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Ishikawa brings experience, 1 shining moment

Giants hero turned Minors coach uses journeyman career, NLCS homer to inspire prospects
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SAN FRANCISCO -- Shortly after the Giants named Travis Ishikawa as hitting coach for their Rookie-level Arizona League squad, a former teammate of his suggested a handy instructional method.

The ex-player jokingly advised Ishikawa that he could convey whatever he wanted about hitting simply by using a continuous loop to replay video clips of his walk-off home run in Game 5 of San Francisco's 6-3 victory over St. Louis in the 2014 National League Championship Series. The round-tripper propelled the Giants into the World Series, which they won in seven games over Kansas City.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Shortly after the Giants named Travis Ishikawa as hitting coach for their Rookie-level Arizona League squad, a former teammate of his suggested a handy instructional method.

The ex-player jokingly advised Ishikawa that he could convey whatever he wanted about hitting simply by using a continuous loop to replay video clips of his walk-off home run in Game 5 of San Francisco's 6-3 victory over St. Louis in the 2014 National League Championship Series. The round-tripper propelled the Giants into the World Series, which they won in seven games over Kansas City.

Ishikawa, 34, recently admitted that, as time passes, fewer strangers stop to ask him about his milestone homer. He still appreciates receiving the opportunity to break the 3-3 tie and, yes, he acknowledged that it could boost his credibility among Giants farmhands.

"Guys know, 'He came through in a big situation. He ought to know what he's talking about,'" said Ishikawa, who forged Giants history by connecting with Michael Wacha's 2-0 fastball.

Moreover, Ishikawa's homer truly was an example of solid hitting, as replays plainly illustrate. He was relaxed but ready. His swing was quick to the ball and tension-free. It looked as if Ishikawa was trying to do anything but clobber the pitch as far as he did.

It was the highlight of Ishikawa's Major League career, which spanned eight seasons (2006, '08-10, '12-15). The left-handed batter slashed .255/.321/.391 with 23 home runs and 137 RBIs in 488 games, including 334 with the Giants.

After San Francisco selected him in the 21st round of the 2002 Draft, Ishikawa painstakingly advanced through the system. Primarily a first baseman, Ishikawa also spent time in the outfield with the Brewers and Pirates as well as the Giants. San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy trusted Ishikawa enough in left to start him there in 14 of San Francisco's 17 postseason games in 2014.

Former infielder Kevin Frandsen observed that though Ishikawa never was a regular player, he remained a regular guy. This, said Frandsen, should help Ishikawa relate to his pupils.

"One of the things that will always resonate wih me about Travis is that he has zero ego," said Frandsen, a teammate of Ishikawa's in the Majors and Minors who's now a KNBR talk-show host.

Ishikawa's final professional season was 2016, when he divided the season between the Giants' and White Sox Triple-A outposts. The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder hoped to play last year, but his cell phone remained silent.

Ishikawa described his year in limbo by recalling that he occupied himself by "working out, staying ready." As for the next few months, he added, "April and May: working out, staying ready. June: working out, staying ready."

By the All-Star break, Ishikawa began to accept the increasingly real prospect that he would not receive an offer to play baseball, but he wasn't ready to leave the game. A resident of Gilbert, Ariz., Ishikawa contacted Giants general manager Bobby Evans while the organization's top prospects were involved with instructional league in nearby Scottsdale. Ishikawa met with Evans and David Bell, the team's recently hired farm director. A deal was struck.

Frandsen believes that Ishikawa's variety of experiences have prepared him for his new job.

"If you don't have the severe ups and downs like Travis has gone through, I don't think you really learn," Frandsen said.

Said Ishikawa, "I've had that big-time moment, but then I've also been at the bottom. I've been a role player. I've been a pinch-hitter. I've been a defensive replacement. I've been released multiple times. I've struggled in the Minors. I've had success in the Minors. I'm hoping that with all of my experiences in my career, hopefully I can relate to almost everybody that I come in contact or work with."

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

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