2013 FanFest report-back
As they did in 2012, the A's invited a group of bloggers to FanFest this year, letting us in with a "press" badge and giving us the opportunity to do press conference–style question-and-answer sessions with players and coaches. Last year was almost a pilot, as there were, I think, six of us in attendance. This year the number expanded to 15 and included an application process, presumably so that under-the-radar-but-still-legitimate bloggers could get in on the action. I'll be honest: I didn't know there were 15 A's bloggers out there. I follow on Twitter everyone I'm aware of who writes about the A's, but apparently I missed a few.
Anyway, FanFest was as nutty and crowded as it was last year, which is to be expected: it's held in Oracle Arena, the hallways of which are made to get people from one area (the door, the bathroom) to another (the main bowl, the nacho stand). It isn't made to contain hundreds/thousands of fans waiting in line to have their photo taken with World Series trophies.
I got there pretty late because I was attempting to have breakfast with my friends -- we did finally end up successful, but it took finding out that Jodie's in Albany was closed for vacation and that the wait for Bette's Oceanview Diner in Berkeley was an hour before we ended up at Tacubaya (across the street from Bette's) -- and because I'm, to the eternal frustration of Adam Loberstein, A's Media Relations Coordinator, utterly unable to follow directions as far as how to actually get in to an event (no, Jason, do not go to the regular entrance -- go, as it says in the instructions, to the Re-Entry/Exit gate). By the time I made my way to where Billy Beane and Bob Melvin and Chris Young and Josh Reddick were answering audience questions moderated by Casey Pratt, I couldn't find a seat and I could only listen for about 15 minutes before I had to go back outside to meet the blogger group anyway. (I learned about what I expected to learn from the full-group Q&A, which was: Josh Reddick's beard is majestic, Chris Young seems nice, and Billy Beane's voice is deeper than you might think.)
Once the 14 other bloggers (who included Nico, Alex Hall, and Cuppingmaster/Alan from Athletics Nation, dude from newballpark whose name I've still never managed to catch, Tamara and Sean Davis (from Oaktown Breakdown and Swingin' A's, respectively), Bill Moriarty from A's Farm, and others to whom I failed to introduce myself because I'm a pajamas blogger, dammit, not a meet 'n' greet guy) and I gathered at our designated Gathering Point, we moved to the bowels of the stadium (mmm) and awaited, in turn, manager Bob Melvin, assistant general manager David Forst, and coach Mike Gallego. (Jarrod Parker was scheduled but called in sick.)
Here, then, a few notes from these three Q&A's -- I'm sure Athletics Nation and other blogs will have full transcripts up in relatively short order, but I'll just direct you there for those. These are my impressions and such.
As he did last year, Melvin impressed me with his relative forthrightness (noting, for instance, that Daric Barton is not only going to have to perform to earn a spot on the team, but somebody in front of him is going to have to fail) as well as his obvious intelligence and openness to variations on traditional ideas about baseball (pointing out that Coco Crisp's on-base percentage is not ideal in the leadoff spot and identifying John Jaso as a potential leadoff man should something happen to Crisp). He's no rebel, but the respect he garners in the clubhouse, his extreme attention to positive energy and reinforcement, and his aforementioned awareness that the way he learned the game in the 1970s may not actually be the way the game is best played seem to make him an ideal 21st century manager, at least as far as any of us can tell from our far-outside position. He'll get fired eventually because nearly all managers do (he'd have to manage, what, 20 years to get to retirement?), but I suspect he's a legitimately good man for this job.
As for specific things Melvin talked about:
Here's a surprise: David Forst is a really smart guy. There is and surely always will be a boy's club in baseball, but it's harder and harder to break in. You've really got to have chops, and you've got to have absurdly good chops to get to Forst's level (assistant general manager, and a guy who has drawn interest as a general manager from other teams). Also, it was only 15 minutes, but he's clearly articulate and comfortable in front of an audience on top of being intelligent -- these qualities don't always come in the same person, but they're vitally important for the public face of a front office.
Melvin, as I mentioned, was at last year's blogger event, and is in any case the manager and is thus interviewed on television with some frequency. I saw Forst answer questions in the big Q&A last year and have also read interviews with him at blogs and such. Gallego, by contrast, was a mystery to me, in the sense that I had no idea how he'd speak, what he'd say, what his voice was like, or just how short he'd be in real life.
So let me just state for the record that Gallego is legitimately short. Like "how on earth did he have a double-digit major league career" short. Guys like him and David Eckstein and Luis Polonia and even Chone Figgins just impress the hell out of me. Obviously they have physical tools -- nobody who signs a professional contract at any level doesn't -- but the gap between, say, Barry Bonds and Mike Gallego feels as large as the gap between Seth Smith (to pick a nice, solid, average player) and me. That Bonds and Gallego shared a sport (strike that, a field) boggles my mind.
Gallego was also funny and engaging. He very much wants to manage (he told us that he called Bill Geivett of the Rockies about their opening) and, while I don't know anything at all about his motivational skills, his organization, his tactics, and so forth, I think he'd do just fine under the lights and mics.
Beaneball by Jason Wojciechowski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.