Posts Tagged Oakland As
The Boys of Summer – Adventures at Spring Training – Arizona Fun in February – Part 1
Posted by 'lottasports in Baseball, Spring Training on April 2, 2023
For true baseball fans, there is no better experience than attending spring training. The atmosphere is somewhat more relaxed than the regular season. Players are reunited with last season’s teammates while others meet new faces on a different team. Spring training is for fans of all ages with some multi-generations making the event an annual affair. This year, the Phoenix area was home not only to Major League Baseball’s Cactus League, but also some of the teams preparing to play in the World Baseball Classic, baseball’s biggest global tournament. It was a no-brainer where this baseball enthusiast wanted to be in February!
As luck would have it, over half the country was having weather issues from snow to tornados and we were trying to fly on standby! The parking situation at the airport should have been another indicator that the trip out there might have issues. After circling seven levels of the parking garage, we found the last parking spot on the rooftop. We just missed getting seats on the Atlanta flight, but were able to get on a flight to Salt Lake City and would be at least at the right end of the country for our final destination, Phoenix. The passenger next me was at the emergency exit and there was no seat in front of him. He ordered two Bloody Marys when the flight attendants came through with the beverage cart. He had just mixed his first one, when he decided to cross his legs. His tray table tilted dumping the Bloody Mary on his pants. His gold jeans had turned into a reddish-gold color and were soaked! The flight attendant quickly offered napkins to stop the mix from going on me and then retrieved galley towels and soda for the cleanup. Thanks to her quick response, I was spared my clothes getting soiled. Our area smelled of Bloody Mary mix for the next four hours!
After four hours of sleep — but who’s counting — we caught a flight down to Phoenix from Salt Lake City the next morning. We left the snow-covered Utah mountains hoping to have sunshine and nice warm temperatures like Arizona is known for. However, when we landed, we discovered that Arizona was having their coldest weather in years! Like a good girl scout, I came prepared with a jacket, thermal vest, wool socks and long johns!
The first part of the day was spent at American Family Fields, home of the Milwaukee Brewers. There was a Split Squad game with half of the Brewers hosting the Oakland A’s and the other half of the team over at the Colorado Rockies. Unfortunately for poor Milwaukee, it was a very one-sided game. Oakland got off to a fast start scoring four runs in the top of the first inning; the Brewers starting pitcher was pulled without making an out. The Milwaukee bats were very silent until the third inning when Luis Urias hit a homerun. By the sixth inning, it was six to one Oakland over Milwaukee with little hope in sight. We decided to head over to the other side of Phoenix to Scottsdale where we knew former Carolina Mudcats Sal Frelick and Michele Vassalotti were working out with Team Italy for the World Baseball Classic.
When we arrived at Notre Dame Prep Academy, we saw a handful of fans watching several players taking batting practice. As we walked towards the practice field, we came upon a security guard near first base. I explained we were there to see a particular player who was a pitcher and he asked if we were family. I laughed and I answered, “Kind of… Michele refers to us as his U.S. family.” He escorted us to a building across the parking lot. Inside were several players in a weight room while trainers monitored their workout. A weight trainer named Simone came over so I explained why we were there. Michele smiled and waved when he saw us quietly observing from the corner of the room. Christian Scafidi, one of the most accomplished pitchers at Penn and a grad transfer to Notre Dame, introduced himself to us. When he told me he was a free agent pitcher, I suggested he contact the Boston Red Sox. “We need all the help we can get!” He laughed and wiped his forehead, then went back to a machine. I was exhausted just watching the different drills and wished my pounds would be affected by just viewing.
When it was time for the team to head back to the hotel, we walked over to the team bus while Michele ran to the field to grab his gear. Outside the bus stood Mike Piazza, manager of Team Italy. Still sporting his infamous mustache, I could picture him in catcher’s gear. I was in awe of being there right next to the Hall of Famer and I think I mumbled something like, “I used to love to watch you catch” and “Congratulations on managing team Italy.” Also with him was Gianmarco Faraone, GM for the Italian Federation. Thankfully before any more exchanges were made, Michele ran up and bound up the bus stairs followed by the two men.
A few hours later, we took Michele and his roommate Ricardo Paolini, also from Venezuela, to dinner at Longhorn Steakhouse. As we got ready to order, Michele helped Ricardo by explaining some of the menu since Ricardo’s English was a little limited. When I ordered the garlic shrimp, Michele looked at me in disbelief and said, “Shrimp in a steakhouse!?! You’re supposed to order steak in a steakhouse!” We all got a good laugh out of that statement. He was right; it was not the best shrimp I’ve ever tasted! After dinner the boys wanted to stop by Target to pick up a few things they needed for a dinner honoring Team Italy the next evening. After three turns in the parking lot, we arrived at Target and headed back to the men’s department where Michele started on a search for a belt. He stopped at the shoes and picked up a pair of black shoes. “Well, I do have white shoes at the hotel.” He set the shoes back down and we went to an end display of belts where he immediately found one which he liked. Meanwhile, Ricardo had wandered off. We called out his name. There was no response. We went up and down the aisles in the men’s section. I thought I saw him so I headed down another aisle. Now I’m following a guy through the store and calling out, “Ricardo… Ricardo” and he’s not turning around. I finally caught up with him and I said, “Ricardo!” and the guy turned around. It wasn’t him and it was then I realized I had lost the rest of the group!! Nothing like getting lost in Target just minutes before closing!
‘Lotta Cinderella in Last Night’s AL Wild Card Game
Posted by 'lottasports in Baseball on October 3, 2019
The Tampa Bay Rays shocked the baseball experts as well as a sold out Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum and beat the As 5 – 1.
It should have been of no surprise to the As. They are snake-bit in the playoffs with an 0 – 6 record in winner-take-all playoff games at home since 2000!
Lord have mercy! They had their chances!! Rays starter Charlie Morton loaded the bases in the first inning!
35 years/11 months old Morton remained collected and got out of the jam. Charlie was on my fantasy baseball roster this season — he is what got me to the finals this year — last night was so-not-Charlie! He allowed eight runners to reach base in five innings (actually nine if you count the one reaching by an erratic throw from third to first)! He may be considered an oldster to the youthful bats, but this isn’t his first rodeo either. It’s his fourth time to the post-season – 2013 with the Pirates and the Astros in 2017 and 2018.
A franchise-record 257 homers launched from Oakland bats this season was non-existent in last night’s game. Eight singles was all they could muster.
The Rays only had seven hits, but four of those rockets — two back-to-back by Yandy Diaz — fresh off the DL. Some blame it on the decision of As Manager Bob Melvin choosing Sean Manaea for the start. He had a fresh arm for sure — he had just resumed pitching recently after being off for shoulder surgery. And in fairness to the decision, he was 4 – 0 in September with a 1.21 ERA. But there sat fifteen-game winner Mike Fiers, who pitched a no-hitter May 7 and was12-0 since then! Oakland fans have to be scratching their heads!
Here come the Rays — next stop Houston! ‘Stros beware — Tampa Bay may have the lowest payroll in Major League Baseball, but there’s a wealth of talent just waiting to become the next Cinderella in playoff history!
Lotta Sports from the Women’s POV – Career Choices
Posted by 'lottasports in Baseball, College Football, Football, Heart Beat of the Texas Hill Country on March 7, 2019
This column appears in the Spring 2019 issue of Heart Beat of the Texas Hill Country
Heisman winner Kyler Murray has decided – he has chosen the National Football League over Major League Baseball. I can’t help admire the kid – he’s very talented when it comes to throwing passes and crushing home runs. In high school, as the starting quarterback, he led North Texas’s Allen HS to three straight state championships and won 43 games in a row. He also played baseball – shortstop/second base – and was a top prospect for the 2015 MLB draft. He was the first player to ever be selected for both the Under Armour All-America Baseball Game and Under Armour All-America Football Game!
Instead of entering the baseball draft, he chose to attend Texas A &M his freshman year. Just a few months into the football season, he transferred to Oklahoma when it became apparent he would be battling against another high recruit, Kyle Allen, for a starting nod. With NCAA transfer rules, he had to sit out in 2016. In 2017, he hit the ground running as Baker Mayfield’s backup and even had playing time in a couple of games. Come spring, he switched hats and had a sluggish start playing Sooners baseball, but did so well the following year; he again caught the attention of Major League Baseball. The Oakland As took him as the 9th pick overall in the 2018 MLB Draft last June and presented him with a high dollar contract including a lucrative signing bonus. In return, he would play in the fall one more season of college football, then report to spring training in 2019.
Things got complicated when Murray led the Sooners to the semi-finals of the College Football National Championship collecting a slew of hardware along the way. He won the Davey O’Brien Award, AP Player of the Year, Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, First-team All-American, First-team All-Big 12 and the big daddy of them all, the Heisman Trophy. He finished out last year with an estimated net-worth of three billion dollars! Meanwhile, the Oakland As quietly waited in the wings for his report to spring training. Now, it is possible to play in both the NFL and MLB at the same time – about seventy have accomplished it – only a small handful since 1987 including Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders. Seahawks Russell Wilson played in minor league ball a few years and currently has a contract with the Yankees.
In January 2019, Murray teased the sports world with hints he would not be splitting time with the two sports. The A’s and MLB met with Murray, deviating from the norm, and offered him a major league contract. A decision had to be made soon since spring training was on the horizon. The suspense was over Monday, February 11th. Kyler committed to professional football citing “football had been his love and passion his entire life.” Murray would not get to keep his entire $4.66 million signing bonus with the As. Brace yourselves — He already has in hand 1.5 million, but only has to repay $1.29 million of that! He hasn’t even picked up a bat! The A’s will retain his baseball rights going forward and he will be placed on the minor-league restricted list indefinitely. Should Murray ever decide to return to baseball, he would have to return to the Oakland organization.
Did the Phenom do the right thing? Will he be a part of the Heisman Curse? Will he ever see a batting circle? Will hard hits from his bat ever replace hard hits from a Defense? Check back with me in five years.