When he came up in 2011, Brandon Belt was nicknamed "Baby Giraffe" because San Francisco Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper said he played the field awkwardly, as though he had just fallen out of his mama. At 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, Belt got his feet under him during his second season; his numbers improved and he helped the Giants win the World Series.
Now at age 24, Belt seems poised to get a full return on his talent, which was highlighted in the minor leagues with a .343 batting average and 1.052 OPS. No matter what he produces on the field, Belt already can demonstrate a wide range of talents and interests off it, as he discussed during an Answer Man session after a Giants spring training practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.
David Brown: When you were coming up through the Giants system, I remember seeing the name “Brandon Belt” and thinking, “That’s one of the coolest baseball names ever.” Is your good name how you got to the majors?
Brandon Belt: Back in high school, some of my friends’ parents started a whole “Belt-ed outta here!” thing, and that’s when it started to catch on a little bit. Maybe it is a little baseball-appropriate.
Brown: Now that you’ve had success in winning a World Series, have belt companies come forward and tried to get you to endorse their belt products? Like a company that specialized in bejeweled, Elvis-looking belts. “Here, Brandon, wear this for us.”
BB: No, not yet. But it somebody wanted me to do it, I’d be willing to do start something. You definitely have some people on Twitter — there’s these two girls in Los Angeles, every time I go there — they have these belts and they put “Brandon’s Belts” on the front of them and they handed me one. I still have it.
Brown: Some of the writers said you mentioned this morning your prowess in the swimming pool, that nobody ever beat you in a race in the Nacogdoches (Texas) community pool. What’s that all about?
BB: I think we were talking about when the Olympics were going on, what sports you would compete in, and I said swimming. In all of the races I’ve had at the Nacogdoches Community Pool, I’ve never lost at all. I’m actually pretty good it. If baseball’s not working out for me, it may be something I actually look into.
Brown: How do we measure the level of competition in Nacogdoches?
BB: I’d say it’s pretty good. But it goes beyond Nacogdoches. I’m talking about any race I’ve ever done, ever. I’ve never lost. I think, if anyone wants to challenge me …
Brown: Michael Phelps?
BB: Yeah, I’m down. We can get in the pool and go after it, see what happens.
Brown: So you’re a big Olympic swimming watcher on TV?
BB: Meh, not really. Swimming’s just something I’ve always liked to do. I got these big ol’ feet, they’re like flippers, so I can get through the water a little bit faster.
Brown: I see you wore cowboy boots to practice today. Those are enormous.
BB: Yup, size 15s. Those are from Cavender’s in my home town of Lufkin.
Brown: Does having flippers go hand in hand (or foot in foot) with the giraffe comparisons?
BB: Yeah, that’s part of it. When you go out there and look a little bit awkward doing stuff. Sometimes, I kind of look like a newborn animal out there, trying to get my legs under me. It does sort of go hand in hand.
Brown: Have you seen your baby giraffe named Brandon lately, and what’s it up to?
BB: Yeah, I haven’t seen him since last summer. I don’t know what it’s been up to; it’s been growing like crazy. He’s a cool dude, got a good personality. He’s fun to hang around. As soon as we get back to San Francisco, I’ll definitely try to get out there and see him.
Brown: A fan told me he’s in CC Sabathia’s hometown of Vallejo, Calif.
BB: Yeah, that’s right.
Brown: So does Sabathia’s family take care of it while you’re off playing ball?
BB: Umm, I’m not sure about that. I think they basically just let him roam around and do whatever he wants to. I know they have him caged in sometimes so they let some of the fans see him. And that’s pretty cool. And they have a sign up there with his picture and my picture right next to each other. It’s kind of cool to see people go interact with that.
Brown: Is that how you were raised by your parents?
BB: Pretty much. They put me in a pen somewhere and let me run around as much as I wanted to. I think I was a little wild and crazy but they tamed me a little bit.
