Athletics

Matt Chapman's 455-foot homer highlights biggest game yet with A's

Matt Chapman's 455-foot homer highlights biggest game yet with A's

OAKLAND — Matt Chapman got the pie in the face Saturday that typically would be reserved for walk-off hero Khris Davis.

In the winning clubhouse afterward, the A’s rookie third baseman proudly wore a T-shirt that Yonder Alonso had made up for everyone. In neon lettering, like you might find in the window of a barber shop, the shirt read: “Oakland, Walk-offs Welcome!”

“I thought it was appropriate to wear for this,” Chapman told the gathered media.

Chapman soaked up the atmosphere of the A’s wild 5-3 victory over Cleveland, which came courtesy of Davis blasting a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth off the Indians’ Bryan Shaw.

But Chapman was as responsible as anyone for Oakland’s second win in as many nights against the defending American League champs. While his teammates were befuddled all night by right-hander Corey Kluber, Chapman blasted two homers off the 2014 Cy Young winner — the first two homers of Chapman’s big league career.

He also doubled to complete his 3-for-3 night. Combined with his triple the night before, Chapman is showing major signs of turning the corner from an awful offensive slump since returning from a knee infection that briefly hospitalized him.

He was in a 3-for-27 rut coming into Saturday.

“You wouldn’t know if he was 10-for-10 or 0-for-50, which tells a lot about him,” A’s starter Paul Blackburn said.

Chapman’s own comments on the biggest night of his brief major league career lends some insight into the mature mindset he brings to the ballpark.

“Do I think tonight means I’m just gonna be perfectly fine and never have any struggles again? No,” Chapman said. “But it’s obviously nice to have some sort of success and know you can compete at this level, and that you are good enough to do it. If anything, you just use it as motivation to keep working hard.”

Chapman drilled a 2-1 cutter from Kluber over the wall in left-center for his first homer in the third. Leading off the bottom of the eighth, Chapman sensed that Kluber might try to blow a first-pitch fastball by him. He got a 92 mile-per-hour two-seamer and belted a game-tying blast 455 feet, the ball striking off the base of a luxury suite in dead center.

For that, Chapman received a whipped cream pie in the face from Josh Phegley and two buckets of water over his head from Ryon Healy and Bruce Maxwell as he conducted a TV interview that on many nights would have belonged to Davis.

“He deserved it,” Davis said. “There’s many more to come where he’s going. It won’t be the last.”

Bruce Maxwell: Kneeling for anthem not 'disrespecting my country or my flag'

Bruce Maxwell: Kneeling for anthem not 'disrespecting my country or my flag'

OAKLAND — Bruce Maxwell’s gesture to take a knee during the national anthem Saturday night at the Coliseum was no knee-jerk reaction by the A’s catcher.

It was something he’s considered for a long time, balancing his own personal convictions to make a statement with how it might affect his teammates and organization.

Think it was bold of Maxwell to become the first player in baseball to kneel during the anthem, in protest of racial discrimination and the inflammatory remarks of President Trump? It took just as much guts to stand before his teammates, manager Bob Melvin and GM David Forst and explain why he felt he needed to do it.

He did so in a pregame meeting Saturday that made for a degree of discomfort in the room, but also seemed to have played out in a healthy way.

“I didn’t want them to sugarcoat or aid me when it comes to the media and their personal feelings,” Maxwell said, “because the whole point of this is the ability to protest (based on) our personal beliefs and our personal choices.”

Many athletes have been critical of the President, with things intensifying across the sports landscape Saturday after Trump, among other things, withdrew an invitation for the Warriors to visit the White House and harshly criticized athletes who have knelt during the anthem, saying they should be booted off their teams.

After blasting Trump on both Instagram and Twitter, Maxwell took the field for the anthem and took the action that will define him in the eyes of the baseball world. Maxwell had been wanting to make a statement in some way. He said he and his sister dealt with racial discrimination growing up. Watching Trump’s rally play out in his hometown of Huntsville, Ala. on Friday further persuaded Maxwell to finally do so.

“This goes beyond the black community, it goes beyond the Hispanic community, because right now we’re having … a racial divide in all types of people,” said Maxwell, who is African American. “It’s being practiced from the highest power we have in this country and it’s basically saying it’s OK to treat people differently. And my kneeling, the way I did it, was to symbolize the fact that I’m kneeling for a cause. But I’m in no way or form disrespecting my country or my flag.”

A’s outfielder Mark Canha stood next to Maxwell during the anthem with his hand on Maxwell’s shoulder, a show of support. Canha said he’s considered kneeling before in protest himself but had chosen not to. As he listened to Maxwell address the team, Canha wasn’t going to let his teammate make his statement on his own.

“I could tell he was getting kind of choked up and emotional about his beliefs and how he feels about the racial discrimination that’s going on in this country right now,” Canha said. “I felt like every fiber of my being was telling me that he needed a brother today.”

Canha added that he sensed some “discomfort” in the room as Maxwell addressed the team. But he also said there was support.

“It was an open forum to ask him questions. It was as articulate as I’ve seen him,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “This wasn’t an emotional thing just today for him. … I think he handled it really well and everybody was comfortable after the session. I’m proud of him for the fact he went about it the way he did.”

Maxwell, who was born in Germany while his father served in the Army over there, said he will continue to kneel for the anthem. He doesn’t expect his teammates to do the same, only to stick to what they believe in.

“I have plenty of family members, including my father, who have bled for this country,” Maxwell said. “At the end of the day, this the best country on the planet. My hand over my heart symbolized that I am, and will forever be, an American citizen. But my kneeling is what’s getting the attention because I’m kneeling for the people that don't have a voice.”

MLB issues statement on A's Bruce Maxwell kneeling during national anthem

MLB issues statement on A's Bruce Maxwell kneeling during national anthem

A's catcher Bruce Maxwell made history Saturday night in Oakland. The 26-year-old became the first player in big-league history to kneel during the national anthem. 

Below is the official statement from Major League Baseball:

Major League Baseball has a longstanding tradition of honoring our nation prior to the start of our games. We also respect that each of our players is an individual with his own background, perspectives and opinions. We believe that our game will continue to bring our fans, their communities and our players together.

MLB media services contributed to this report