NOTHING FINER THAN THE SIGHTS & SOUNDS OF SPRING
Saturday was report day for A’s
pitchers and catchers, which of course, signals the official start of another
baseball season. While unsuspected rain
showers hit outside, trainer Steve Sayles and team doctors ran players through
tests inside our Papago
Park training complex.
For returning players, it was merely routine.
But for our new acquisitions like ace pitcher Ben Sheets and outfield
prospect Michael Taylor, today was more than a battery of medical exams. It was a time to become acquainted with their
new teammates, coaches, training staff and clubbies.
Throughout the morning, I observed Sheets in
many get-to-know-you sessions. He and Bob
Alejo, our veteran strength and conditioning director, were spotted near the
weight machines, engaged in animated conversation about workout programs and
philosophies. Then an hour later, as Ben
iced his arm, he sat on a trainer’s table next to Justin Duchscherer, the other
half of the A’s new one-two punch at the top of the rotation. Beyond being the most decorated pitchers on
the staff, they clearly had other things in common. Even at their relatively young ages, they are
both elder statesmen on this team. And
one hails from Texas (Duchscherer) and the
other from Louisiana. If they have any musical talents, I thought,
maybe they can form a Cajun and Texas Blues band called the “Thirty
Somethings.” Oh well, at least it was
nice to see them forming an early bond.
Then in another area of the weight room, the ever-popular veteran second
baseman Mark Ellis made a surprise appearance with his son Briggs, and was
making his own self-depreciating jokes to anyone within earshot. “We’re the youngest and oldest A’s here
today!” Briggs didn’t seem to quite understand the humor, but when you’re
playing with two way cool miniature
cars on the clubhouse carpet, the world is pretty simple.
Of course, the media corps also descended on Papago Park
this morning. While Sheets and Taylor drew interest as
the new guys on the block, I think it’s safe to say that the effervescent
Dallas Braden stole the show. Holding
court with the writers and TV reporters for a good 20 minutes, Braden covered
the gamut with his usual colorful anecdotes.
One minute, he was sharing his experiences vacationing in Amsterdam this offseason, discussing the finer points of
spending hours in a Van Gogh
Museum (“including a whole floor of self portraits…man this
guy had an ego!”) to bemoaning the
fact that he can no longer get the quintessential ham-and-cheese croissant that
he devoured daily at a quaint Amsterdam café.
The next minute, he’s excitedly talking about how he’s virtually adopted
the University of Pacific baseball team, located in his hometown of Stockton. He has been their unofficial BP pitcher during
the winter, and he’s befriended some of the UOP pitchers to the point that he’s
asked them to come hang out at his pad on occasion. Dallas admits that he’s becoming a Pacific
baseball junkie (“I am incessantly texting back and forth about how they’re
doing in games.”) When it comes to
turning a phrase, Mr. 209 Area Code is a born natural. If ever a PR director needed someone to
provide rainy day stories, it is Dallas Braden. And after 20 minutes of humor and precious
quotes, he left the building in a flash.
I couldn’t help myself in telling the media, “Ladies and gentlemen, that
was Dallas Braden. He will appear daily
at Phoenix Muni for your entertainment pleasure this spring. Get there early.”