Petaluma little leaguers surprised by A's greeting

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Petaluma little leaguers surprised by A's greeting

OAKLAND -- Midway through their afternoon stretch the Oakland Athletics erupted in applause. The Petaluma National Little Leaguers had arrived. As the kids shuffled onto the Major League field, the A's stopped their work and lined up to greet the kids. As they met each other half way, stopping on the left field foul line, it was impossible to tell who was more excited to meet who. "This is so cool," Petaluma head coach Eric Smith said.
REWIND: Petaluma LLWS walk-off leads to A's pregame pie
The A's player's exuberant reception for the kids who advanced all the way to the United States Title Game in the Little League World Series caught everyone off guard. "I think in the kid's mind it is all about getting to meet the big guys," coach Smith said. "So the fact the big guys welcomed them like that, it's not what they expect."The kids took the field and played catch as the A's completed their stretch. Then when batting practice began the boys got to shag balls in the outfield and marvel at some of the tape-measure blasts hit by the Oakland players. "We're excited about having them here," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "Hopefully they are as excited about being here."The kids fit in well on the field with the pros -- the matching green and gold uniforms didn't hurt either. The star attraction for the little leaguers was a chance to meet with Petaluma native Jonny Gomes. He led them on a tour of the clubhouse and dugout and addressed the team. They followed him in a single file line as he guided them through the facilities.
REWIND: Gomes Bros -- Petaluma's National's secret weapons
For the 12 and 13-year-old kids this is just another dose of the type of star treatment they are going to have to get accustomed to. The big league perks are nice, but the little local heroes are just starting to reap the benefit of their miraculous run."We didn't think we were going to have 2,000 people waiting for us when we got home," assistant coach Trevor Tomei said. "They are expecting 20,000 people at their hometown parade."In addition to the warm reception the kids received the ultimate prize from a local pizza place. "All the kids got free pizza for a year from Pinky's Pizza in Petaluma," Tomei said. "They get a free large pizza with one topping any time they want." "I think they are starting to realize how big it is for the Bay Area," Smith said.While the kids competed in Williamsport, Pennsylvania they had little idea of how big a story they had become back home. The reality set in as soon as they landed at the airport. "They had a cannonball solute coming down the runway with two fire engines blowing water over our plane," Tomei recalled. Even though they lost in the U.S. Title Game, their improbable 10-run 6th inning to tie the game electrified the Bay Area and softened the blow of their eventual defeat. "15-5 would have felt bad," Smith said. "Knowing that they gave it a shot and were so close, I think deep down, even though they didn't like the loss, knowing they gave it a shot helps."These kids are experiencing something they will remember for the rest of their lives. While it is all about the accomplishments of the players on the team, it is equally as special for the grown ups as well. Coach Smith's son Hance hit the game-tying home run to cap the 10-run rally. A moment he won't soon forget either. "That's the probably the only time during the series that I let the father get ahead of the coach," Smith said. "When he hit that, I probably jumped more like a fan than a coach." The parade in Petaluma will take place on Sunday. Maybe after that things will settle down and go back to normal for the families and players. This may however, not be the last we'll see of these exceptionally talented kids. They have bright futures ahead of them and a couple of them might end up on the playing surface of a big league field yet again, only in a much larger uniform.

A's spring training update Day 6: Davis savors winter in Oakland

A's spring training update Day 6: Davis savors winter in Oakland

MESA, Ariz. — Khris Davis enjoyed quite an offseason travel itinerary, checking out Toronto, taking in the beaches of Hawaii and dining on lobster in Belize.

However, it was the time spent in his adopted hometown of Oakland that most struck a chord with the A’s left fielder. After finishing his first season with the A’s, Davis followed through on his plan to make his offseason home in Oakland, and he was glad he did.

“I got to just feel the heart of the city,” he said upon arriving at camp Sunday. “That was basically the purpose of why I was there. … I wanted to feel Oakland. I love it, honestly. I love the city.”

He trained at Dogtown Athletic, a gym in West Oakland. He took part in the A’s holiday party for kids at the Oakland Zoo, joined by A’s Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, who grew up in the city.

“Just to feel these kids’ happiness,” Davis said. “They didn’t look at me as a baseball player. They just looked at me as a role model kind of.”

It should be music to the ears of A’s fans that the team’s most dangerous hitter has a love affair with the city he plays in. If the A’s ever entertained the idea of trying to sign Davis to a multi-year extension, and that’s purely hypothetical here, it would help that Davis feels comfortable in his surroundings.

Even when he described Oakland in edgy terms, such as when he said it “has its dark side,” he seemed to find it endearing.

In return, Davis felt the love from the fan base in 2016, hitting a career-high 42 homers with a team-best 102 RBI. That was despite the awful start he got off to, hitting .143 and mustering just one RBI over his first 12 games.

