Athletics

Coronavirus prompts A's to donate $100K to local community food bank

Coronavirus prompts A's to donate $100K to local community food bank

Major League Baseball faced more uncertainty Monday when it was announced the original Opening Day delay of two weeks had been pushed back

The season is now being delayed until at least May due to the recent coronavirus pandemic.

Still, local athletes and teams have been doing their part by giving back to the communities.

The A's announced Monday they will donate $100,000 the Alameda County Community Food Bank.

“This is an unprecedented time in our community," A’s president Dave Kaval said in a release. "As we navigate this pandemic, it is crucial that we come together and help those who need us most. We are grateful for the work of the Alameda County Community Food Bank, its staff, and the volunteers who are working around the clock to address food availability issues and hunger during this difficult time.”

Respect.

This is part of a joint effort to support those going through the difficult time caused by community shutdowns.

[RELATED: A's prospect auctioning glove amid COVID-19 outbreak]

Steph and Ayesha Curry not only provided 1 million meals to Oakland student for at least the next three weeks while schools are closed, but Warriors ownership, players and coaches created a $1 million fund to lend a hand to Chase Center hourly employees whose jobs are on hold as the NBA suspends play.

The Kings also donated prepared and perishable food to the Sacramento County Office of Education and the Sacramento Food Bank to assist those impacted by COVID-19.

It's a scary time right now, but nice to see those come together and try to help. 

A's A.J. Puk shares positive health update after shoulder setback

A's A.J. Puk shares positive health update after shoulder setback

Baseball players -- they’re just like us. Well, at least right now, while the sports world is on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A’s young lefty pitchers A.J. Puk and Jesús Luzardo are both doing the same thing most of us are while participating in social distancing. Luzardo is streaming a ton of shows on Netflix (yep -- even “Tiger King”), while Puk is catching up on some sleep.

The two are also staying in shape as best they can, as they told The San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser recently on the A’s Plus podcast

Puk is able to throw off the mound at his facility in Iowa and is able to use the bullpens at the local colleges if need be. That also means he’s making progress coming off of a minor setback to a shoulder strain prior to the spring training cancelations.

“Everything’s feeling fine,” Puk told Slusser. “Probably the best my shoulder’s felt in a while, actually you know, since coming back from Tommy John.”

Puk said he heard that there could be a portion following the surgery where the shoulder could flare-up.

“You just kind of have to work through it, I think maybe I was just at that stage of it,” Puk said. “I’m feeling great right now -- just real happy where I’m at right now.”

Puk underwent Tommy John surgery in April of 2018, and said there could be a silver lining with the regular-season delay.

“Maybe some extra time to get my stuff feeling good,” Puk said.

He’s getting sick of the “little injuries,” and wants to make sure he’s fully ready to go when, and if, the season begins this year.

Puk only was able to throw three Cactus League innings, but struck out two in the process.

Luzardo, meanwhile, is lucky in that he has teammate and fellow starting pitcher Mike Fiers just minutes up the road from him. The two have been working out, while maintaining social distancing, of course. 

Luzardo and Fiers are using free weights in the middle of an open field down in Florida and training with a mutual friend.

Luzardo knows he and Puk have a huge spotlight on them, with so much potential heading into their rookie seasons. But Luzardo is aware this hiatus is more than just a pushback to his first full year as a big leaguer. 

“In my shoes, my position is kind of irrelevant to the bigger picture. I’m not too caught up in how I’m affected by it rather than how other people are being affected by it.”

There’s a bigger picture there.

Luzardo came out of the bullpen last season and was sensational, boasting a 1.50 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 12 innings. 

[RELATED: Buddy Reed hopes to reunite to Puk in majors]

MLB reportedly recently discussed a plan that could move the sport to the Phoenix, Ariz. area as soon as May. All 30 teams would be playing in the area, and would have to be quarantined to their hotels.

They both had different thoughts on that.

And another silver lining? Luzardo believes the absence of the sport of baseball now could make the heart grow fonder.

Mike Fiers, Jesús Luzardo build close bond while social distancing in pandemic

Mike Fiers, Jesús Luzardo build close bond while social distancing in pandemic

Baseball can occasionally manifest some pretty fascinating personal connections.

Like how Mike Fiers, the eldest starter in the A's rotation, currently is forging an even tighter bond with Jesús Luzardo, one of his youngest counterparts.

“He only lives like 10 minutes from me,” Fiers told NBC Sports California on Tuesday from Florida. “So it’s not even like the home state, it’s like the home city.”

But their acquaintance didn’t start in Oakland. It actually began in the late 2000s.

“I remember him as a 10-, 11-year-old kid,” Fiers said. “Throwing bullpen [sessions] over by my high school, and helping out over there.”

Fiers has been following the lefty’s journey ever since. What a coincidence they’d end up on the same big league team.

“Obviously he became a big name coming through high school," Fiers said, "and his velocity getting up there, and then being a high draft pick.”

Now the two are workout partners in the strangest of times, with MLB, sports and much of life on complete pause.

Fiers and Luzardo get together every couple of days and complete socially-distanced pitching workouts, where they are able to push and provide each other inspiration.

“We cut it down to only a couple of guys,” Fiers said of the workouts. “We know how serious this thing is, and nobody wants to jeopardize their families and their livelihood.”

[RELATED: Fiers gifted Profar, Laureano for catches to save no-hitter]

The pair are taking thorough precautions in the no-contact sessions, which also feature strategically placed bottles of Purell hand sanitizer. There’s also a portable pitching mound, supplied by Fiers.

“We actually took that out to a church,” Fiers said. “It’s the only place we have left, a church parking lot. There’s a field next to it. So we just keep that pitching mound under a tree.”

It’s hardly the Coliseum, but it will have to do for now.