A's Week: Promise of speed

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A's Week: Promise of speed

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Tori Harrison
CSNCalifornia.com

In a time of uncertainty for the A's, one thing has remained absolutely clear -- Jemile Weeks is untouchable. The young second baseman played in only 97 games last season, but made an impression as a star-in-the-making and a crowd favorite.

Weeks is regarded as the face of the franchise. As humble as he is talented, Weeks said the identity is "flattering." In 2011, Weeks became the first player in Oakland history to record 100 hits and 20 stolen bases in his first 80 games. He ranked second in stolen bases to teammate Coco Crisp.

The A's have plenty of speed with Crisp and Weeks in the lineup, and manager Bob Melvin plans to make it a big part of their game. Weeks can't wait.

"We are going to have to get runs different ways," Weeks said, "we are going to have to pick out our strengths. If running is our strength then thats what we have to do."

Crisp, who was second in the AL in stolen bases with 49, is convinced baseball is shifting from a reliance on power and emphasizing speed.

"The power numbers are slowly dropping, and the speed numbers are picking up," Crisp said. "If we can get that balance where it will level off between speed and power I think that will make us a pretty competitive team."

Tori Harrison is an intern with Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and a senior at UC Berkeley.

Bill King earns induction into Baseball Hall of Fame

Bill King earns induction into Baseball Hall of Fame

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Legendary A’s radio announcer Bill King was selected as the 2017 Ford C. Frick award winner, earning him induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The announcement came Wednesday morning at the winter meetings, and surely the news will be greeted enthusastically by legions of fans who identify King’s voice with so many of the Bay Area’s unforgettable sports moments.

King, who passed away in 2005, won the award in his sixth time as a finalist. Current A’s play-by-play man Ken Korach, who called games alongside King and wrote a book about his career and colorful personality, lobbied hard for his induction, even reaching out individually to Frick voters before this year’s election. Contacted Wednesday, Korach's voice cracked with emotion as he searched for words to describe his feelings.

“Honestly, I’m in tears. I really am,” Korach said. “It’s incredible. I’m just overwhelmed with joy, for his family, for his fans. What Bill meant to A’s fans and fans of the Bay Area in general is the reason that he’s in.”

King was passed over numerous times in previous Frick elections, with the assumed thought being that King’s terrific versatility behind the mic actually worked against him.

Because he was so well-known and identified with as a Raiders and Warriors announcer as well as A’s, some never viewed King as a pure baseball man. But baseball was nearest to King’s heart according to Korach, who plans to travel to Cooperstown with his wife Denise for King’s induction July 29.

“It was his first love, the game he enjoyed broadcasting the most.”

King’s call of the Raiders’ zany “Holy Roller” victory over the Chargers in 1978 is a staple of vintage NFL Films footage. He described the scene for Warriors fans as the team won its first NBA title in the Bay Area in 1975. And his trademark “Holy Toledo!” marked so many A’s victories over the years.

The other seven finalists for the Frick award were Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow, Gary Cohen, Jacques Doucet, Ken Harrelson, Pat Hughes, Ned Martin and Dewayne Staats.

“Bill King’s enthusiasm for every game he called carried through the airwaves and into the hearts of fans throughout Northern California for 25 incredible years with the Oakland Athletics,” said Hall of Fame president Jeff Idleson. “From his distinctive word choices in describing the action to his unabashed love of Oakland and the Bay Area, King crafted a career that became synonymous with the action at the Oakland Coliseum and throughout the sports world.”
 

A's reeling after death of minor league video coordinator Mark Smith

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ATHLETICS/TWITTER

A's reeling after death of minor league video coordinator Mark Smith

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — A’s officials at the winter meetings carried heavy hearts Tuesday following the death of minor league video coordinator Mark Smith.

Smith died unexpectedly Monday in Arizona at the age of 41. No cause of death was known, a team spokesperson said, and the A’s traveling contingent at the meetings were still processing the news Tuesday night.

“We’re still sort of absorbing this whole thing. As you can imagine this came as a shock to everybody,” said Billy Beane, the A’s executive vice president of baseball operations. “He had such a commitment to the organization and was such a diligent worker. He’s a tremendous loss. Everybody thought the world of him as an employee, a person. It’s shocking.”

Smith worked for the A’s for eight years and was instrumental in creating the team’s minor league video department in 2009. Manager Bob Melvin, who crossed paths with Smith every spring at the team’s minor league training complex, said Smith went above and beyond the expectations of his job to help everyone in the organization.

“He was the first guy you saw,” Melvin said. “Just a great guy that everybody felt close to. He couldn’t do enough to help wherever he could. … He’d send me video during the year of guys he thought I might see at some point, and I never even asked for them. Just a hard-working guy who was very aware of what each guy he was working with was looking for and needed.”

Funeral services are pending.