PHOTO DAY: SKAALEN & CRISP AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN
Photo Day is always one of
the rituals of Spring Training and today we honored that ritual by staging
ours. Choosing the short straw among
the PR staff, it was my responsibility to arrive at the stadium at the obscene
time of 5:45 a.m. to accommodate photographers who set up equipment early. Once the clock struck 7 a.m., A’s coaches and
players started to file by in rapid fashion, stopping at the various stations
along the way. Hitting coach Jim Skaalen, clearly a “morning person,” was the first to show
up at 6:59 a.m. In home whites, Jim entered
the visiting clubhouse, where team photographer Michael Zagaris and AP’s Eric Risberg
were the first two stops. Skaalen was
the first of 70 coaches and players to run the gauntlet, which also included stations
for MLB Photos and Comcast SportsNet inside, plus newspapers and various
MLB-licensed trading card companies situated outside near the home dugout.
Shortly thereafter, Bob Geren and some of his coaches arrived on the scene. It is a time-worn tradition that the manager
and his staff get VIP treatment when they check in for Photo Day. They immediately are taken to the front of
the line, ahead of the players. And who
was the player at the front of the line, almost at the Promised Land? Craig Breslow. First, I had to hold him for Geren. Then Curt Young was
waved ahead. Then Tye Waller. Breslow, demonstrating
the same type of poise and composure he exhibits on the mound, didn’t even
flinch. The good news today, was we finished
Photo Day on time, thanks to stellar cooperation from the all guys. Coco Crisp, donning his not-yet-familiar No. 4 jersey, was the last player to be shot and he
was 15 minutes early. This was a good
thing. One thing you learn as a veteran
PR man is, don’t ever deliver players to practice late, because if you do,
managers tend to let you know they are not
happy. Today, Geren was happy.
One guest instructor who
may have gone through as many Photo Days in his playing career as anyone alive
is Hall-of-Famer Rickey Henderson. What a
privilege it was to watch the all-time stolen base king working with our
players over the weekend. Suited up and
looking like he could still play, Rickey has been instructing Rajai Davis, Crisp and some of the younger base runners on the proper explosion
techniques for getting the optimum jump.
Years ago when I was the
PR director across the bay for that other
Major League team, I had the great fortune to know another Hall-of-Famer named Willie Mays. I see a lot
of similarities between the A’s No. 24 and the Giants’ No. 24. There’s a certain genius in their view of the game.
They just see things that ordinary players do not. And maybe just as impressive is the sheer
passion they continue to have for the sport.
Both almost have an ageless quality about them. When Rickey or Willie talk baseball, the
energy level is always at full throttle.
And if you are a player standing next to them at the batting cage, you
can’t help but just feel that energy
and passion. It inspiring, really.
I’ll be leaving for the
Bay Area after tomorrow’s intrasquad game and won’t return to camp until
Monday, so my next blog won’t come your way until some time next week. If you’re not down here in the desert, make
sure you tune into XTRA Sports 860 AM for our first Cactus League game this
Thursday, March 4, when the A’s travel to Mesa to play the Chicago Cubs at
12:05 p.m. PST (1:05 Arizona Time). The
familiar voices of Ken Korach, Ray Fosse and
Cotroneo will be booming on our
50,000-watt station. Ladies and
gentlemen, 2010 A’s baseball is about to arrive!