Andrew Vaughn grew up attending Giants games at 24 Willie Mays Plaza.
“I’ve been going there since I was old enough to go to a baseball game,” he said of the facility then called Pac Bell Park and now known as Oracle Park. “Great atmosphere. Tons of special players who were there. It was really cool to have that close to home.”
Vaughn was raised an hour north of San Francisco in Santa Rosa. He played three productive seasons at Cal and now, at age 24, is in his second year in the big leagues with the Chicago White Sox.
On Friday, as the White Sox begin a three-game series in San Francisco, Vaughn won’t merely be a spectator at the ballpark that opened when he was 2 years old.
Vaughn recalls cheering for Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Brian Wilson, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain and the Panda, as fans knew Pablo Sandoval. “Loved Posey,” he said of the recently retired catcher who was pretty much universally loved in the Bay Area.
“The list could go on,” Vaughn said in our interview on Wednesday afternoon.
Two of those childhood heroes — Belt and Crawford — remain with the Giants, although Crawford currently is on the injured list.
“It’s going to be kind of surreal,” he said. “Growing up just an hour down the street and watching ‘em play. Now I get to be on the field playing against them. So it’s pretty cool.”
Vaughn was in the seventh, ninth and 11th grades in the fall of 2010, ’12 and 14 when the Giants captured three World Series in a span of five years. He recalls attending one of the victory parades, although he’s not sure which one.
“Those were phenomenal years to watch . . . special years,” Vaughn said. “They played good baseball and it was definitely fun. A blast.”
Vaughn was just a youngster when Barry Bonds was christening the ballpark, launching balls into McCovey Cove. But he saw him play a few times, and the memories are vivid.
“When you went and watched him hit, the whole stadium shut down,” Vaughn said. “It didn’t matter what was going on, what people were doing. They just stopped. That’s what people came to watch. People were there to see Bonds.”
On Friday, friends and family from the North Bay will be on hand to see Vaughn.
He returns home batting .307 with seven home runs and 33 RBI through 56 games.
As a rookie last season, Vaughn hit .235 with 15 homers and 48 RBI in 127 games.
Plugged in most days at the No. 2 slot in Chicago’s lineup, Vaughn provides versatility, able to play either corner outfield spot, first base or designated hitter. He’s even stepped in at second base for three innings over two games.
But the White Sox drafted Vaughn No. 3 out of Cal in 2019 because of his bat, and he hasn’t disappointed. During a nine-game stretch that ended June 22, he hit a scorching .512 (21 for 41). He has cooled off the past week, but still is hitting .343 over his past 17 outings.
“Just staying simple, staying to my approach. Not trying to do too much,” he said, when asked about the hot streak. “I don’t want to take it out of proportion. Can’t go up there trying to do too much every at-bat.”
Vaughn says he has grown as a hitter since last season, benefiting from seeing pitchers for a second or third time, recognizing how they are coming at him.
“Just being able to take information I have and use it in my at-bats,” he said. “Take every little bit and piece you can without over-complicating it, and using it.”
Vaughn says he remains humbled by being a major leaguer, and has great appreciation for those who helped him along the way.
“Can’t thank them enough,” he said. “You can’t take it for granted, got to take advantage every day, keep working hard and getting better.”
Cover photo of Andrew Vaughn by Kirby Lee, USA Today
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo