SAN DIEGO -- For the first time since signing a free-agent contract with the D-backs in December 2019, Madison Bumgarner is returning to a fan-filled Oracle Park, and the left-hander is looking forward to it.
Bumgarner spent 11 years pitching for the Giants. He was drafted by San Francisco in 2007, and he is a big reason why there are World Series championship banners from '10, '12 and '14 displayed at Oracle Park.
When Bumgarner pitched against the Giants in San Francisco in 2020, he did so in a ballpark devoid of fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was not the same.
"It's a special place to me," Bumgarner said. "I played there for a long time and did some pretty cool things there, so I'm excited to go back. Last year I played there, but there were no fans and it was cool to be back there, but a little bit strange at the same time without fans. I'm honestly looking forward to it."
The way the schedule worked out, Bumgarner will not pitch during the series in San Francisco. Instead, he started Sunday's series finale against the Padres, during which he continued his run of recent success by allowing just two runs over seven innings.
"Honestly, if I was pitching, it would be fine," Bumgarner said in an interview with MLB.com. "But I'm glad I'm not. It would just be a lot to deal with it. I'm sure I'm going to pitch there quite a few times in the future, but I'm not upset that I'm not this time."
Bumgarner allowed two runs over four innings against the Giants on Sept. 5, 2020, at Oracle Park. He faced them last week in Arizona and was outstanding, allowing one run over seven innings.
Time marches on and rosters change, but the Giants still have some of the cornerstone pieces of their championship teams. Guys like Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt all played with Bumgarner during those World Series runs.
"It's just strange pitching against the Giants in general," Bumgarner said. "It was strange just pitching against them the other day. I'm always trying to beat whoever's out there, but it's just definitely a different experience. It's not even just with the guys who are still playing -- it's, I don't know, there's something about the uniform in general, the organization. … I mean, even if it were a completely new team of guys, it would still be strange, just seeing the uniform out there that I wore for so long."
The D-backs were hoping to be a playoff team in 2020 after signing Bumgarner, but the team underperformed during the 60-game season and then had a disastrous May and June this year, which team president/CEO Derrick Hall said recently will likely result in a "reset" this offseason.
Already the Arizona roster has gotten younger as the season has progressed and Bumgarner has tried to do his part to help with the learning curve.
One of the biggest things he wants to get across is that the difference between good teams and bad teams is not always that big.
"Not knowing that hurt me as a young player," Bumgarner said. "Because I played on some pretty good teams, and for a long time, the teams with the worst record would just kill me like every time, because I wasn't giving them the credit that they deserve. That's how I figured it out, that there's not that much difference between a team that's 10 games under .500 and a team that's 10 games above .500. It can be very small things."
In 2010, when Bumgarner joined the Giants' rotation, he was just 20 years old, and he learned from the more experienced starting pitchers around him, like Barry Zito, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. Closer Brian Wilson imparted wisdom that Bumgarner still passes on to this day.
Teammates marvel at Bumgarner's ability to notice little details in a game. That's because the intricacies fascinate him, and he is always studying them to try and gain an edge.
"When I first came up, I got the chance to talk to a lot of guys that [have] been around and seen a lot of different things," Bumgarner said. "And that helped to put me on the fast track to learning. That made a big impact on me, so I'd like to be able to teach people and help them learn, because it's the same as I said about the teams earlier, one tiny little deal can change the player you are. It can lead you into going deeper in the rabbit hole of learning and finding more things for yourself. So there's a lot of information that can make a big difference."