‘You have to have optimism to play this game’: How A’s players, coaches look for Oakland

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NEW YORK – Tommy Everidge remembers the first time he went to the Oakland Coliseum. How can you forget when Mark McGwire threw you a baseball? Everidge was 10 years old, a San Francisco Giants fan growing up Sonoma, California. But tickets to the Oakland A's were cheap, so he and his friend Cliff (and Cliff's father) went to see McGwire's A's and sat so close behind the dugout that the slugger himself pointed at Everidge and threw a baseball that hit it. Couldn't make it completely. The intended recipient is too busy kissing a couple in front of him to pay attention to the action on the field.

“And McGwire was like, ‘Hey, give it to the kid behind you!' Everidge remembered. “it was very nice.”

Everidge has that ball sometime over the last three decades. Without a signature or authentication of any kind, he figured no one would believe it came from McGwire, so he played catch with it until the ball disappeared.

In college, he and his friends went to the Coliseum on Wednesday nights for a dollar (a dollar to get inside and a dollar for a hot dog). He said of the stadium, “I thought it was beautiful before Mount Davis was put up.”

But these days, Everidge goes to the Coliseum more than ever. Thirty years after that first trip, Cliff lives in Southern California and works at Lockheed Martin. Everidge is the hitting coach for his hometown Oakland A's.

“I should probably try to get her out of there [to see a game]Everidge said.

He has to hurry.

‘They'll tell us'

A, as you may have heard, is leaving Oakland. The team that has been trying to push fans away rather than woo them with a winning product for the last few seasons officially succeeded in isolating the city just last month. The club announced an agreement to buy land for a new stadium in Las Vegas, and even though that plan has now focused on a new site in Nevada, the city of Oakland suspended its talks with the team.

Maybe it's just the in a long-running saga, but it this time felt more final,

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“I've just learned to shut it down because I think for the last three years, it's always been such a big vote, and then you realize it's kind of a vote to get a vote,” Everidge said. “I guess they'll tell us.”

They will be. But for now, no one is telling the guys in uniform anything because despite all the writing on the wall, the A's are still in Oakland — for this year and likely at least a little longer. In fact, they're still playing baseball.

Sure, you wouldn't know it if you ever looked at the first dozen titles when you searched for “A's” and you wouldn't know it if you looked at the first 29 MLB teams listed by winning percentage. From the outside, the 2023 Oakland A's, currently 8-29, are more about bad vibes than baseball. The characters people care about are the owners, team presidents and then possibly the fans with bags over their heads who still attend games to protest the first two.

But while the organization embodies corruption completely disconnected from the day-to-day experience of the game, the team is still a bunch of baseball-playing dudes doing their best with the same goals as every other team in the majors. Are.

“Finally, to compete in the World Series,” said A's manager Mark Kotse. “If that goal is not met, then the steps we've taken throughout the season, especially from the youngsters who are trying to establish themselves, that those guys can cement a place and build their future Can go on for and go on.” A big part of this organization's success is moving forward — so it's a success.”

Most likely, the goal will have to be the latter. On that front, Kotse offers more than just trivia. He praises Esteri Ruiz's “instinctive ability to steal bases,” Ryan Noda's “improvements in his range and his defensive metrics,” and young pitchers who are striking out more people relative to surrendering more people. 500 and has started throwing four or five innings per start. , instead of the two or three they were getting it done at the start of the season.

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When the is still a loss three out of four nights, Kotse understands it's his job to teach his players to look for those signs of progress. “Talk to him about his confidence and his continuous improvement,” he said. “If they don't have the essential result they're looking for, look for a result inside it.”

‘Completely out of our control'

you don't always have to dig extremely So deep. For the first time in nearly four years, an A-ranked player Won AL Player of the Week In early May. But even that doesn't accurately reflect how much of a bright spot Brent Rucker, the slugging outfielder, is for Oakland. So far this season, he leads all hitters in wRC+, which is a surprising turn of events for his fourth team in as many years for the 28-year-old who entered the season with less than 100 big league games under his belt. Entered.

Rucker resists any line of questioning about what has changed to allow for such success. According to him, his swing is the same and his approach is the same – he is seeing the ball very well these days. “I think maybe it pays at some point to have more experience,” he said.

He is not at all surprised by the results. Rucker has always believed it was possible. and if he never did, his wife Ellie interceded for him.

Allie used to be an emergency room nurse. When baseball shut down along with the rest of the world in 2020, Rucker was stuck at home while his wife worked 12-hour shifts at a hospital with patients.

“She was there early, when they didn't really know how to handle it or how to treat it or whatever,” Rucker said. “She lost a lot of patients, and it was hard for her, as I'm sure it was everyone in that area.”

It's the kind of experience that will put baseball into perspective — as will having a kid, for much better reasons, than the Ruckers did in September 2021. So yeah, homers are good, and the uncertainty lurking right outside the clubhouse can be a little distracting. But Rucker seems to have mastered the ballplayer cliché of what he can control.

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“And a lot of things – or not a lot. All of it, as far as the city, the stadium and stuff – is completely out of our control.

‘Nothing is 100 percent'

Hitting coach, like Everidge, A's reliever Sam Long grew up in the Bay Area, mostly to Bonds, but attended more affordable games in Oakland. His friends were split between Giants and A's fans, and so, after spending parts of two seasons in San Francisco, he was pleased with his trade to Oakland earlier this year.

The trade came just days after the initial Vegas news broke. A's fans arrived in Long's life with a recurring sentiment: “Glad you'll be playing for Oakland while they're there,” he recalled, “whatever the future holds.”

But, as Long points out, “nothing is 100 percent.” Let the latest news about the team's efforts to relocate be a reminder of the same. Las Vegas is already planned hit a roadblock in securing needed public funds, The players also cannot control it. And so, instead, they focus on what sometimes feel like equally long-winded efforts to win baseball games.

The Major League Baseball season feels like an especially punishing grind for A's players emotionally invested in playing competitively and A's fans wary of getting emotionally invested. How do you keep showing up when you know the end result won't be the result you're looking for?

“you could not Know That won't result because resilience is optimism,” Kotse said. “You have to have optimism to play this game.”