from All-Star form, Sandoval is loving every second and reminding everyone what really made him a fan favorite.
There is no better example than when Sandoval stepped on the mound at AT&T Park in a blowout loss and threw a perfect 1-2-3 inning against the Dodgers on April 28.
"It's one of those things, when you got a new role you have to be prepared for anything," Sandoval said to KNBR on Wednesday. "I come to the field every day early to do a lot of work. That's one of those things that they put on my mind last year when I get here and this year when they said this is gonna be your role.
"It's a challenge for me, so I want to beat those challenges."
Sandoval says it wasn't as hard for him to go from former Fall Classic hero to now a bench player for the Giants as the outside world perceives. He acknowledges he had to grow and believes he's at that point in his life.
"When you go through ups and downs in your career, you learn a lot of things. You have to be more mature to accept things," Sandoval said. "I learned those things in my career. Now I'm here happy, healthy."
Throughout the interview, Sandoval looked to get past questions about his days in Boston and his first rocky breakup with the Giants. To stay more positive, he repeated, "If you're happy playing baseball, keep playing baseball." The Panda looked more than happy showing off his fastball-changeup-curveball arsenal against the Dodgers. Pitching for the first time since he was 11 years old, Sandoval touched 88 mph with his fastball and dropped down to a nasty 69 mph with his curve.
If he touches the mound again for the Giants is a question he and Bruce Bochy can't answer quite yet. But Sandoval made it clear, he's willing do anything for the club that's handed him much more than one chance.
"Like I told Bochy, whenever you need me, I'm going to be there. No matter what. Pitching, catching, short, second, outfield, manager one day, coach, third base... whatever you need me to do, I'm gonna do it."