Note: The opinions expressed here are the writer's own and are not meant to be from the Oakland Athletics Baseball Company.
Spring Training is so close we can almost taste it!
The trucks from each Cactus League team are on their way to the Valley of the Sun from Cleveland, Cincinnati, Denver, Chicago, etc. ... but the ones that you and I are most excited about, are on their way in from Oakland, right now! The long off-season is almost over. We fans (and by fans I mean those of us who would self-destruct if the off-season lasted one more day) cannot contain our excitement; and the ball players are excited, too ... kind of like the first day of a new school year. And, just like the first day of school - after a long summer off, there are basics that need to be reviewed before putting the pedal to the metal on a brand new season.
In the interest of supporting the farm system of the AL West champs, I thought I would help with the review process: by taking a page from the annual MLB Rookie Development Program held in January for several of the top prospects in the game. Each winter, the young men are counseled in important areas of development that have nothing to do with pitching, catching, or hitting.
The MLB program addresses smart, basic, common sense information; Social Skills, for lack of a better term. As one who has spent a decade at the rookie level of development, these skills/ reminders are vital to all; not just the top prospects.I understand the investment and reasoning of sending higher-level prospects to the MLB program, but this information – nay "gentle reminders" - would benefit every player in the organization. So, since the investment price is right, let's do our own version. We'll cover the basics, because, just like in baseball, if you master the basics, the rest tends to take care of itself.
Before I begin, keep this in mind: I care about you, even if I don't know you. If you are in the Oakland A's farm system, that's all I need to know. I know how hard you've worked to get where you are; I know (generally speaking) that your monthly income is 1/1,000th of what the general public believes it is; I know that if there's a game or workout or ... anything that the public views as "entertainment", for you, it's WORK. However, that being said, part of your JOB is to socialize, be kind, and be a good representative of your employer. I'm also not going to just tell you things you want to hear; you will find more than enough people to do that. I prefer honesty; life's too short.
Ok, here we go:
1) ALWAYS CONDUCT YOURSELF IN A PROFESSIONAL MANNER – You're on the Job 24/7
The moment you signed your contract with Oakland, you became a 24/7 employee. Each day that you are fortunate enough to be paid to wear a uniform, you are a representative of the organization. Whether it's on or off the field, your name is associated with the Oakland A's. For instance:
- If you go 4-4 (or 0-4) in a game or read books to local school children – it's on behalf of the Oakland A's. Always.
- When you're in the batting cages after you THINK everyone has gone, and talk in great detail about ... ummm ... "events" from last night, there will always be someone who hears you ... someone who doesn't want to hear it. You represent the Oakland A's.
Unfortunately, I've been that "someone" more often than I would like. The first time was very early on when I worked with the Mariners. Two major league players, in the batting cages, while the fields were still open to the public; and they weren't using their "indoor voices". I was relieved that no one else was around, but I made enough noise to alert them that they were not alone. ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE NOT ALONE; EARS ARE EVERYWHERE.
- When you're out for dinner and you leave a generous tip for a server, someone will know who you are and they will enjoy knowing that you are good tipper. Word will spread quickly! This is awesome!!
- If you are cheap (bad tipper), or disrespectful; word will spread even faster. Even if people don't remember your name, they'll know you as "the guy with the A's".
- If you are in the stands and not playing in the game, regardless of how many people are in attendance, keep this in mind: every four-letter word out of your mouth, every action, every bodily function is amplified; you are under a microscope, make no doubt about that. You represent the Oakland A's.
To the credit of the A's minor league staff, the first home game of the 2012 AZL season was the first and last time I experienced the need to point this out...
2) IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT MATTER – Be Good to Your Fans – Especially the Little Ones
- PAY ATTENTION TO EVERYONE WHEN THEY ARE TALKING TO YOU.
- KNEEL DOWN, LOOK THEM IN THE EYE, ASK THEM A QUESTION AND LISTEN TO THEIR ANSWER!
- Ask their name, write it legibly, and SIGN YOUR NAME LEGIBLY!
- Whatever else you are doing, unless you're playing in the game, is not as important as making eye contact and giving them your full attention.
- At that moment, you are the ENTIRE Oakland A's organization. (see Reminder #1).
- Their parents are watching.
Newly signed member of the A's bullpen, Eric O'Flaherty is a great example of one who does all of these things properly. In spring 2006, I was working with the Mariners and Eric was 21 and between AA and AAA. Many times throughout the spring, I remember him - specifically - taking the time to talk with young fans, asking questions, looking them in the eye, and doing it all with a smile on his face. I have used him as an example for years; in my book, it's wonderful that he is with Oakland for many reasons.
3) HASHTAG PLEASE/ HASHTAG THANK YOU – Remember to Use Your Manners IRL (In Real Life) and in Social Media
- Say Please and Thank you. Always. Always. Always. Always. Always. Always. Always. Always. Always.
- IRL: Remember that while yes, you have the ability and have the work ethic to be where you are, under no circumstance are you there solely because of yourself.
