The Giants dugout is more crowded this spring. That's by design (2024)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The San Francisco Giants are making an early statement this spring. By standing silently at attention.

All 68 players in major-league camp. Plus all the coaches. The trainers and batboys, too.

The entire Giants contingent is crowding the field for the national anthem, their orange hats forming a dotted line like construction cones stretching well past the end of the dugout and halfway to the next mile marker. The relievers and bullpen catchers do not remain hidden behind chain link, either. They file through the bullpen gate and stand in a line on the warning track, too.


This isn’t because of a sudden surge of patriotism, or any political reasons, say manager Bob Melvin and the Giants players. This isn’t because of a league-wide mandate. This is because it’s how Melvin wants it.

“It shows that we’re ready to play,” Giants infielder Wilmer Flores said. “That’s the message we want to send to the other team. Even if you’re not playing, you’re engaged. You’re there to watch the game. It’s definitely something he wanted us to do. We’re here to play, right? I think it’s good. It doesn’t mean you’ll have a good result this season. But it’s a good way to start.”

It’s a notable change from previous seasons under former manager Gabe Kapler, who announced in the wake of the school shootings in Uvalde, Texas, in May 2022 that he would decline to stand on the field when the anthem is played. Kapler later stood on the baseline for the anthem on Opening Day last season, and on occasions when there were pregame introductions that required the team’s presence on the chalk lines. But under Kapler’s rules, the anthem was a “no wrong answer” situation. Players were encouraged to do whatever they found most comfortable and convenient. As a result, the contingent of Giants players on the field for the anthem most days amounted to a handful: the starting position players already on the field to run sprints and the coaches who happened to be out early.

Now, under Melvin, full participation is required.

“It’s all about the perception that we’re out there ready to play,” Melvin said. “That’s it. You want your team ready to play and I want the other team to notice it, too. It’s really as simple as that.”

Melvin informed the players of the new policy before the first exhibition game, along with a few other rules. Players who aren’t participating in the day’s exhibition game are required to stay and watch for a set number of innings based on service time. Players in their first big-league camp are required to stay for the entire game. As a result, the Scottsdale Stadium dugout is more body to body than Tokyo’s Yamanote Line at peak travel times. Logan Webb, after exiting his first exhibition start on Sunday, joked that he had so many high fives to dole out that he turned them into “group fives.”

How many players can you fit in a dugout 🤔

— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) February 24, 2024

“I think it sets the example of hey, we’re in this together,” said Giants outfielder and team union representative Austin Slater. “Whether you’re not playing that day or you’re a starting pitcher who threw yesterday, you’re still out there, on time, ready to be a good teammate. Once the anthem starts, we’re locked in on the game as a unit. There’s an inherent respect level, and not only to the older guys, but to your entire team. You’re there to be supportive. The other big part, and this might be the biggest, is you’re staying and watching the game and learning from the game. I think that’s important.”


Especially for a team that expects to rely on a ton of young players.

“That’s why one of (Melvin’s) priorities is to get them exposed to the game, to watch it and learn from it,” third baseman J.D. Davis said. “There’s no better way to learn the game than by watching it. I’m not saying anyone is entitled in here or thinks that they shouldn’t be on the line, but over the course of spring training, the importance of continuity might not compare to wanting to work out or get extra work on a back field. You can still do that. But the rule is you have to stay till the third or fourth inning or whatever the case may be to do your work.

“The big change is that when the Giants line up to play the game, all the Giants are lining up to play the game. That’s what I love about it.”

The rules are new to the Giants in 2024. But they are not brand new. Most teams operate with some variation of spring training attendance rules. Slater said Kapler’s decorated predecessor, Bruce Bochy, had similar rules during his managerial tenure.

“It just might feel like a stark contrast to what we had before,” said Slater, “which was no rules if (we) weren’t playing.”

The Giants became so adrift last season that perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that players have been enthusiastic about intentional measures to create more team unity without getting too draconian. Perhaps it’s a harder balance to strike for this generation of younger players, many of whom grew their skills in a silo with their own coaches, their own data-capturing equipment, and developed their own methods and routines. For players like Davis and Michael Conforto, who cycled through five hitting coaches in five seasons with the Mets, it becomes all too easy to look after yourself and figure out what you need to be ready to play.

“It’s not about blaming anybody,” Davis said. “That’s just the way this game is sometimes.”


The message from Kapler and his 16-member coaching staff the past three seasons was that players will be trusted to get ready to play, that they will have every resource provided to them to get ready to play, and that “eyewash,” or going through the motions, would be kept to a minimum. Nobody took issue with how the players individually tailored their preparation in 2021, when the Giants won a franchise-record 107 regular-season games under Kapler. But when success didn’t follow over the past two middling seasons, the murmurs began.

“I think a kind of ‘fend for yourself’ type of atmosphere somehow fell into place,” outfielder Mike Yastrzemski said in the season’s final weekend last September, after Kapler had been relieved of duties. “I don’t know where it came from, but it kind of took over where everybody felt like they could do their own thing and it made it feel like there wasn’t an entire group effort or a sense of unity. When you look at successful brands and successful teams, they have unity in a common goal. And I think that we need to refocus on that and to generate a very narrow window of where all of our eyesight should be.”

The players made efforts at times over the past two seasons. Former third baseman Evan Longoria set up a batting practice competition prior to games in one series at San Diego in 2022, ostensibly so he could extract the position player group out of their cage routines and get them out on the field to hit together. The rookie dress-up day last September was especially well done and featured players wearing every Ken outfit from the “Barbie” movie.

But it’s the result on the field that matters. So to Melvin’s mind, there’s no better time to show a unified front than just before the first pitch. And, Melvin said, he would feel that way regardless of what happened before his arrival.

“A lot of things I’m doing aren’t an indictment on something that didn’t happen before I was here,” said Melvin, who had similar rules at his previous managerial stops. “It’s just what I like to see. They’ve embraced it, I think. The group is out there and we’re ready to go.”

It’s a policy that Melvin wants to carry over to the regular season. He’s aware that it’ll be a little trickier to get full participation for the anthem once the games begin to count. Relievers often steer clear of the trainer’s room and weight room so position players can prepare for the game, then do their work in the slice of time before the first pitch. Starting pitchers often congregate in the bullpen to watch their rotation mate warm up in preparation for that night’s assignment. But the expectation is that everyone who can be out there standing at attention will be out there standing at attention.

What happens if a player isn’t comfortable standing? What if he prefers to take a knee, as former Oakland A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell did while playing for Melvin in 2017? Or as Slater and Yastrzemski did, along with Kapler, in response to racial injustice and police brutality following the killing of George Floyd in 2020?


“We haven’t addressed it,” Slater said. “… I think you’d still have the right to do that. But that’s not what this is about. It’s more about being ready to play every game.”

Will it make an impact?

“Ummm,” Slater said. “Ask me in October.”

(Photo of a crowded Giants dugout watching Otto López’s ninth-inning home run on Saturday: Allan Henry / USA Today)

The Giants dugout is more crowded this spring. That's by design (2024)


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