Alameda native Dontrelle Willis is nine years removed from his playing days, but he hasn’t ever really left the realm of professional baseball.
The former pitcher is connected as ever, having recently found a second career in the game as a studio analyst for Fox Sports' MLB coverage.
He recently took a few minutes away from his wife and three daughters during isolation to FaceTime with NBC Sports California about the current state of the majors, the minors and the A’s.
Perspectives on enduring the current pandemic:
“The one thing I have seen around here, just interacting from a distance -- people have been good to each other for the most part. Being courteous to each other, and it’s really nice to see. This is totally surreal, you wake up every day thinking that it’s going to be different, but you’re kind of feeling like a ‘Groundhog Day’ situation. It’s been tough from the mental aspect of it.”
On a potential all-Arizona season for MLB:
“I know a lot of people are getting antsy. But first and foremost, people need to be safe. I think it’s a hell of a plan, and idea, but is it really going to work out once the wheels start turning? Are you going to have all the teams at one site? If it’s one state, is the state going to be okay with that? As a fan and as a former player, I want to see things get going again. But at the same time, I want to see players and their families be safe, as well.”
On the importance of Minor League Baseball, while facing severe downsizing:
“I think the Minor Leagues are critical because there’s no season like the Major Leagues where we play so many games over and over again. That’s a great institute to train -- not just physically, but mentally. The grinding and being on bus rides, and camaraderie as well. And, for a lot of these towns and cities, the minor league team is everything to them. A lot of these teams are in downtowns, [games are] a night out for the fans. And some of my fondest memories are in the minor leagues.”
On the A’s chances in 2020, should a shortened season get played:
“If they’re able to throw strikes and defend with the two Matts [Chapman and Olson] at the corners, they’re going to be in the thick of things. They’ll be able to face Houston and win ballgames. Able to face New York and win ballgames. And those are the teams you’ll have to go through if you want to win a title.”
On a fellow Bay Area native to watch this season:
“The one guy I’m really proud of is Marcus Semien, (as) far as his development. Once his glove got confident, you saw the bat come with it. You see his poise.”