Brown: If you resemble a baby giraffe chasing a pop up, what is Hunter Pence like in right field?
BB: Probably like a ferret. Ferret’s probably the best way to describe him. He can kind of get anywhere he needs to, wherever the nooks and crannies of the outfield are, he can make his way over there and sneak in.
Brown: He does like to make divots out there.
BB: He does. He makes a lot of divots, but he just gets to the ball. It doesn’t matter how it looks, he just gets there. That’s the most important thing.
Brown: It was also mentioned this morning that Roger Federer is your hero. How did that happen?
BB: Other than baseball, I probably like watching tennis the most on TV. I kind of like Federer’s demeanor. The guy goes out there, doesn’t show too much emotion, he just gets the job done and walks back into the clubhouse. So that’s who I look up to the most, as far as tennis goes.
Brown: Are you like that on the baseball field?
BB: Eh, kind of. I’m not as dominant on the baseball field as he is on the tennis court.
Brown: I meant more your emotions.
BB: Yeah, exactly. I’m kind of like that. I don’t show a lot of emotion, I just kind of go out there and do what I have to do and, when we’re done, do it all the next day.
Brown: Do you have the “RF” Roger Federer hat.
BB: I should probably get that, if that’s my hero. It’ll be the next purchase I make.
Brown: Fantasy baseball question.
BB: Yeah, go ahead.
Brown: What can owners expect from you as far as numbers?
BB: I’ll probably hit about 50 home runs, 120 RBIs [laughs].
Brown: In that ballpark. C’mon, Roger. I mean Brandon.
BB: I’ve always been a guy who’s been able to drive in runs. I don’t know how that plays in fantasy baseball. I think that’s what they can expect from me. Hopefully with the consistency over the entire year, I’ll drive in a lot of runs. Produce a lot of runs. I’m a little sneaky on the bases, so I’ll steal a few bases here and there. And hopefully hit for average.
Brown: Oh, really? Like maybe 10 or 15 [steals]?
BB: I think I had about 10 or 11 last year. I think I can get more than that this year. I don’t know what’s going to happen, if the coaches want me to or will let me run a lot. Like I said, I get a little sneaky out there. People don’t pay attention to a big, lanky first baseman over there. So if I can take an extra base, why not?
Brown: Sometimes you’ll play left field and Buster [Posey] will play first base. You give him any tips on playing first base or does he know everything?
BB: No, I just let him go over there. He knows everything about the game of baseball. Every now and then he might come over and ask me a question and if I have time I’ll talk to him a little bit. Other than that, I just let him go.
Brown: Should the Giants break off their own country and start a World Baseball Classic team? You guys are sending so many players to it.
BB: I think so. I think we’re also playing one of the teams this [spring] season so we’ll see where we stack up against them. So, yeah, might as well. We’re sending a whole bunch of players. Let’s get it started and see what happens.
Brown: You haven’t been asked to play for the WBC, have you? Disappointed in that?
BB: Wellllllll, I didn’t really sign up for it last year [laughs].
Brown: You have to sign up for it? You’re not drafted for it?
BB: Well, they tell you if you want to do it, you have to fill out this form on the internet. I never did that, I didn’t think twice about it. Maybe in a few years, if I’m good enough, I can try out next time.
Brown: There’s some guy walking around in here pretending to be Tim Lincecum. Really, he looks like the actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt. What do you make of this guy, this impostor?
BB: I like his new hairdo. I’m a fan of the short-haired Lincecum. I think it’s symbolic of turning over a new leaf. He’s starting over so he can go out there and shove it again.
Brown: Does anyone have to grow their hair long to compensate for what is missing?
BB: I think Angel [Pagan] is going to keep his growing all season. That might compensate a little bit. You definitely have to have a couple — not just one — grow their hair out a little bit. I don’t think you’ll see that from me anytime soon. But you might see a couple in here.
