DETROIT -- In an already boisterous clubhouse, where the passage of time was marked by flying corks and empty bottles, Pablo Sandoval finally pushed his way through the doorway to join the party.
At first there was no room to move. Sandoval simply raised the World Series MVP trophy over his head and let out a happy yell.
The room cheered anew. Make way for the Panda.
"I couldn't be happier or prouder for him," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of his third baseman. "He really wanted, I think, to shine on this stage."
Sandoval joined Sunday's celebration late because of the responsibilities that come with winning the MVP award. For one, he had to collect the keys to his new Corvette (which he planned to give to his fiancee.)
For another, Sandoval also had to do several interviews in which he tried to put into words what this October was like.
One last time, he hit it out of the park: "I was ready for the moment," he said.
Sandoval was ready, despite all that fretting that he wouldn't be. Questions about his eating habits. Doubts about his commitment. Jokes about his weight.
Instead, he wound up as one of the heaviest hitters the World Series has ever seen.
"He got hot at the right time for us," Bochy said.
Sandoval went 8 for 16 (.500) over the four games to become the 10th third baseman to win the World Series MVP award.
Sandoval's onslaught included his Game 1 performance in which he walloped three home runs, two off impenetrable Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander.
With that performance, Sandoval, 26, not only joined Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols as players to hit three homers in a World Series game, but he also sounded the alarms for an impending four-game sweep.
"You know, I still can't believe that game," Sandoval said late Sunday night. "It's the game of your dreams. You don't want to wake up."
Overall in the postseason, Sandoval batted .364 (24 for 66) with five doubles, six homers and 13 RBIs in 16 games.
Sandoval hit everything. Whether they were fastballs or breaking pitches, inside the strike zone or nowhere near it, Sandoval blasted it.
This is what happens when you learn to hit in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, learning to hit by chasing sharp-breaking wads of tape. Early in Game 4, Fox broadcaster Tim McCarver said he could reduce Sandoval's approach at the plate to three words: "Swing. The. Bat."
Because the World Series went so fast, Sandoval's 24 postseason hits left him one off the postseason record shared by Marquis Grissom (1995 Braves), Darin Erstad (2002 Angels) and David Freese (2011 Cardinals).
Not bad for a player, who as recently as 2010 couldn't crack the field. He was limited to three at-bats during the Giants' World Series triumph over the Texas Rangers.
Since then, he has spent plenty of the time in management's doghouse for being out of shape and, at times, out of touch. It took endless prodding from his bosses -- including rare public digs from Bochy -- to make the two-time All-Star realize he was at risk of wasting his prodigious talent.
Injuries didn't help. Sandoval missed 35 games because of a left-hamate fracture starting in May and then 18 more with a left-hamstring strain after the All-Star break.
But the fans who held onto their Panda hats got their reward, as Sandoval returned to form as one of the game's spryest big men. He made sensational defensive plays throughout the postseason, capped by a barehand grab and off-balance throw on Quinton Berry's bunt in the third inning of Game 4.
The play had an extra degree of difficulty, because Sandoval and pitcher Matt Cain were on a crash course for the ball until the third baseman took charge.
"Yeah, it was a tough play. I called it late," Sandoval said. "But (Cain) got out of the way so quickly, so we made the play easy."
For a moment Sandoval looked like the kid who began his career as a Little League shortstop because he wanted to be like his idol, Omar Vizquel, a fellow Venezuelan.
Sandoval eventually switched to catcher because he saw it as the ultimate leadership position. This was no easy switch, because he was born left-handed. So, at age 9, he started throwing right-handed.
That's why Sandoval got the keys to the Corvette. And why the Giants got the keys to baseball's castle.
"You know, you learn," Sandoval said. "You learn from the things that happen in your career. You get up and down. You never give up.
"All the things that happened in my career, thank God it happened early rather than late in my career. I'm just blessed to be here and part of the 2012 World Series."