Random Thoughts In The Desert

Ladies and gentlemen, you
are part of history today.  Oh, you
didn’t hear? This is my 50th edition since I started Clubhouse Confidential
last season.  That, and $2, will get you
a Venti Pike’s Roast at Starbucks. 

Some random observations and
thoughts about the past week of Spring Training in this, the 50th anniversary
issue of my blog:

Bob Geren, now in his fifth year
as manager, has really grown into his role with the media.  Ironically, it may be the additional 50 or so
Japanese media that has served as a catalyst. 
It seems as though the A’s manager loves a crowd.  He seems to actually be feeding off the
energy of a larger media corps.  Not only
has he provided solid baseball information every day during our pre-game session
in the dugout, but he’s brought downright humor on occasion. His best comedic
source are stories about
Frank Howard,
the gargantuan (6-7, 250 pounds) former Washington Senator and Los Angeles
Dodger outfielder who later coached for many major league teams.  It seems Geren has a new “Hondo” story daily,
and every one is hilarious.

042410MZ_117.JPGHow great was it for Adam Rosales yesterday morning? 
The A’s super sub continues to rehab from offseason foot surgery which
will most likely sideline him until about May 1, yet the irrepressible utility
man can be seen early and late in the clubhouse daily.  Talk about a lifer, this guy lives, breathes
and eats baseball.  So, there he was
around 10 a.m. yesterday on the Phoenix Muni turf, playing catch with Hall of
Famer
Rickey
Henderson
, probably one of his childhood
idols.

I have the rare privilege of
spending hours in the A’s clubhouse, so let me share with you a couple of
poignant scenes I observed in the past couple of days.  The first involved
Mark Ellis, and it spoke volumes of his character as a team
leader.  We had two split squad games last
Sunday, one played in Phoenix and the other in Peoria against the
Padres.  Players from our minor league
camp, usually donning such exotic numbers as 92 or 95, are sent to Phoenix Muni
those mornings to help fill out our team rosters at both games.  This past Sunday, a rather non-descript–and
definitely unrecognized–minor leaguer entered our clubhouse.  Who was there to greet him but nine-year
veteran Mark Ellis.  “Welcome!  Hi, I’m Mark. 
Have you seen Vuc (equipment manager
Steve Vucinich) to get your gear for today?”  Ellis went out of his way to be a good teammate.  He shook the minor leaguer’s hand, then
personally escorted him to Vuc’s office. 
That young kid will never forget what Mark did for him, and I would
suspect a number of major leaguers in the clubhouse also took notice of Mark’s
kind gesture.  Pure class. 

I had another rather private
moment involving reliever
Joe Bateman,
a non-roster invitee who’s racked up eye-popping numbers in nine minor league
seasons but knows his time is dwindling to land a major league job.  That urgency was never more apparent than
when he pitched in Oakland’s
game in Maryvale against the hard-hitting Brewers last week.  In relief, he served up back-to-back home
runs to
Ryan Braun and Casey McGehee to his first two batters, and allowed three runs on three
hits in one-third inning.  Later, he left
the field and returned to the visitor’s clubhouse.  I was there and decided to offer some kind
words to the slender right-hander.  I
told him that Braun and the Milwaukee
bombers do that to a lot of
people.  Knowing this is a game of
results, Joe would have no part of it.  “I
don’t need no (sic) pep talk!  I’m a
grown man,” he snapped.  I totally understood
what he was saying, so there was no need for me to say another word.  There was a neat postscript to this story,
however, as the next time Bateman pitched two days later against the Padres in
Peoria, he was summoned with the bases loaded and pitched out of the jammed
unscathed.  In fact, he proceeded to reel
off a 1-2-3 shutout inning the following frame as well.  He followed that with a scoreless ninth
yesterday at Phoenix Muni, slamming the lid on a 6-2 win over that same Padres
team.  Ah, the life of a relief
pitcher.  No wonder they have short
memories.

109403645.jpgAnd then there’s Gio Gonzalez.  Beyond being
an ultra gifted pitcher with a golden arm, Gio also has a personality that can
light up a room.  Or in this case, an
entire press box.  Our Sunday home game
vs. the Brewers was broadcast on XTRA Sports 860 and
Ken Korach asked whether we might deliver Gio to the booth
following his outing.  The Cuban
lefthander made short work of Milwaukee,
striking out five in three hitless innings. 
I told my assistants to kill two birds with one pitcher by staging his
postgame writers’ session in the back of the press box just before he joined
Korach in the booth.  Just as my young assistant
Adam
Loberstein
was about to make the
announcement in the box that Gio was available for questions, his microphone
was commandeered by none other than Gonzalez, who asked the Bay Area and
Japanese media that “Anyone have any questions for me?  Speak now or forever hold your peace!”  The place erupted.  Then Gio dazzled the scribes in much the same
fashion his curveball did to the Brewers a few minutes earlier.  And from all reports from Korach afterwards,
he made it an impressive Trifecta with another sterling performance on the
airwaves.  Every club needs someone like
Gio, who makes baseball fun.  Isn’t that what it’s supposed to be?

85268693.jpgAnd finally, I share with
you a glimpse of the “Z Man.”  We speak
of Michael
Zagaris,
one of the smartest, most
talented–and yes, zaniest–people I
know.  In case you don’t know, Michael
offers us more than three decades of sports photography experience.  He’s been both the A’s and Forty-Niners’ team
photographer since the early 80’s.  Yet,
what may be even more interesting is his past history as a touring music photographer
for such legendary acts as the
Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton.  So, I couldn’t help myself but invite the Z
Man to join me in attending a rare
Savoy Brown
concert at the Rhythm Room, a well-worn roadhouse in central Phoenix. 
The band, part of  British rock
and blues explosion of the 60’s that also produced such groups as
Foghat and Humble Pie,
almost tore the roof off that night.  Original
Savoy Brown member
Kim Simmonds celebrated his 45th consecutive year with the band by
unleashing one of the greatest guitar live performances I have ever seen.  And the Z Man was clearly in his element. There
were multiple standing ovations, while Zagaris harkened back to his early rock days
across the pond, comparing Simmonds to
Jeff Beck
and Clapton and other great guitarists of yore. 
It was a great diversion for both of us during these dog days of
spring.  Okay, I guess they’re not dog days.  Maybe prairie dog days?  On that note, my 50th blog is officially
done.  And with that prairie dog comment,
my writing career might be done as well.

2 Comments

Mark Ellis = pure class. Joe Bateman = First class JERK! I don’t care how roughed up you get, you don’t curse people out and treat others with disrespect. IMO, they should leave Bateman in the minors until he learns some manners and learns how to act like a Major Leaguer.

Congrats on Blog #50! Fun read.

I think it is time to let the “Great Godzilla” drown in the pacific ocean………and maybe he can take Fuentes with him. Bad choices Bean I think you need to stop looking at your bosses wallet and sign some real good players not “old farts” that have seen there better days……….or sell the damn team to someone who really cares.

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