Austin Allen has had a chaotic six months.
The A's catcher has dealt with not only the unprecedented halt of life as we know it, but also enduring his first professional trade.
“To be completely honest, it was weird at first,” Allen told NBC Sports California about coming to Oakland from the San Diego Padres in December. “I can’t even put into words the gratitude I have that the A’s traded for me.”
Allen spent five years in the Padres organization and made his MLB debut last season, but he only got a small taste of the majors in 65 at-bats.
Now, Oakland is hoping to capitalize on his left-handed bat which plays especially well against right-handed pitching. But it’s also a reputation Allen is trying to evade.
“That’s been my title: Bat first, then catcher. Which I can’t stand, by the way,” Allen said with a half-smile.
One of the few positional battles that remains unsettled for the A's is behind the plate. Sean Murphy is the highly touted backstop who is likely to play a lot of games. But Allen and fellow catcher Jonah Heim also come with tremendous optimism and promise attached.
“Us three, we’re battling for playing time,” Allen said about the competition during spring training. “None of us are proven, but every single day we’re trying to help each other get better in every aspect: Receiving, blocking, throwing and hitting.”
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Could the A’s start this season with a tandem of two non-veteran catchers? There was some question, especially considering high expectations heading into 2020. With expanded rosters likely in a shortened (yet condensed) season, they could carry all three.
All would be motivated to showcase.
“100 percent, and we all believe that," Allen said. "The only way to get experience is by playing.”
Have we seen the last game between the A's and the Cleveland Indians as they're known today? Just hours after the NFL team in Washington announced it would consider changing its racist nickname, Cleveland's MLB franchise released a statement indicating that the team was open to discussions on changing the "Indians" nickname.
The franchise has used the "Indians" moniker for over a century, switching over from the Cleveland Naps back in 1915. Broncos, Bluebirds, Lake Shores and Bustlers all also are nicknames the franchise has had in its lengthy history.
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Cleveland's management clearly has understood how the nickname could be considered offensive, as it removed the controversial "Chief Wahoo" alternate logo from the team's uniforms and most apparel at the end of the 2018 season.
Public pressure has mounted in the wake of sweeping support across the nation for reform to fight systemic racism and police brutality in the United States.
It won't be a surprise if we see not one, but two major American sports franchises completely rebrand with a new nickname and mascot before 2020 wraps up.
[RACE IN AMERICA: Listen to the latest episode]
The A’s activated a 60-man player pool to start training for the upcoming 2020 baseball season. Most of those players will work out of Oakland Coliseum during a three-week camp to prepare for games that count. The rest will go to an alternate site that the A’s have yet to determine.
“That has not been easy,” A’s general manager David Forst said Friday. “We’re working on that. We have a lot of players and staff members waiting by the phone anxious to hear when they’re leaving and when they’re going. I’m spending a lot of time working on that, as are a lot of other people.”
Stockton was the most obvious location. The A's Single-A affiliate resides there, so it seemed natural the Ports would host members of the player pool not training in Oakland and, eventually, those not part of the 30-man roster.
The A’s didn’t cement that site due to increased concerns over spikes in coronavirus cases and the heightened restrictions that followed.
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Stockton remains a possibility, though the A’s have explored other options in relatively close proximity to their home base. The ongoing public health crisis that delayed the MLB season, canceled the minor league baseball campaign and created a need for a reserve squad capable of filling in for the MLB players injured or infected, plays a part in the ultimate selection.
“Stockton is in the mix,” Forst said. “Anywhere we’ve looked around here, the situation with the virus is a factor. San Joaquin County, Stanislaus County -- we’ve looked around Alameda County -- how each county is handling things and their particular orders come into play when we’re looking into alternate sites.”
The A’s obviously need a quality baseball complex and housing around it for their players to temporarily reside, making options somewhat limited. Finding the right spot, and soon, will be important as players start to prepare in earnest for the season ahead.