Programming note: Orioles-A’s coverage starts Friday at 6:30 p.m. with A’s Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California
Brandon Moss’ road to the All-Star Game was filled with potential dead ends, and no shortage of signs along the way suggesting it was time to hang up his spikes.
He persevered, not only carving out a productive big league career but becoming one of the major leagues’ top power hitters.
Eighty-one players will line up for pregame introductions for Tuesday’s All-Star Game at Target Field. You’d be hard-pressed to find one who has cleared more hurdles than the A’s first baseman.
Moss had eight minor league seasons under his belt by the time he established himself in the A’s big league lineup at age 28. Along the way, there was a string of not-so-glamorous offseason jobs needed to help his family make ends meet.
He worked the cash register at MaxiMart Gas Station in his hometown of Loganville, Ga. Another winter was spent retrieving carts at Lane Creek Golf Course. Moss even spent one offseason cleaning out litter boxes at a veterinarian's office.
“That’s just a part of minor league life, especially if you’re married,” Moss said. “You don’t make very much at all in the minor leagues, and half of it you’re paying just to live through the season, so you can’t save. Then you get home and now you’re not even making that check. You have to find something to do.”
He and his wife, Allison, don’t dwell on those days much. But the memories provide a reminder of how far he’s come.
Moss is one of a major-league high six players the A’s sent to this year’s Midsummer Classic. His 21 home runs are the most by an Athletic before the All-Star break since Jason Giambi swatted 22 in 2000. He ranks sixth in the league with 66 RBI. Moss also is hitting a respectable .268, and his improvement against left-handed pitchers, combined with his defensive versatility, has helped him stay in the lineup regularly as opposed to platooning.
But before signing with Oakland as a minor league free agent before the 2012 season, Moss was at a crossroads. He’d seen big league time with Boston, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, but had hit just .236 with 15 homers in 249 career games.
After being designated for assignment by Philadelphia following the 2011 season, he enjoyed an outstanding winter ball campaign, simply hoping to catch the eye of Japanese teams. But all the while, Moss wondered whether it was time for a career change.
“I think optimism is good to a point, but eventually you have to accept reality,” Moss said. “You can’t continually chase the dream, especially after we had had a child in 2009. It gets to a point where it almost becomes selfish to continue to try.
“But (Allison) urged me to continue playing because she knew that if I walked away at that time, especially with the way I was starting to play, that I would regret it.”
He signed with Oakland before the 2012 season, knowing he had an opt-out clause that June that could leave the door open to Japan.
“I went to spring training, and they had just signed Manny (Ramirez),” Moss recalled. “They had just traded for Seth (Smith), they had just traded for Red (Josh Reddick), and I was looking at my wife going, ‘This is never gonna happen.’”
Having spent most of his career as an outfielder, Moss began playing first base with Triple-A Sacramento, and in June 2012 the A’s called him up. He created a buzz by homering six times over his first 10 games, but what happened after that was perhaps even more important.
Moss hit just .152 with one RBI over his next 10 games, yet the A’s stuck with him.
“He’s always had the ability,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “But really, before he came here, he was never able to struggle. Even when he first got here, when he started falling off a little bit, I let him know, ‘Look, you’re not going anywhere.’ Knowing that just because he doesn’t swing it well for a few days, he wasn’t going down, I think was important for him.”
Moss has since been a driving force behind back-to-back American League West championships. He’s hit 35 homers since the 2013 All-Star break – the only major leaguer with more over that span is Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion (37).
Now Moss is experiencing his first All-Star Game. His plan was to watch Monday night’s Home Run Derby on the field with his 4-year-old son, Jayden.
Not that Moss is looking for individual attention this week. When he was asked recently about his own unique road to being an All-Star, Moss deflected attention to Oakland’s other five players who are part of Tuesday’s showcase.
“There’s quite a few guys that have taken a pretty interesting path,” Moss said. “We’ve all taken pretty interesting paths to get (here) and have this opportunity. Nothing in this group gets taken for granted.”