Center fielder Coco Crisp strutted back into the Bay Area with puffed-up hair and a retro-style beard. Red-headed right fielder Josh Reddick slicked back his locks and added even more inches to his bushy beard as part of an ongoing competition. General manager Billy Beane still had his hair combed clean but picked “a terrible time,” he said, for a sun spot to be removed from his nose.
The A’s are back, and with plenty of new looks.
In front of a sellout crowd of more than 10,000 fans at neighboring Oracle Arena, players and coaches returned to Oakland on Sunday to drum-up support before heading to spring training in a few weeks. FanFest, the meet-and-greet event the team canceled for three years until holding it again last January, swelled with so much support the team had to turn people away.
After an improbable run to the AL West title last season, attention on the low-budget club could be greater this summer. Unlike a year ago, the A’s aren’t sneaking up on anybody.
“It’s better than having no expectations,” Beane said.
Players said they started to realize their newfound fame during the offseason.
Reddick spent time back home in southeast Georgia. He bought his first house in Guyton, Ga., and a new English Bulldog named Murray — after Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray.
“Felt like it was right,” he joked.
Reddick said people recognized him more no matter where he went, and he even hosted his first charity event — a home-run derby to support his hometown of Rincon, Ga.
All of it was the result of Oakland’s surprising success.
The A’s played a video montage to start FanFest that highlighted the improbable run: They finished 94-68, capturing the AL West title on the final day of the regular season over Texas for the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2006 and became the only team in major league history to win a division or pennant after trailing by five games with fewer than 10 to play.
After losing the first two games in the division series at Detroit, the A’s rallied at home to force a decisive Game 5 at the Coliseum, where Tigers ace Justin Verlander pitched a four-hitter in a 6-0 victory.
“Expectations haven’t changed,” Reddick said. “We have firm belief we can do it again this year.”
Reigning AL Manager of the Year Bob Melvin grabbed a microphone on stage following the video and team introductions. He quieted the roaring crowd of A’s fans and took a few seconds to savor the moment before asking,
“What’s up Oakland?”
Typical Bo-Mel, as players call him.
“My job is to get everybody with the right mindset, the right focus, knowing that we have to try to build on last year, create the momentum, understand what we did last year but know that each and every year is separate,” Melvin said.