Sandoval’s climb back to top done with hard work, class 

The extraordinary tale of Pablo Sandoval feels like it just gets more extraordinary at every turn.

Standing at second base after a ground-rule double on baseball’s grandest celebration of its talent — the 82nd All-Star Game earlier this week — Sandoval gave off not a hint of the wild ride his career as a Giant has been so far.
And if the past nine months haven’t squeezed a complaint out of him, I don’t think anything will.

In this age of athletes reducing team sports to a drama all about them — Jose Reyes of the New York Mets comes to mind — Sandoval should be treated with a respect reserved for much older, much wiser major leaguers, like Derek Jeter or Roy Halladay.

Sandoval has officially emerged from his benching during the most exciting run of Giants baseball last fall as the key to the 2011 season. Without a peep.

Not a single complaint has been uttered. Not a single question about the respect he was owed. Nothing.

Just a simple, professional approach to getting back to playing baseball like he did two years ago when he mashed his way through the 2009 season to the tune of a .330 batting average, 25 home runs and 90 RBIs.

Whatever it was that manager Bruce Bochy told Sandoval — not only when he benched him last October, but when he sent him off into the offseason with strict orders to lose weight and get in better shape — instead of growing a chip on his shoulder or adding a crummy attitude, Sandoval put himself through an offseason training program, and earned his spot back at the heart of the Giants’ order.

Sandoval’s mashing resumed in the form of a 21-game hitting streak going into the All-Star break, and a stretch in which he hit in 24 of the 25 games after returning from the disabled list.

Without a single I-told-you-so, not one grumpy tirade about the respect he should have gotten last fall for that outstanding rookie season.

Look back at the images of the Giants celebrating their World Series victory. There was Sandoval right in the middle of the scrum, his smile as big as usual, making it impossible to tell whether he played every inning or was an onlooker from the dugout.

Give Bochy a shout-out, too, for keeping Sandoval positive and part of the Giants, despite the disappointment the Giants’ front office obviously felt regarding Sandoval’s 2010 season.

To watch Sandoval on Tuesday night in Phoenix, you’d never know there’d ever been a blip on his major league radar.

And that’s pretty extraordinary in this day and age of the look-at-me professional athlete.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. Email him at tliotta@sfexaminer.com.

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