Athletics

Bruce Maxwell's Colin Kaepernick kneel still sparks hate, misunderstanding

Bruce Maxwell's Colin Kaepernick kneel still sparks hate, misunderstanding

Programming note: Tune in to "Race in America: A Candid Conversation" on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m. this week on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming here.

Like Colin Kaepernick, he is a black man who saw injustice and was compelled to respond.

Unlike Kaepernick, his chosen field is dominated by whites.

Like Kaepernick, he imperiled his career over a matter of principle.

Unlike Kaepernick, he has been largely forgotten.

Bruce Maxwell is neither bitter nor regretful. He is scarred. And when he speaks, it is with a strong sense of emotional fatigue. As if he has been through the fire and accepts that the burns upon him will ache forever.

“I still have the messages,” he says. “I had a kid the other day come out on my team and just said, ‘Eff you,’ on my Instagram. He was like, ‘People like you are the problem that we have in this country.’ I had a guy reach out to me last year ... in the middle of my season, down here in Mexico, that told me that he hopes me and my family die a horrible death. I still get ...

“Three years and I still get it. It's the hate. It's the hate.”

Maxwell was speaking this week as a panelist on an NBC Sports Bay Area roundtable discussion, “Race in America: A Candid Conversation,” in reaction to global outrage after George Floyd was asphyxiated beneath the knee of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. This was the latest example of the conduct Maxwell had hoped to eradicate.

On Sept. 23, 2017, Maxwell, a biracial catcher for the Oakland A’s, decided to bring attention to police brutality afflicting the black community. Following the lead of Kaepernick, Maxwell dropped to one knee during the playing of the national anthem before an A’s-Rangers game at the Oakland Coliseum.

“I was just going into a year in the league,” he says. “I was a nobody. I was still technically a rookie. I didn't have millions of dollars in the bank, but this was much bigger than my paycheck.”

With baseball being a sport that generally tilts to the political right, Maxwell might as well have put a bullet into the leg of his Major League career.

Maxwell finished the season with the A’s and, with 109 games on his resume, all with Oakland, hoped to compete for a job in 2018. Five weeks after kneeling for the anthem, he was arrested in Scottsdale, Ariz., and initially charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon – pointing a gun at a food deliverer – and disorderly conduct. In July 2018, after pleading guilty disorderly conduct, Maxwell was sentenced to two years' probation.

A bullet into the other leg of his career. Maxwell appeared 18 games in 2018 and saw his statistics decline for a third consecutive season. He was not re-signed by the A’s that November and has not since been signed by any of the 30 MLB teams.

Maxwell, 29, took his career to Mexico, where last season he was an All-Star, posting a .325/.407/.559 slash line, with 24 home runs and 112 RBIs in 109 games with Acereros de Monclova of the Mexican League.

Though the light that represents MLB gets a little smaller every day, Maxwell, 29, hasn’t given up. He’d love another chance at the bigs. He also realizes his social-justice moment has become a burden that can’t be rinsed off his back.

And he’s OK with that. Indeed, the Floyd tragedy causes Maxwell to relive his own experience, all while the resultant global outrage -- the rioting and looting and increasingly violent police response -- simultaneously drops a knot into his belly.

“I have so many raw emotions about this,” he says. “All I can see is everybody, including George Floyd, I can see everything that came before him. I see Breonna Taylor (an African-American EMT shot in her bed in Louisville on March 13) sleeping in her bed peacefully. I see everything. And it's so many ways to feel and you can't really put it into words.”

[RELATED: Maxwell details mental toll of kneeling in "HEADSTRONG"]

What seems to bother Maxwell most is not what he might have given up, or what he might never again have. It’s the lack of progress on an issue that, in all humanity, should not be an issue at all.

“Nobody wants to see the message,” he says. “All they see is who's doing the stance. It's difficult to comprehend. It's sometimes difficult to stay on that path, but at the same time, it makes it worth the fight because these things need to happen for change to commence in the world that we live in.”

Maxwell dared to make a highly visible but inarguably peaceful protest for a cause any human must consider just. He did it on a baseball field, which takes monumental courage.

Bruce Maxwell should be remembered. Forever. As will Colin Kaepernick.

