From Comcast SportsNetOKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- For Nick Collison, taking a trip to Africa changed the world he lives in.The Oklahoma City Thunder forward was only in Kenya for three days, but it felt like three weeks. He witnessed people who walked 30 miles just to get two drops of polio vaccine, then turned around and walked home. He mingled among 100,000 people seeking refuge from wars and famine.He'll come back to the United States a changed person."To see things like that, it makes it real because you always hear about what's going on in different places of the world. To see it firsthand, for me, made it real," Collison said by phone Thursday from South Africa, where he's participating in the NBA's 10th Basketball Without Borders clinic."It's just an incredible trip."Before heading to Johannesburg, Collison stopped in Nairobi then headed out to the refugee camp with UNICEF."I'd say it's probably a life-changing experience. It's something that will give me a different perspective on my life and just how I see the world," Collison said."I think the goal of bringing the NBA as a partner of UNICEF is to get guys to talk about it and just kind of get the word out to a different audience, to let people know what groups are doing and people can get involved with what's going on."Collison is part of a hefty Thunder presence in Africa this week. Four of the seven NBA players participating in Basketball Without Borders this year are from the Oklahoma City roster. Serge Ibaka, a native of the Republic of Congo, joins Collison, Thabo Sefolosha and Cole Aldrich as camp coaches.Chicago's Luol Deng, Milwaukee's Luc Mbah a Moute and Brooklyn's C.J. Watson are also participating in the basketball clinic for 60 African boys and girls, and helping life skills seminars and education on HIV and AIDS."We're out here to not only change other people's lives but also to change ours, to give us a different perspective on other how other people live," Aldrich said. "Serge grew up in a totally different lifestyle than any of us did, and we're learning a little bit of that through this trip."It's been so much fun, there's a lot of things we've got to continue to do and we're just trying to spread the word of basketball and just help people that need help."Ibaka made a stop in his hometown, Brazzaville, for about a week and offered a basketball clinic there before linking up with his teammates in Johannesburg. Ibaka is the son of two Congolese basketball players, and is trying to do his part to spread the sport further now that he's developed into one of the NBA's top defenders."I'm trying to do my best I can to come back there and give something and show them that I'm still thinking about them," said Ibaka, who led the league in blocks last season and finished second in the voting for Defensive Player of the Year.Sefolosha's father is from South Africa, and he, Ibaka and Collison all had participated in Basketball Without Borders before. Aldrich is a first-timer and took in a safari before the camp began."The goal is to try to improve the basketball development program for kids over here, to get more coaching, to get the national teams more involved, so that they can learn the game better," said Collison, who last participated in 2008. "I've seen a difference from four years ago. The coaching is better, the kids are more skilled, they have a better feel for the game. It's really great for the NBA to do."While passing along some tips on life and how to play hoops, the players also learn more about themselves and the people around them. Just as importantly, they'll live out unforgettable experiences that they can share with others through the platform of professional sports."You kind of look eye-to-eye with people and you start to actually relate to them because they're mothers, fathers and they're trying to do what's best for their children," Collison said. "They just have so many obstacles and difficulties."
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Debate the significance of an A’s exhibition win over the Giants if you will, but don’t question its significance to Bob Melvin.
Beating the team in black and orange means a lot to Oakland’s manager no matter what the calendar reads. On Monday, the teams played a late-February game under an overcast sky and occasional light rain at Scottsdale Stadium.
Not exactly regular-season like conditions. And with both teams’ everyday players having exited the game early, the A’s held on for a 5-4 victory that ran their Cactus League winning streak to seven over the Giants.
Counting exhibitions in the Bay Area too, the A’s are 18-6 against their Bay Area rival in their past 24 spring games.
“Look, when the Giants and A’s play, there’s a little more to it,” said Melvin, who grew up in the Bay Area and played three seasons for the Giants. “You play your spring games and you’re excited about getting to play these guys. And, especially, our youngsters should be. They know the way I feel about it. The whole Bay Area is watching when we play each other.”
Matt Joyce homered deep to right off Jeff Samardzija in the top of the first, giving the first-year Athletic two home runs in two games with his new club. Stephen Vogt blooped an RBI single in the first and Ryon Healy doubled home two runs in the second.
The Giants rallied to tie it 4-4 in the seventh with three runs off minor league reliever Trey Cochran-Gill. But Adam Rosales drew a bases-loaded walk in the eighth to give the A’s the lead back as they posted their first victory in three Cactus League games this spring.
NOTEWORTHY: Starters Kendall Graveman and Sean Manaea both threw for the A’s, with Manaea in particular earning strong praise for his two scoreless innings.
