September 01, 2011
Many expected San Francisco Giants rookie Brandon Belt(notes) to receive his share of honors in 2011. In fact, yours truly sat on what appeared to be a secure limb to predict he would take home the NL Rookie of the Year.
That's not going to happen. For whatever reason, manager Bruce Bochy and company never really got behind Belt or the idea of giving him significant big league playing time until being absolutely forced to by mounting injuries. And honestly, even if he had played consistently, the respective performances of Atlanta Braves rookies Freddie Freeman(notes) and Craig Kimbrel(notes) would have made it extremely difficult for Belt to steal away votes.
So, while Belt won't be taking that hardware home, he was given an honor this week that very few others can claim.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that a baby male giraffe born at the Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is Vallejo, Calif., on Friday was named Brandon, as a tribute to Belt and his freshly minted nickname of "Baby Giraffe."
It was none other than Giants play-by-play man Duane Kuiper, the same man who coined the phrase "torture" to describe Giants baseball during the championship season in 2010, who labeled Belt as such after witnessing his first awkward moments in the outfield after switching from first base.
"First fly ball in the outfield in Milwaukee," Kuiper said. "He looked like he just fell out of the mama giraffe."
And so the nickname was born from Belt's lack of elegance, and it has since grown in popularity much the same way Pablo Sandoval's(notes) Kung Fu Panda moniker did back in 2008. In fact, one fan was seen wearing a giraffe hat to a recent home game. Another sent Belt a giraffe made of ivy and moss to place in his locker. And now comes the ultimate honor of having an animal named after you.
"As we like to say, it came out of left field," Nancy Chan, the animal park's communications manager, was quoted as saying. "The Giants called us about setting something up with Brandon Belt and our giraffes and we just so happened to have one born, so we decided to name it after him."
Since the naming was made official, it has been reported that the two Brandons will meet privately at some point in the next week.
Why privately, I don't know, but if the giraffe is already shying away from the media, perhaps they should have named him after Aubrey Huff(notes) or another member of the Giants' struggling offense that didn't stick around to answer questions on Monday night.
Other interesting notes about Brandon the baby giraffe: Already standing at 6-foot-2, he's just three inches shorter than his baseball namesake. At full height he's expected to reach 18-feet tall, with a 7-foot neck.
He's also being brought along by his mother, Makali, much quicker than the Giants have brought along Belt. Less than 24 hours after his birth, Brandon was seen testing his legs, developing his galloping skills, and there's one unconfirmed report he even took a few grounders. Maybe by Belt's 24th birthday next April, the Giants will be ready to let him play every day at his natural position, and even swing at a 3-0 pitch every now and then.