Buster Posey has done it all and is likely to do it again
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- How best to describe Gerald Dempster Posey III, better known as "Buster"?
A young man with old-fashioned values? An athlete who has -- except for that home-plate collision -- been in the right place at the right time?
A personality who takes his work as the Giants' catcher seriously, but not himself?
He's the kid off the Wheaties box, outrageously skilled, delightfully modest, who in three seasons has been National League Rookie of the Year, National League MVP, twice on a World Series champion and almost frighteningly cooperative with the media.
He's a small-town Georgia gentleman who looks younger than the 26 he will be at the end of March -- and plays older. He's the leader of a team with notable weaknesses but one overriding strength: a pitching staff that Posey commands.
Posey batted .336 with 24 home runs and 103 RBIs in 2012. He was the first player since Frank Robinson with the 1966 Orioles to win league MVP, a batting title and the World Series. He and two New York icons, Roy Campanella with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1955 and Yogi Berra with the Yankees in 1961, are the only catchers to win the MVP and a World Series in the same season.
When he was awarded the Hank Aaron Award as the best offensive player in the National League in 2012, Posey's reaction was normal -- for him. "Wow, he said, "I'm humbled that Hank Aaron knows who I am."
Giants manager Bruce Bochy, a former catcher, said of Posey: "I can't think of a guy more valuable to a club than Buster is for us."
In 2012, the questions in spring training were how Posey would recover from the broken ankle and torn ligaments incurred in a May 2011 collision at the plate with Scott Cousins, who then played with the Marlins and, as fate would have it, was a Bay Area kid who grew up a Giants fan.
The answers came quickly enough.
Now the question is what does Posey do after he's done almost everything?
"At the end of the day," he said, "I have my own expectations. I try not to worry too much about what others' expectations might be for me or what others write. I have a plan, and I'm going to try and stick to it.
"I'm going to just try and play baseball. One of the silver linings to my injury a couple of years ago was I was able to see the game can be gone quick. I hope I can draw on that experience when there are frustrating times during the season, when I don't feel like getting that lift in, and say, 'Look what I've been through.' Hopefully, I can take that with me the rest of my career and just enjoy the game, enjoy playing baseball."
No financial demands. He is making $8 million this year after $615,000 in the last. And the inevitable eight- or nine-figure multiyear contract is not too far away.
No boasts about his accomplishments. No refusals to journalists when they ask yet again for a few minutes of his time.
"I think it probably has something to do with the way I was raised," Posey said. "I think I understand for the most part people in the media are trying to do a job, and if you treat them with respect, most of the time you're going to get it in return."
As a senior at Lee County High School in Georgia, Posey was 12-0 as a pitcher and hit .462. The Angels drafted him, but he went to Florida State, pitched, played shortstop, eventually caught and won the 2008 Golden Spikes Award, college baseball's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.
The Giants selected him with the fifth pick in the first round of that year's draft. In May 2010, he was in the majors. And a few months later, the Giants were World Series winners for the first time in 56 years.
Still, he's not perfect. The other day he stopped in front of his locker at the Giants' complex and said, "Great. I go out for a run, and I have my shorts on backward. What a dummy."
What a ballplayer.