The lefty felt very good about his slider and changeup, and according to Healy, when he went to the plate for his third at-bat, Giants catcher Buster Posey commented on how good Manaea’s changeup looked. Manaea got both Posey and Kelby Tomlinson swinging on the pitch in the third.
It was the slider, his third-best pitch, that Manaea is trying to hone.
“I was really, really happy with how my slider was,” he said. “It was probably the best one I’ve thrown in a couple years. It just felt really good out of my hand and had some good movement.”
Added Melvin: “If he gets that one to (the) back foot of a rightie, now he’s going to have three plus-pitches.”
Graveman escaped his one and only inning of work unscored upon when he stranded runners on second and third.
NEW GUYS: Joyce, likely to platoon in right field with Mark Canha, has played in two exhibitions, and twice he’s gone deep on 1-2 fastballs that caught the inner half of the plate. On Monday, Melvin batted him second and Joyce went deep off Samardzija.
“I can’t even talk to that guy,” Healy said with a smile. “He says he’s just trying to put the bat on the ball, and he has two homers.”
As for another first-year Athletic, there’s still no concrete word on when reliever Santiago Casilla will report to camp. He remains held up in the Dominican Republic as the visa process plays out. Melvin admitted a bit of concern just because Casilla is slated to play for his national team in the World Baseball Classic, and Melvin would like to get Casilla in camp for a stretch before he departs for that.
The Dominican Republic plays its first game March 9 in Miami.
“I’d like to get him here — I’d like to meet him,” Melvin said. “It’s not his fault.”
Melvin said a typical schedule would have relievers appearing in nine or 10 exhibitions before the team heads north, but that he didn’t think that would be necessary for Casilla. It’s also worth noting that none of the A’s other front-line relievers have pitched in their first game yet.
ODDS AND ENDS: Vogt, getting his first start behind the plate, and Rajai Davis each had two hits. … Shortstop Franklin Barreto, the A’s top prospect, played the final four innings at second base. Yairo Munoz, another highly touted infield prospect who’s in his first big league camp, entered in the same inning at third base. … Melvin praised reliever Kyle Finnegan, who came over from minor league camp for the day and handled the ninth for the save.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants do not expect Christian Arroyo, their top hitting prospect, to get a lot of at-bats in a camp filled with veteran infielders. But the 21-year-old continues to make the most of every opportunity he gets.
Arroyo hit a scorching single to left in his first at-bat Monday. When he came up with the bases loaded in the seventh, he poked a single into right, tying the game. Arroyo grounded out in his final at-bat, ending his perfect run this spring. With three hits in his first four at-bats down here, Arroyo is now 17-for-30 in three springs in big league camp.
“It’s the same (thing) he did last spring,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s getting great at-bats and playing well at shortstop. In the early go here, he’s playing the kind of ball that he was last spring. His mechanics are very solid. It’s a good foundation, good balance, and he doesn’t try to do too much. The bat stays in the zone a long time and he uses the whole field well. He’s a good hitter. He’s only going to hit for more power. The power is going to come, too.”
A move to the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League should help. No matter what Arroyo does this spring, the Giants will send him to Triple-A if their 40-man guys are healthy. But Arroyo’s time is coming, and it’s coming soon.
For more on Arroyo, here’s a feature I wrote about him last week. Here’s more from the first day of the third week of spring training …
GAME RECAP: The Giants will not go undefeated this season. They lost to the A’s for the 124th consecutive time in the Cactus League, this time by a score of 5-4 … Michael Morse got the first hit of his comeback attempt. His pinch-hit single up the middle in the seventh drove in a run. In the eighth, he lined a two-strike single to right … Brandon Belt hit his first homer of the spring. It was the 24th of his spring training career. You can see it here … Bochy was impressed with Jose Dominguez, who struck out one in a scoreless inning.
STOCK WATCH: Orlando Calixte played right field, after previously seeing time at short and second this spring. “He’s intriguing,” Bochy said. “He showed the arm off in right field. He’s a good shortstop and plays second and third. He’s a good athlete.” The Giants plan to carry five outfielders, but if none of the right-handed bats break through, they could always carry Calixte as a super-utility guy. Remember, he’s on the 40-man roster.
CUETO UPDATE: The co-ace still is not in big league camp, or on the way. Here’s the latest on Johnny Cueto.
TRAINER’S ROOM: This room now belongs to Anthony Reyes, as Dave Groeschner is off to South Korea with Hensley Meulens and Team Netherlands. Will Smith (elbow) threw off flat ground and everything went fine. Eduardo Nuñez (shoulder) will likely resume playing third base later this week.
QUOTABLE: “To have that splitter that out of the hand looks like a heater, for me, that’s huge.” — Jeff Samardzija on a pitch that helped him dominate in September. Here’s more on Samardzija and his plans for 2017.