A WEEK TO REMEMBER FOR OAKLAND’S OWN

          One of the real rewards of
this job is watching young players live out their childhood dreams.  For
Tyson Ross, many
of his dreams were realized this week.  I
first met Tyson during the summer of 2008. 
The 6-6, 225-pound right-hander had been selected by the A’s in the
second round of that year’s draft and was subsequently signed to a minor league
contract.  He was paying a visit to the
Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum before reporting to single-A Kane County.  Of course, it wasn’t the first time he had
stepped foot inside the Coliseum, having grown up in Oakland
and attended both Bishop O’Dowd High School
and Cal.

Tyson.JPG

On
that sunny afternoon in 2008, he and his parents, Willie and Jean, were all
smiles in the A’s dugout.  Clearly, it
was a dream come true for Tyson to sign a professional contract with his
childhood team, the Oakland
A’s.  Little did he and his family realize
but 21 months later, he would live a much bigger dream:  wearing a Major League uniform as part of the
A’s 2010 Opening Day roster.  I still can
see that look on his face–a mix between euphoria and disbelief–when he was
informed by the A’s brass in
Bob Geren’s
office after the final Bay Bridge Series exhibition game that he had, indeed,
made the 25-man roster. 

First,
he returned to his locker, where a group of media were milling around.  Beyond the ear-to-ear smile, Tyson could only
manage three words at first:  “I made
it!”  For many of the writers who had
covered him in spring training, I think they also enjoyed the news.  Not only because it was a great
local-boy-made-good story, but they–like I–had witnessed what a fine young man
Tyson is.  His warm smile, humble
demeanor and cooperative nature had made him one of the clubhouse favorites in Arizona.  In fact, after doing a Comcast satellite
talk-back interview for Chronicle Live
from his spring apartment in Tempe
a few weeks ago, I received an almost unprecedented phone call from the Comcast
truck technician.  He called me just to
let me know how cooperative and kind Tyson had been with him.  That type of call is unheard of in my
business.

After
meeting with the media, Tyson came into (equipment manager)
Steve Vucinich’s office.  He
asked Vuc if it would be okay for him to call his family to let them know he
made the team.  I was privileged to be
standing in Vuc’s office when he made the call. 
It was really a tender moment, hearing the excitement in his voice as he
told the most important people in his life–those who had driven him to summer
league games, iced his arm after games, helped him stay focused on his
academics at O’Dowd and Cal, in other words, those who loved him since birth
and had always been there for him–that he had made The Show.            Since
that night, it’s been a whirlwind for Tyson. 
The local media continued to flock to him after Opening Night. Comcast’s
Kate
Longworth
did a clever little feature on
“The Passing of the Ball Bag,” interviewing Andrew Bailey as he literally handed Tyson the pitcher’s
ball bag–a chore reserved for the incoming rookie as part of a time-honored
tradition in baseball.  But the flurry of
media attention had just started for Oakland’s
Own. 

In
Game 3 of the Mariners’ series,  Ross was
summoned from the bullpen with two outs in the sixth inning in relief of
starter
Justin Duchscherer.  A’s public address announcer Dick Callahan pronounced his entrance:  “Now pitching for the A’s….making his Major
League debut….number 66….Tyson Ross!”  From
the press box, I swear I could see Tyson’s heart pounding.  But despite being amped up–he forgot to hold
on
Franklin
Gutierrez
at first base, which resulted
in a stolen base on his first pitch–Ross soon settled into the game.  His 95 MPH fastball and nasty slider was no
match for
Rob Johnson, who will now always
be remembered as Tyson’s first Major League strikeout.  Ross mowed down the Mariners again in the
seventh inning.  Then in the eighth, he
faced immortality with
Ken Griffey, Jr. at the plate.  When Kurt Suzuki almost hung on to Junior’s two-strike foul tip, I
could only imagine the reaction in the stands by the Ross Family.  In unison, they probably all jumped out of
their seats.  However, Tyson soon added
the exclamation point to his maiden Major League appearance.  He came back to ring up the future Hall of
Famer and completed two-and-one-third scoreless innings in playing a key role
in Oakland’s 6-5 victory over Seattle. 

It
was a storybook night for the kid who once played youth baseball games at the
Bushrod baseball fields on the other side of San Leandro Blvd., literally in the
shadow of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. 
It’s happened so quickly for Tyson Ross, you really can’t blame him if
he’s not quite sure what’s real and what’s a dream these days.  In either case, it’s a safe bet he’s in no
hurry to wake up.  After all, he’s having
the time of his life.

1 Comment

Bob,

Welcome to Orange County this weekend. I am excited about what we have seen from this ballclub in the opening week!

Great article on Ross, sounds like a great character guy. Another reason to root for the A’s in 2010!

-Matt

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