Ramón Laureano: Everything to know about A's do-it-all outfielder

Ramón Laureano: Everything to know about A's do-it-all outfielder

One positive thing that most of us reading this will ever have to do is we’ll never have to run on Ramón Laureano. We can thank our lucky stars for that.

The A’s centerfielder had possibly one of the best catches of the season in 2019 when -- well, just watch:

Shameless NBC Sports California plug aside, Laureano made it look easy, and not only on the catch. He also robbed Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto of a home run in the process.

So we know he can throw, he can hit and all of the typical baseball things, but what else?

The numbers

It has to be said we have yet to see the best of Laureano.

The 25-year-old slashed .288/.340/.521 last season which was good for an .860 OPS.

Then there’s that arm. 

Laureano is properly nicknamed “Lazor” for the way he’s able to dart a ball from the tippest point of centerfield to anywhere there was a runner attempting to get an extra bag.

It was one night in August 2018 against the Los Angeles Angels when an “Oh my god!” was shouted by NBC Sports California’s Dallas Braden on the broadcast to see Laureano throw from center TO FIRST BASE for a double play. At 321 feet, it had been the longest throw to complete a double play in the Statcast era.


The background

Born in the Dominican Republic, Laureano was drafted out of Northeast Oklahoma A&M in the 16th round by the Houston Astros in 2014 and was traded to the A’s in 2017 for minor leaguer Brandon Bailey. He made his A’s big league debut on Aug. 3, 2018, against Detroit. 

When Laureano was a younger prospect, he was compared to another Astros youngster Teoscar Hernandez in a scouting report by MLB Pipeline in 2017 but was said to be more of a “pure hitter,” with less power potential. He was also called an “above average defender,” which we already knew.

If you’re a fantasy baseball player, he’s also listed as a top-30 outfielder heading into the 2020 season.

Now for the important stuff

Long-time friend of Laureano, Ricky Rivera, gave me some details about the star-studded outfielder’s off-the-field hobbies.

During quarantine, Laureano picked up golf and really wanted to perfect his craft at video game MLB: The Show. He was playing the game a lot during quarantine to pass the time and had a group of eight or so guys get together and play. It sounds like it got quite competitive as well.

He’s also a dog lover, as Rivera described. Which at first, he didn’t think was a very random fact about Laureano, but we can all agree dog people are the best people.

[RELATED: A's hilariously sport Mike Fiers' facial hair facemask]

If you look anywhere on content written about Laureano, one notion that sticks out is his work ethic. In an interview with Rivera, who played with him at Northeast Oklahoma A&M, he said even though they were on the same team, Laureano would arrive at practice hours earlier. He was probably also the last one to leave.

“He’s always working out or talking baseball,” Rivera told NBC Sports California recently.

It shows. 

A's tentative 2021 MLB schedule includes Astros, Dodgers in opening week

A's tentative 2021 MLB schedule includes Astros, Dodgers in opening week

Before 2020’s regular season has officially begun, MLB announced the tentative schedules of all 30 clubs for next season on Thursday. The A’s open up the 2021 campaign at home against the Houston Astros on April 1.

This will also be the first time since 1968 all 30 teams will play their first game of the season on the same day.

For the most part, it will be regular-schedule programming for the A's with the AL West matchups against the Astros, Los Angeles Angels, Seattle Mariners, and Texas Rangers. 

But April will have the A’s also starting the season against the possibly Mookie Betts-less Los Angeles Dodgers right after their Houston home series then they head to Minute Maid Park directly after that. That’s quite a competitive sandwich. But the balls tend to fly there which is a boost for the A's. 

If things stay the same, which is never the case in baseball, there shouldn’t be too many surprises for Oakland next season as far as the competitive circuit goes. 

The Battle of Bay against the geographically rivaled Giants will take place three times in 2021. The first being an exhibition series, as the teams usually have, March 28-29. During the regular season, they will meet back at Oracle Park June 25-27 and later at the Coliseum Aug. 20-22. After that, the New York Yankees come to town to play Aug. 26-28 in Oakland. 

The A’s will also host the Boston Red Sox on July 4th and wrap up the season on the road against the Astros Oct. 1-3.

[RELATED: A's alternate 2020 site could be Giants affiliate's park]

Here’s a look at the entire tentative schedule: