It can be said with the utmost of certainty that every little league baseball player dreams of someday making it to the major leagues. It is far less common that a big leaguer admires something that a group of talented 12-year-olds is achieving on the field. As the Petaluma National Little League team enters play in the 66th Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania -- the tables of fandom have turned. And rightfully so. Oakland Athletics outfielder Jonny Gomes is closely following the run of his hometown little league team. He is so into it, in fact, that he has to find a way to sneak in score updates while he is competing in games of his own at the highest level of professional baseball. The major league outfielder is happy to report the developments of the Petaluma kids to anyone in the dugout that will listen. "I mean it is pretty special," Gomes said. "Growing up in that town, it's not like Petaluma area, or near Petaluma. It IS Petaluma." Of the over 4,000 teams vying for a spot in the coveted Little League World Series, the kids from Petaluma represent one of 16 teams that have made it to the tournament. They are thrilled to have a major league-caliber supporter. "They know that Jonny has been paying attention and is asking about them," Petaluma National Little League coach Eric Smith said. "He's called me a couple of times and mentioned what he was doing when he was watching the games and stuff, so the kids are pretty excited just that he's even paying attention." Gomes is using his star status to help raise money to send the families of the Petaluma team to the Little League World Series. Comcast Sportsnet, the A's and the Giants also helped raise 15,000 to offset their travel costs. Little League International foots the bill for the players and coaches travel, but not their family members. Each trip costs an estimated 2,500.On Wednesday they announced they reached their fundraising goal. While Jonny Gomes helps in any way he can, the work his older brother Joey has done for the Petaluma kids has been one of the keys to their success. Joey runs the Redwood Baseball Institute in Santa Rosa. It is the largest indoor batting facility in the North Bay. Many of the kids on Petaluma's Little League World Series team have been training under his instruction for years."He's a lot more hands-on than I am," Jonny said of his brother. "He's getting all the youth from all over the area in there. He's like a proud father watching his work show in between the lines."Joey was an accomplished baseball player in his own right, as an All-American in High School and College. But his real knack is teaching the game. "Joey has been huge, not just for the kids but for me," PNLL coach Smith said. "A lot of these kids have been going to Joey for batting tips for many years or more. Joey has been a big part of our success."Coach Smith's son Hance also goes to Joey for instruction. Joey isn't just teaching Hance however, he is also indirectly teaching the coach who implements some of Joey's teachings on his own team. "Mentoring, coaching, all aspects of the game. It has been an absolute pleasure to be a part of that," Joey said. "How could you not rally around a group of 12-year-old kids that are essentially one of the top teams in the U.S.A.? It's phenomenal.""It takes a big talent to teach the game," Jonny said. "Even up here in the big leagues I've worked with Hall of Famers who have no idea how to teach it, they just know how to do it. He's got a pretty good tool to give back to these kids."Joey uses his younger brother Jonny as a template for his teaching. Being able to give instruction, then point to the examples of the hard work and hustle exemplified by his big league brother is a perfect recipe. "Jonny Gomes is my favorite baseball player too," Joey said. "He is the epitome of the way you should play the game." Joey says that he and his brother Jonny were taught to play the game as hard as they can. When players of all levels come to him for instruction they always ask him about things Jonny is doing on the field. As they say, the proof is in the pudding. "I guess we are just seeing a bunch of kids playing the game the right way," Joey said. "And boom! World Series." Jonny Gomes is often referred to as the "Pride of Petaluma." He says his brother Joey might rightfully own that title. "Maybe we can share that or something," Joey said. "He is just as much a part of Petaluma as anyone else is. Both Jonny and I are proud of where we came from. Just the fact baseball has taken over in Petaluma is really exciting for both of us, really."He isn't kidding. With the successful run of the Petaluma National Little League team, the interest level has expanded well beyond the confines of the small city of less than 60,000 residents. Their team proudly represents the entire state of California now. The only other West Coast team to make it to Williamsport is from Gresham, Oregon. "We've gotten letters of support from all over the Bay Area," coach Smith said. "The way these kids carry themselves they've helped build support at these tournaments by just being good stewards of the game."A's manager Bob Melvin even took the time to give the players a pep talk via speaker phone on Wednesday. "They're representing themselves, little league baseball, their families, it's really quite an honor," Joey said. "Obviously this is something that these kids are going to remember forever."Petaluma's team went 4-0 to win the West Regional Championship. They are the first Sonoma County team to make it to the Little League World Series, and the first Northern California team to advance to the World Series since the Aptos Little League did it in 2002. "World Series has a ring to it," coach Smith said. "It is hard to believe every time I hear it."Petaluma takes the field at 12 p.m. on Thursday. They will be taking on the Fairfield American Little League team from Connecticut."Watch the way those guys play, they just get it," Joey said. "Yes, they are 12 by age, but they are well beyond their years with the composure, and the confidence and the little swagger that they have."