Obviously, any chances the A’s have of improving last year’s American League-worst offense rely on the 29-year-old Davis having another big year. But over-analysis is one thing he tries to avoid.

“I don’t want to get caught up in last year — the slow start and the strong finish, whatever,” he said. “However it was, I’m just ready to do this year.”

Davis decided to back out of his plan to play for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, saying his main priority was preparing for his A’s season.

“My main focus is to perform for the organization,” he said. “I feel like I want to get off on the right foot this year.”

NOTEWORTHY: Heavy showers continued to pelt Mesa on Sunday, spoiling the A’s first full-squad workout. The hitters were relegated to swinging in the cages and playing catch, while pitchers were scheduled for a day off from throwing on the mound anyway.

“If ever there was a day, at least for the pitchers, that you don’t need to (work out), it’s today,” manager Bob Melvin said. “But when you have everybody there on the first day, you wanna get out on the field and do everything. Hopefully we can incorporate everything tomorrow.”

The A’s have a whopping 70 players in camp, more than in any other spring Melvin can remember as a big league manager. He addressed the full team in a meeting Sunday morning.

His message?

“We’re gonna have to outwork, out-hustle everybody like we have in the past,” he said, “and get back to playing the game with the same tenacity that we did a couple years ago.”

FAMILIAR FACE: Longtime A’s second baseman Mark Ellis is back for the second year in a row as a spring infield instructor. The plan is for Ellis to spend a week with the team now, then another week later in camp.

“I’ll take Mark Ellis as many days as I can have him,” Melvin said.

LIGHTER SIDE: Nursing his broken right foot, starting pitcher Daniel Mengden has been making his way through the clubhouse on a knee scooter in order to keep pressure off his foot.

Apparently, it looks more fun than it really is.

“I contribute to society Friday, when I can start walking again,” Mengden quipped.

BART, transportation among issues A's tackling in ballpark search

BART, transportation among issues A's tackling in ballpark search

MESA, Ariz. — The research and fact-finding continues for the A’s as they work toward deciding where to build their new ballpark in Oakland.

Team president Dave Kaval, in Arizona to briefly soak up the spring training vibe, says the team is still gathering all the information it can on the four locations being considered — the current Coliseum site, Howard Terminal, Laney College and Brooklyn Basin, which like Howard Terminal is a waterfront site.

Place an asterisk next to “four,” because as Kaval explains, there’s multiple spots a ballpark could be built at some of the locations.

For example, “there’s a couple different ways in the Lake Merritt area to orient a ballpark,” he said Sunday. “Each one has to be studied individually, because there’s traffic and parking issues that change depending on where you put it. There’s a couple ways it can work in and around Lake Merritt. So we kind of are looking at it as two different options.”

The research will continue for the “next couple of months,” according to Kaval, meaning it doesn’t seem any decision is forthcoming soon. But he reiterated that an announcement will come during 2017.

Kaval was asked how important it was for a ballpark to be near a BART station.

“I think if you’re in a certain range of a BART station, it doesn’t matter if it’s one block or two blocks,” he said. “But if you start getting a little farther, it does change people’s willingness to actually take that public transportation to the venue.”

Howard Terminal, located just north of Jack London Square, is a 20-25 minute walk to the nearest current BART station (12th Street). There’s been speculation that a new station could be built closer to Howard Terminal if a stadium went up. Kaval also said the A’s would consider some sort of shuttle service were they to build at Howard Terminal, and they’re researching the ferry options for such a location.

Long story short, there’s still plenty of transportation and environmental issues to sort out before the A’s settle on a site to build. In the meantime, fans will be in for a treat in the upcoming season when they arrive at the Coliseum.

The A’s gutted the West Side Club and are rebuilding it as Shibe Park Tavern, named after the franchise’s former home in Philadelphia. It will include bricks and other materials from the old ballpark, obtained from the Philadelphia Historical Society.

The A’s will also launch “Champions Pavilion”, which will include anywhere from eight to 16 local food trucks that will be stationed between the Coliseum and Oracle Arena during most home games. Ticket holders will have in/out privileges, with video monitors outside showing the game.

Nights when there’s a Warriors home game could make it tougher to pull off the full operation — Warriors playoff games will be a particular challenge, Kaval said — but the A’s will work with the Coliseum’s Joint Powers Authority to smooth things out as much as possible.

According to Kaval, the A’s are spending between $600,000-$700,000 to improve the current in-house concession stands, making it possible to cook inside the stands themselves as opposed to transporting food from the kitchen.

The efforts received a thumbs-up from A’s manager Bob Melvin.

“We’re there until we’re not,” Melvin said of the Coliseum. “We’re gonna be there for a period of time, so I appreciate the fact that he’s trying to spruce it up a little bit for our fans, give them more options for food and just create a better atmosphere in our ballpark.”