“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to
make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
When I signed with the Oakland A’s, I had a very good 1st season in the minor leagues and then went to the instructional league where I also played very well…
Going into spring training, I was on a mission to get to the big leagues, and as far as I was concerned, there wasn’t a person or thing that was going to stop me.
Unfortunately, the balls to the wall approach that I had played with since I was 9 years old wasn’t necessarily always appreciated by teammates and opponents.
The first thing we had to do in spring training was a 1-mile fitness test, in which we had to complete the 4 laps around the field in under 7 minutes and 30 seconds.
Because of my 1st season success, I was placed on the AAA team and just about all of my teammates were veteran minor league players that I had never met or played with before.
Naturally, when the mile began, I went out FULL SEND.
Eventually, I lapped the entire team and it is pretty safe to say my effort wasn’t cared for by the other guys…
“Who do you think you are… Forrest Gump.”
“Hey Prefontaine, slow the f*ck down, you are showing us up.”
Instead of responding, I put my head down and just kept running… FAST.
I slaughtered the mile in 5 minutes flat and the comments kept coming as the guys trickled in…
“You can’t run your way to the big leagues dork!”
“This ain’t the track team asshole.”
As much as I wanted to respond, I put my head down and kept my mouth shut.
Later that day, we were doing a fly ball and pop up drill… I was playing left field and had just made a full lay out, sick ass diving catch in the left-centerfield gap… Yet, instead of praise from the other guys, the response was:
“What the fuck are you doing dude? This is a drill… Take it easy.”
Then there was a ball hit down the left field line and I went flying over to try to make the catch… As I closed in on the ball at full speed, I ran into a makeshift rope barrier that I did not see and got completely clothes lined. My feet went flying in the air and I landed flat on my back. The entire team erupted in laughter and the comments continued to pour in…
“Ha! Keep playing hard you dumb ass!”
“Take that you wannabe Charlie Hustle.”
Of course, I had a dire urge to fire back and physically beat the fuck out of the lazy ass shit-talking pieces of shit, but again, I put my head down and kept my mouth shut.
When the season began, I started with the AA team in Midland Texas and then got called up to AAA Sacramento in mid-July… Many of the same dudes that verbally crushed me in spring training were on the Sac team and the adjustment period was difficult to say the least.
Despite the ICEY reception and treatment from teammates, I kept my head down, mouth shut and simply continued to play my game.
Not much more than a month later, on August 22, 2000, Manager Bob Geren called me into his office and informed me that I was getting called up to the big leagues…
After an emotional exchange with Bob, who had managed me in A ball and the Dominican as well, I was walking out the door of the office when Bob stopped me one last time…
“Regardless of what anybody ever tells you, don’t ever change the way you play… Don’t ever fucking change.”