A NEWSY WEEK AT A’S CENTRAL

Sometimes in the offseason,
you almost feel out of sync.  The natural
rhythm of having a baseball game every day ends abruptly.  As the team’s PR man, your phone calls and
media requests diminish considerably.  It’s
kind of like that old “Maytag Repairman” TV commercial.  Veteran actor Jesse White, sitting in his
office and wearing that natty khaki jacket, bemoans the fact that Maytag
washers never break down.  He was the
loneliest guy around. Well, sometimes I feel the same way during the offseason.
However, this past week was not one of those times.  The Bay Area media came out in full force
last week when we hosted an informal media event at the Coliseum featuring Bob Geren, our coaching staff and six of our players.  Eric Chavez and Coco Crisp attracted the most
attention from the local TV stations and sportswriters, Chavy because they were
interested in his physical status heading into Spring Training, and Coco because this was his first Bay Area appearance since
his offseason signing with the A’s.

While my relationship with
Chavy only dates back to a year ago, I do sense that he enters this season with
great peace of mind.  Through surgery and
rehab, he’s done everything he can do to be ready for this season.  While he knows nothing’s guaranteed when
you’ve had five surgeries in the last two years, Eric seemed genuinely
optimistic about this season. What surprised me a little was just how happy and
light-hearted he seemed.  Considering all
he’s been through, maybe he finally feels like he’s seeing some light at the
end of the tunnel.  Meanwhile, Coco flashed some of that star quality he’s been known
for.  He entertained media for more than
an hour with colorful stories of his childhood, then he dazzled over-the-air
audiences with a special appearance on KPIX-TV’s Sunday Sports Final with
Dennis O’Donnell–I received a glowing report from producer Brian Stites, who
said Crisp absolutely has a future career in broadcasting if he’s
interested–and a guest call-in appearance on KNBR Radio the following morning
in which he talked about his long-time involvement in Major League Baseball’s
RBI Program for inner-city youth.  It’s a
subject Coco knows a little about, having grown up in Inglewood, Calif.
in South Central LA. 

 

Also last week, our media
and player relations manager Kristy Fick
and I took Ryan Sweeney, Landon Powell and Gio Gonzalez to the Cal campus, where
Comcast SportsNet Bay Area was on location for their “Chronicle Live”
show.  The studio set was literally on
the hardwood floor of Haas Pavilion, where the California Golden Bears’
basketball team would be playing Oregon
later that evening.  It was interesting
to watch our guys in a totally foreign setting.   Gio, being the clown–in a good kind of way,
of course–that he is, couldn’t resist going on the court to shoot a few
hoops.  While Landon looked on with great
disinterest, Gio displayed a rather
unique left-handed style that probably would not be mistaken for Kobe or LeBron.  Of course, it’s tough to throw his patented
deuce with a basketball.  Later that
evening, the boys stayed for the Pac-10 matchup.  Cal
pretty much claimed victory by halftime with a late half spurt, but I don’t
think Powell was very impressed having grown up in ACC country in
Raleigh-Durham.

 

While the successful media
event came and went, the very next morning I get a call from Billy Beane. 
He informs me that our red-hot outfield prospect Grant Desme has decided
to retire from baseball to enter the priesthood.  First, I check my calendar to make sure it’s
not April 1.  Then I digest what Billy
said, and my instincts tell me this is not
going to be a slow news day at A’s Central. 
I call Grant to wish him well and tell him how much I admire his
commitment.  I also tell him to get ready
because a national media avalanche is about to hit.  He agrees to go on a media conference call
later that afternoon, one that not only includes several Bay Area writers, but
also media throughout the nation including the New York Times, Chicago Sun-Times, Orange County Register among
others.  Within the first 72 hours of his
announcement, we hear from CBS National News,  The Dan Patrick Show, ESPN.com, the Los Angeles Times, HDNet TV, MTV (yes, MTV), several Sirius/XM Satellite Radio
shows, ESPN’s E60, many Catholic organizations, and my personal favorite, a
film documentary company from….The
Netherlands
!  Josh Ishoo, our former
student intern who recently was hired by San
Diego, offered a very funny line when he heard the
news.  “Too bad he wasn’t involved in the
Kouzmanoff trade.  Then we could have
headlines that read, ‘Desme Rejects Padres to become a Padre!”  While we
know Grant’s decision was a very serious matter, a little levity is always
good, right?

 

But this new-found A’s media
frenzy did not end with the Desme revelation. 
A couple days later, it was time for four-time All-Star pitcher Ben
Sheet to stride to the podium for a hurriedly-called media conference Tuesday
afternoon at the Coliseum.  After lying
low for several weeks, baseball’s Maytag Man was right back in the thick of
it.  I hosted a major news announcement
which featured live TV coverage by both MLB Network and Comcast SportsNet Bay
Area and a battery of photographers and local scribes.  Sharing the same Southern roots and sporting
a similar two-day beard, my first impression of Sheets was “this guy reminds me
of Brett Favre!”  Same accent, same self-sure
demeanor.  Also, what struck me most was
his competitive fire and that he appeared to be a person very comfortable in
his own skin.  He could not have been
more accommodating at the press gathering. 
Beyond doing the usual Q&A at the front table, he also patiently sat
down with at least five TV stations and three radio reporters afterwards for
the obligatory one-on-ones.  I think A’s
fans are really going to like Ben.  He’s
a no nonsense veteran with tremendous work ethic.  If he returns to the form that saw him named
the National League’s starting pitcher at the 2008 All-Star Game, our pitching
staff might just carry us further than some people think this season.  In the meantime, like the Maytag Repairman, I
need to rest up until the next news story hits. 
Until then, don’t forget…..only 20 days until pitchers and catchers report.

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