After five seasons in Oakland, Stephen Vogt begins a new chapter of his career in Milwaukee.
The 32-year-old was designated for assignment by the last-place A's on Thursday and claimed by the first-place Brewers on Sunday.
On Monday, the two-time All-Star catcher discussed his new opportunity with a contender on MLB Network Radio.
"Obviously I was ecstatic to hear I was headed to Milwaukee. We all watch baseball and they are such a fun team to watch right now. And your buddy Eric Sogard is there, so I've got some familiarity. It's an opportunity to win and I think anybody, when you get to the stage I'm in in my career, where I'm 32, I want to win. I'm at the point where that's kind of the goal in the big leagues where all you care about is winning and that's where I'm at. So, to get the news that I'm headed to a first-place team, I couldn't be more excited," Vogt said.
After making the AL All-Star team the last two seasons, Vogt struggled to the tune of a .217 batting average with four home runs and 20 RBI in 54 games.
But with a new team in a new league comes a fresh slate.
"You get that rejuvenation feeling, you get that feeling that this is the change you needed especially going to a winning team where when you're winning, everyone plays better, when you're winning, everyones happier. No matter where you are in life, you want to have that feeling that somebody wants you. So to have Milwaukee come in and say 'We wanted you,' Yeah, it recharged the batteries. I'm ready to go," Vogt said.
The A’s sprung to life offensively in the late innings Sunday and polished off their first road sweep of 2017.
They scored all five of their runs over the final three innings to beat the Chicago White Sox 5-3, continuing an odd stretch of streakiness. The A’s swept the New York Yankees in four at the Coliseum, then turned around and dropped four in a row to the Houston Astros before arriving in Chicago and taking all three from the Sox. It’s their first sweep on the road since they won four in Kansas City from Sept. 12-15 of last season.
The weekend’s events provided a morale boost for a team that began the series an American League-worst 9-25 away from home. The sweep also featured numerous contributions from a pack of recently promoted young players fresh from the minors.
The A’s had no answer for left-hander Derek Holland through six-plus innings, mustering just four hits off the veteran. But trailing 2-0, they got on the board with Jed Lowrie’s pinch-hit RBI double in the seventh. The next inning, Khris Davis singled home the tying run and Yonder Alonso followed with a go-ahead single down the left-field line to put the A’s up 3-2.
They tacked on two insurance runs in the ninth on back-to-back homers from Adam Rosales and Matt Joyce.
Sonny rebounds: Sonny Gray (3-3) avoided the early trouble that plagued his last start, working seven innings and being rewarded with a victory thanks to the A’s eighth-inning rally. He struck out seven and walked just one. That was a key as Gray had issued seven free passes combined in his previous two starts. Adam Engel hit a 2-1 fastball for a homer in the third, then Jose Abreu scored on a passed ball in the fourth to give Chicago a 2-0 lead. But Gray held the Sox to just four hits over his seven innings.
Sign of things to come? Franklin Barreto got a look as the No. 2 hitter in the order Sunday, a spot that some scouts feel he’ll be well suited for as his career unfolds. He singled to the opposite field in his first at-bat, then struck out looking in his next two trips to the plate. In the eighth, his broken-bat single to left jumpstarted Oakland’s two-run go-ahead rally. Barreto is 4-for-10 in his first two games with the big club.
Joyce provides a lift off the bench: Joyce entered as a pinch runner in the seventh and connected for his 10th homer, right after Rosales had gone deep himself. Joyce became the fourth Athletic to crack double figures in homers, and the A’s improved to 31-26 when they hit at least one home run (they’re 3-16 when they don’t).
Doo does it again: Lefty reliever Sean Doolittle continued to deal since coming off the disabled list. He threw a scoreless eighth with two strikeouts and has allowed just one hit over five innings in six appearances since his return.
An unwanted milestone: The Sox scored their second run on a passed ball by Josh Phegley, which accounted for Oakland’s 50th unearned run, most in the majors. They had just 43 unearned runs all of last season.