Athletics

Athletics

Editor's note: This story originally was published on July 20.

NBC Sports California is adding a high-energy and charismatic presence to their studio crew for the 2020 season with former MLB pitcher-turned-analyst Dontrelle Willis joining the team.

Willis, a two-time MLB All-Star, spent nine seasons playing in the big leagues, and found himself with a knack for an on-air presence.

“As far as the staff, you, Brodie [Brazil], Dallas [Braden], [Dave Stewart] -- it’s a well-rounded cast that just truly enjoys covering the team,” Willis told NBC Sports California. 

“So, I think it shows in your guys’ work so I just want to be the big-little brother and go out there and showcase my talents and my joy as well, but I’ve always been a fan of the way you’ve covered the team and I think fans love the way you cover the team so I’m just trying to get on board and hop on and get a title like everybody else.”

Willis, 38, is a Bay Area native who attended Encinal High School in Alameda. He looked up to Stewart and looks forward to working with him. He's also excited to see some of the young stars the A’s have with a bit of a closer eye.

“Obviously Frankie Montas and Jesús Luzardo is a kid that come to find out, I was one of his favorite players growing up,” Willis said.

 

“It’s really cool to hear those stories because you never know how far what you do reaches, but I heard at Fan Fest someone asked him who was his favorite player and he said ‘Dontrelle Willis,’ and I’m like, ‘Well hell, I’m more of a fan of him than anything,’ you know what I mean?”

“You can’t be a fan of mine when you throw harder than me,” Willis said.

For Willis, this job of covering the A’s is more than just commentating on the game. 

“I’m truly honored, I mean the whole ball club -- the Oakland A’s saved my life, so I’m truly honored to be a part of this staff and continue to watch them play baseball because they’re one of the better teams in baseball,” Willis said.

Willis spent some time beginning in 2015 working with FOX Sports as a regular studio analyst on the network’s “MLB Whiparound” where he brought his energy and knowledge with an infectious smile.  

[RELATED: Montas revels in opportunity to be A's Opening Day starter]

For his work covering the A's this season, Willis sees all the positives the team has to offer in addition to their pitching. He complimented their hitting and mentioned Marcus Semien, but wanted to give a warning.

“I tell you this much: If you don’t respect the A’s, they’re going to roll over on you," Willis said.