MESA, Ariz. — Watching A’s games on television was part of Dallas Braden’s earliest introduction to baseball.
Years later, he would get drafted by Oakland and pitch one of the greatest games in franchise history. It seemed inevitable he would eventually find his way back to the only major league franchise he ever played for.
Braden will join Jose Canseco and Dave Stewart as newcomers to NBC Sports California’s lineup of studio analysts for A’s Pregame and Postgame Live. Bip Roberts and Shooty Babitt also will return as part of the rotation to join host Brodie Brazil.
[RELATED: Jose Canseco joins NBC Sports California's A's TV coverage]
Braden will continue in his role as a national analyst for ESPN. But the opportunity to return to the Bay Area and share his thoughts on all things green and gold is special to him.
“It might sound kind of cheesy, but it was a little emotional,” Braden said. “How I’m looking at it, it’s the first steps of getting back to being a part of the organization on more than just a surface level as a national guy. Now I’ll have the opportunity to dive in. It means a lot to me because I really do feel connected to the fan base as well. And I think it’s clear the organization has started a phase of transition. They have some new energy and new ideas from what I understand.”
Braden’s career stats — a 26-36 record and 4.16 ERA over five seasons — don’t tell his whole story. The left-hander was one of the A’s most unique and colorful personalities of the past decade.
Fans will remember him yelling at the baseball as he walked back to the mound after a pitch that missed the strike zone. He gushed with pride over his hometown of Stockton, to the point of getting “209” tattooed across his midsection.
But the afternoon that defined his career — and etched his name in A’s history — came on Mother’s Day, 2010, when Braden threw the 19th perfect game in major league history. Who could forget the snapshots of Braden embracing his grandmother, Peggy Lindsey? Or Lindsey’s memorable quote — “Stick It A-Rod!” — in reference to the run-in between Braden and Alex Rodriguez that took place weeks before when Rodriguez trotted over the mound while Braden was pitching?
The perfecto thrust Braden into the national spotlight. But aside from that magical day in front of the Coliseum crowd, his pitching career played out in unspectacular fashion. From that standpoint, it’s no surprise to hear Braden explain the lens through which he sees the game as a broadcaster.
[RELATED: Dave Stewart joins NBC Sports California's A's TV coverage]
“(Superstars) drive the industry,” Braden said. “But I think the personal challenge I’ve taken on myself is to try and get folks to appreciate some of the things that superstars don’t do. Some of the things that the Adam Rosales’s of the game do, and why it’s important to do those things.
“Running out a grounder … there are still some guys that don’t (crave) the spotlight but get the dirt underneath their fingernails, and I appreciate that. I want (fans) to appreciate a guy that goes first to third on a single. That is my challenge.”
Braden pitched his final game for the A’s in 2011. He tried to make his way back until shoulder injuries finally forced him to retire in 2014. He got into broadcasting shortly after, and his outgoing personality and sense of humor are a natural fit for the camera.
“It’s really come full circle,” he said of being an A’s analyst. “I grew up watching the broadcasts, watching the games. I got to play in those games. And now here on the back end I’m getting to call those games.”