A great, real life example: Former MLB All Star second baseman and World Series Champ Freddy Sanchez was drafted in the 11th round of the 2000 draft by the Boston Red Sox. The scout who lobbied for drafting and then signed him is a good friend of mine, Ernie Jacobs. According to Ernie, Freddy was always mindful of – and expressed his gratitude for - those who helped him live his life as a professional ball player, including Ernie.
When Freddy made his MLB debut in 2002, he signed his game worn jersey, "thank you for believing in me" and presented it to the scout who believed in him. This became a ritual; including his first All-Star game in 2006 with the Pirates and one of his World Series jerseys from the 2010 San Francisco Giants. Ernie received a personally autographed jersey with a similar note: "Thanks for the opportunity, Thanks for believing in me, etc.". How can you not love Freddy Sanchez? Be like Freddy.
- Social media: Gentlemen: I have directed tweets to many of you whether it's after a game or to share something positive. I don't criticize; my feedback is always positive. Some of you wouldn't acknowledge me until we met in person. Ok ... but my positive feedback is no more important than it was before. However, there are a handful of you who have never even responded a simple "thank you"... even those of you who follow me.
However, I will see you've responded to the pal or pretty girl above or below my feedback. I notice those things. Most people do. If someone says something nice to you, do what your parents taught you: say thank you. At the very least acknowledge the nice things because YOU KNOW the cowards who will rip you behind the protection of anonymity. BE NICE TO THE PEOPLE WHO ARE NICE TO YOU!!
- Selecting a positive example to highlight was difficult because many of you are so good ... but if there were one who consistently shares respectful, positive, insightful tidbits, and who also rivals Job in terms of patience with some well-meaning fans/followers, it is hands-down, Nick Rickles.
- To be fair, Kershaw has a twitter account, Jeter does not. But imagine if Jeter did. What kind of words he use? Would there be slang or disrespectful expressions used? Would either ever call one another the "N" word – no, I won't ever say that word. Ever. Would either refer to the other as an "F" word (slanderous expression for a homosexual ... another word I will never, ever use), or would they refer to women as anything other than a respectful term? Clearly the answer is no.
- If you think that reporters, scouts, team executives, your grandparents, and/or future in-laws aren't reading your tweets or Facebook posts, you're wrong. In the non-baseball world, future employers will often first look at someone's social media sites before considering an interview.
- If the focus of your expression is positive and respectful, you have nothing to worry about.
- If you feel cheated because all your friends back home get to post "whatever they want" and you don't ... that's' called First World Pains. Get over it.
- Again, the minute you signed a contract with the Oakland A's, you are no longer a "private" person. Then again, thanks to the internet, and now the super mega social media options, NOTHING is private, and NOTHING ever goes away. Think about what you send out. Before hit Enter to send a tweet, ask yourself if you could see Derek Jeter or Clayton Kershaw sending this.
- And for the record: if you're going to retweet a compliment that someone shares with you, be sure you REPLY a quick "Thank you" to that person as well. They took the time to share with you; take the time to personally thank them; not just boost your ego with the RT.
- PLLLLLLEEEEEEEASE know the difference between "you're" and "your". If you need to save characters, use "ur".
- Remember, the majority of your followers aren't there because you're brilliant and witty; they're following you because (all together now) you're a member of the Oakland A's.
- Be careful criticizing others: You're a professional athlete, and as we recently saw in the Super Bowl, even the great Peyton Manning has challenges.
In 2010, former Diamondbacks pitcher (and Stockton, CA native) Barry Enright, made his major league debut. This was the year manager AJ Hinch was fired, and Kirk Gibson took over the managerial duties mid-season. I am being kind when I say it was an "ugly" season. Unfortunately for their fans, the Arizona Cardinals had a similar season that same year. Whether or not Barry was a Cardinals fan, he was not shy about sharing, on Twitter, how hard it was to watch them lose so many games. There were many who were quick to remind Barry that – ahem – about those who live in glass houses, should not cast the first stone.
THINK BEFORE YOU TWEET.
4) TO WHOM MUCH IS GIVEN, MUCH IS EXPECTED – Don't be cheap, but don't be stupid with your money, either.
- Be a good tipper. Everywhere. To everyone: In restaurants, hotels, hair salons, spas and taxi's; doormen, clubbies, you name it. If they're in a gratuity based profession, make them remember you for a good reason.
- Get involved in a cause that is close to your heart; you don't have to start your own foundation, but see the change you want to make in this world. Put your money where your heart is, but don't let the PR people know what you're doing.
- I have always subscribed to the "When you give, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing". I recommend it.
- Super Bowl Champ QB Russell Wilson agrees. ... Just sayin'
- Use your "fame" to help a cause, don't use the cause to help your fame.
- Even if you have a financial advisor, ALWAYS KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE AND WHERE IT GOES. Educate yourself and have others as advisors, but never, ever just turn over your bank account to anyone and trust them.
- Remember, the odds are stacked against you; and injuries have brought far too many careers to an early end. Be smart.
Enjoy your last few days of the off-season and we look forward to seeing you back at the fields at Papago very soon! Oh, and don't worry about what to wear on the first day; the A's have got that taken care of for you.
OaklandClubhouse.com ~ Arizona Staff Writer
On Twitter @Cu_As