Brown: Do you think you’re starting something fun with Matt Kemp that, the first time you play the Dodgers and he sees you at first base, he’s going to dump a beaker of something on your head. “There’s chemistry for ya’, buddy!”
BB: You know [laughs], I’m not sure about that whole thing. I think that was … uh …
Brown: It’s the media’s fault?
BB: Not necessarily. It’s just that I didn’t realize what I was doing when I said it.
BB: I was talking to a group of Giants fans. I wasn’t actually taking to the media. So I wasn’t necessarily calling anybody out.
Brown: You’ve heard of Twitter, though.
BB: Absolutely. And I understand how it can be taken that way, with the whole rivalry and everything. But that’s definitely not what I was doing. I wasn’t trying to call anybody out or start anything. I like to stay under the radar as far as that goes. If I wanted to be known for something, I would hope it would be from on the field and not from something I said.
Brown: So you’re going to give Matt Kemp a big hug when you see him at first base.
BB: Yeah, I would like to do that. I’m a hugger. I like to hug it out. I’m not a big loudmouth or anything. If that’s what’s in the cards for us, then we’ll definitely do it.
Brown: Have you seen Brian Wilson lately and is he living in his own beard?
BB: I have not seen Brian Wilson lately. I assume he’s rehabbing. I hope he still has the beard, for sure. He’s the kind of guy that makes the clubhouse a little more fun than it already is.
And anytime you can have a guy like him come back and, kind of, relieve the tension in high-pressure situations. Plus, he has a little shag going and the huge beard would compensate for Lincecum’s hair.
Brown: What was it like to present Carrie Underwood with her big award at ... what was the name of that awards show you and Barry Zito went to?
BB: The American Country Awards. Yeah, it was pretty awesome. I didn’t know what to expect but I got there and got a little kiss on the cheek and it’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
Brown: I want to ask this, and I don’t mean to sound dirty when I ask it, but … What does she smell like?
BB: It’s funny because I was so nervous that I didn’t really think to take a sniff. Her hair did get in my mouth a little bit and it tasted like oranges.
BB: It tasted like oranges. That’s what I got for you on that.
Brown: Did Zito put you up to doing some singing to impress her? Because I’ve heard about your karaoke adventures.
BB: Yeah, that’ll never happen in public. That’s definitely something I’d like to do in the privacy of my own apartment, or maybe in front of my friends and family. But it’ll never happen in front of … people.
Brown: When I interview people from Texas sometimes, you can’t tell they’re from Texas. But I hear your twang a little bit. Good country music twang. But like with Josh Beckett, no sign of a Texas accent— you don’t know where he’s from.
BB: That’s because I’m a redneck. I’m from the country. Most of them are probably from the city. I’m from the backwoods. So we got a little more twang in our voices.
Brown: So you would consider this interview “public” and wouldn’t consider singing a few bars of “Feel Like Makin’ Love” or the tune of your choice?
BB: It’s not in my apartment though. Maybe if you came there.
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Previous Answer Men (and Woman):
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2009 • Shane Victorino • Carlos Pena • Jay Bruce • Joe Nathan • Joe Maddon • Joakim Soria • Joey Votto • Tom Glavine • Adrian and Edgar Gonzalez • Chris Volstad • Paul Konerko • Edwin Jackson • Mark DeRosa • Tim Lincecum • Dave Righetti • Pedro Martinez • Denard Span • Cal Ripken
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2008 • Hunter Pence • Justin Morneau • David Wright • Erin Andrews • Andy Van Slyke • Derek Jeter • Bob Uecker • Bert Blyleven • Torii Hunter • Joba Chamberlain • Larry Bowa • Zack Greinke • Kerry Wood • Huston Street • Josh Hamilton • Milton Bradley • CC Sabathia • Mike Mussina • Jason Bay • Cole Hamels • Ron Santo • Francisco Rodriguez • Ryan Dempster • Evan Longoria