SAN FRANCISCO -- Brandon Belt watched the 2010 postseason at a house in Tempe, Ariz., where he had nightly cookouts with Charlie Culberson and Conor Gillaspie. Belt will start at first base on Saturday night.
Brandon Crawford watched Game 2 of the World Series at AT&T Park, but the lifelong Giants fan was on the couch for the rest of the 2010 run. Crawford will start at shortstop on Saturday night.
Hector Sanchez watched while playing in the Dominican Republic. He could start Game 3 or Game 4, and is one of manager Bruce Bochy's most trusted pinch-hitters off the bench.
They're three of the Giants' youngest position players, and they're a big reason why the team will host Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Saturday night against the Cincinnati Reds.
"They've been huge for us," Game 1 starter Matt Cain said. "You can't always rely on the veteran guys. It's big to have guys like that, and this is going to be a huge confidence builder and great for them as they go down the road."
The road to a first postseason roster wasn't an easy one for Belt, Crawford or Sanchez.
Belt, 24, spent parts of two seasons trying to get consistent playing time, and often would follow a tantalizing stretch with a long slump. He hit just .186 in July, but something clicked after a brutal road trip through Atlanta and Philadelphia. Belt had a .888 OPS (on-base plus slugging) in August and raised that number to .897 in September.
"I feel locked in right now," Belt said. "To be a part of this (National League West title) is a feeling I can't explain. Sometimes you can feel like you're not part of it, but here we have been. Hopefully we're a big factor."
Crawford always was meant to be a big factor on this team. The Giants locked him in as the shortstop over the offseason and didn't waver when Crawford, known for his glove, struggled defensively in the first half.
Manager Bruce Bochy approached him with a short message: "You're still our guy."
Crawford, 25, rebounded and became a leading Gold Glove candidate, while also improving at the plate. He hit .300 over his final 43 games.
"The growth we've seen from him is what you're hoping for," Bochy said. "What's impressive about this kid is that he really showed he has a lot of mental toughness. He put his big boy pants on, as we say, and got after it. He's become one of the best shortstops in the game."
For Crawford, who was born in Mountain View and grew up in Pleasanton, this journey carries extra meaning. He has always hoped to win a World Series with the Giants, and will have family spread throughout the seats at AT&T Park.
"Growing up a Giants fan, this is just a dream come true," Crawford said. "This is always where I wanted to be and how I imagined it."
Sanchez didn't imagine this moment for a simple reason: He never thought he would make it this far, this fast. The 22-year-old was a surprise choice for the Opening Day roster but hit .280 with three homers and 34 RBIs as Buster Posey's backup. Sanchez developed a strong rapport with Tim Lincecum during the right-hander's second-half resurgence, and could catch Lincecum or Barry Zito in the postseason.
"Man, I didn't even think I would make the 25-man roster in the spring," Sanchez said, smiling.
Sanchez said he celebrated during the 2010 run and remembers seeing clips of the parade. Has he thought of what it would be like to actually participate in one?
"Never, never, never," he said. "I never thought it was possible. This year happened way too quickly to ever think about any of this."
Sanchez didn't have to think about the magnitude of the moment when the Giants won the division title. He simply put his ski goggles on and started spraying champagne. Along with Belt and Crawford, he's being counted on to clinch similar celebrations for years to come.