PHOENIX -- "There was no bigger obstacle than Mark Ellis," Bob Melvin told me with a smile, recalling Jemile Weeks' road to the big leagues last season.
"Mark Ellis was the cornerstone of this team," A's GM Billy Beane said, describing Weeks as the "greatest example of how a young players should come to the big leagues."
When Weeks received the call of a lifetime last June, the 5-foot-9, 160-pound rookie didn't let anything get in his way. He made a permanent spot for himself at second base and at the top of the A's lineup.
Weeks finished the season with a .303 average, 26 doubles, 22 stolen bases and 50 runs scored in just 97 games.
Melvin said he was always impressed how Weeks didn't let the Ellis situation -- and filling in for such a great fixture at second, knowing that it was supposed to be a temporary fix -- get in the way of his performance.
In fact, Melvin told me that his charisma and "I-am-going-to-play-how-I-know-I-can-play" attitude were the opening messages Melvin wanted to send to the 2012 Athletics.
No doubt it was a powerful message with so many wide-eyed youngsters hope to fulfill their Major League dream this spring. And what better example to set than Weeks, who still exemplifies that same hustle and all-out style of play he had as rookie.
"I was like that even in Little League," said with a laugh.
I remember my first interview with Weeks last year as he walked up to Papago Park, wondering whether he was in the right location. This year, the 25-year old strutted in, knowing his place with the Green and Gold.
But he was quick to point out that he's not getting complacent.
"There's always someone behind you ready to take your spot," he said.
Clearly, Melvin's message was received.