A's Mark Canha feeding intellectual curiosity while rehabbing at Cal

A's Mark Canha feeding intellectual curiosity while rehabbing at Cal

Mark Canha has spent much of his offseason working out and taking swings at Cal, not surprising for an ex-Golden Bear fighting his way back into baseball shape after undergoing hip surgery.

But the A’s outfielder is also logging hours at the nearby Blue Door Cafe. That’s where he holed up recently to write a 10-page term paper on the labor problems involving the South African platinum miners’ industry.

While preparing for a healthy return to the A’s roster in 2017, Canha is also feeding his intellectual curiosity. Six years after being drafted out of Cal by the Florida Marlins, Canha re-enrolled for the fall semester to work toward completing his degree in political economy.

It isn’t some online endeavor where he’s taking courses from the convenience of home. Canha has been in full-on student mode this fall, commuting from his San Francisco home to Berkeley to attend an 8 a.m. Spanish class Monday-Friday.

He’s also taking an upper-division political economy class and another in macro-economics, with mandatory discussion groups mixed in to supplement those lecture courses.

Here’s the kicker: Canha is pursuing his studies in relative anonymity, surrounded by classmates who have no idea he’s a professional baseball player.

That’s ideal for him, as Canha has played down his status as a major leaguer.

“I didn’t want a professor to think differently of me and think that I had some sense of entitlement or something like that,” Canha said. “I’m not that famous, I guess you could say, in this world. Maybe a handful of times I’ve been recognized this semester.”

His uncle, Ben Canha, planted the seed about returning to school after seeing a story about Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman returning to Duke to finish his degree. But Canha also credits his wife, Marci — who is an architect — for drilling in him the importance of eventually completing his education. He’ll have one more semester left after this one to finish his degree.

The tricky part is balancing classes with his No. 1 priority, baseball. Canha’s 2016 season ended in May when he underwent surgery to repair an impingement in his left hip. Extensive rehab work followed, and the A’s season was still going when classes began for Cal’s fall semester.

“I had to work out the schedule with the trainers,” Canha said. “I didn’t want anyone in that training room to think getting over that injury wasn’t the top priority.”

He built his class schedule to include a gap of several hours in the afternoon when he does his baseball work. Canha says he’s hitting, running and will soon incorporate defensive drills into his daily schedule. He’s on track to be 100 percent for the start of spring training, and A’s officials consider him a candidate to be the everyday right fielder next season.

The 27-year-old Canha, a San Jose native, has always had interests beyond the diamond. He’s developed a following on Instagram (@bigleaguefoodie) for the brief reviews he gives on different restaurants he visits throughout the country with the A’s.

Political economy stimulates him academically.

“There’s this global component to it,” he said. “It’s basically the study of different economic situations throughout history and kind of learning from those and what those mean for our world today.”

He keeps a low profile on campus. In his brief self-introduction for Spanish class, Canha purposely left out any mention of baseball or the A’s.

His macro-economics professor, Mario Muzzi, had no idea Canha played for the A’s until contacted by a reporter for this story. But Canha had indeed caught Muzzi’s attention during lectures simply for his willingness to engage in class discussions.

The two have struck up casual conversations before class. And though Muzzi is a longtime Bay Area sports fan, who would have thought the student engaging him about class-related subject matter was a 16-homer guy for the A’s as a rookie in 2015?

“What that tells me is he’s just a genuine guy, not trying to get doors open simply from who he is or what he does, but how he performs,” Muzzi said. “He wants to be judged by the standards of any other student. I respect that.”

Rather than classmates quizzing him about facing big league pitchers, Canha says he’s fascinated by the intellect and diverse backgrounds of some of the students he’s engaged in conversation.

“When I was here (the first time at Cal), I made friends outside of the team,” he said. “I love doing that. You run into people with levels of intelligence you’ve never experienced before.”

Now officially in the fold, Lucroy ready to work with young A's pitchers


Now officially in the fold, Lucroy ready to work with young A's pitchers

The Oakland A's made it official: They finally got their man behind the plate. 

Oakland officially announced the signing of veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy on Monday. Lucroy's deal is reportedly worth $6.5 million, according to the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser.

Lucroy joined his new teammates for the first time in Arizona on Monday, and told reporters that he is especially excited to work with the club's young, promising pitching staff. The three returning leaders in innings pitched (Kendall Graveman, Sean Manaea, Jharel Cotton) are all 27-years-old or younger, and 22-year-old top prospect A.J. Puk is pushing for a rotation spot after allowing just one run in three appearances this spring. 

"I'm looking forward to working with these guys and trying to help them get better and get better myself along the way," Lucroy told reporters. "I think that's what it's all about; taking what they do best and try to simplify their approach ... Really, just doing anything I can with them to get hitters out."

Manager Bob Melvin told reporters that he thinks Lucroy's experience will prove beneficial to his young staff.

"If we can't go out and get ourselves a [starting pitcher], that's the next best thing," Melvin told reporters on Monday. "So, he's got a lot of experience, and a great reputation for being a teriffic leader behind the plate."

Lucroy, 31, slashed .265/.345/.371 in 481 plate appearances with the Texas Rangers and Colorado Rockies last season, hitting six home runs with 40 RBI, his lowest marks in those categories since his rookie season in 2010.

In order to accomodate Lucroy's signing the, the A's designated left-handed pitcher Jairo Labourt for assignment. Labourt was acquired off of waivers on Mar. 4, and Labourt's arrival prompted the eventual release of Brandon Moss one month into his Oakland reunion.

Maxwell speaks about anthem protest, but stays mum on legal issues


Maxwell speaks about anthem protest, but stays mum on legal issues

When A's catcher Bruce Maxwell knelt during the anthem last season, he was the first MLB player to do so. He knelt before each of each of Oakland's final nine games, in order to protest racial inequality and in response to President Trump's incendiary comments about NFL players kneeling, but ended the season as the only MLB player to kneel during the anthem. 

This season, he won't kneel at all, he told reporters in a statement on the first day of spring training. 

“Obviously, I didn’t take that lightly,” Maxwell told the San Francisco Chronicle prior to the release of his statement.  “That was to bring awareness to a problem and the face we do see it, we do experience and we have empathy for what’s going on. This year I don’t plan on kneeling. … And we’ll move on forward.”

While Maxwell did address his protest during the anthem, he largely did not address his offseason legal issues.

“It’s ongoing, I can’t really discuss details,” he said. “It’s something me and my lawyers are handling.”

On Oct. 28, Maxwell was arrested in Scottsdale after allegedly pointing a gun at a food-delivery person. He pleaded not guilty to felony charges of aggravated assault and disorderly conduct in November, and is set for a settlement conference on April 13 after failing to reach a plea agreement on Monday, according to the Chronicle. 

If an agreement cannot be reached, Maxwell's trial is set to begin on Aug. 9.