Athletics

Jed Lowrie thrilled to be an All-Star after 'emotional roller coaster'

Jed Lowrie thrilled to be an All-Star after 'emotional roller coaster'

After 11 years (and a couple of extra days), Jed Lowrie is finally an All-Star.

The A's second baseman was officially named to the American League roster Tuesday as an injury replacement for Yankees rookie Gleyber Torres.

"It's very exciting," Lowrie said. "Let's just say the last few days have been an emotional roller coaster. I think I was a little surprised that I didn't get it at first, and then just happy to be a part of it now."

"I think it's great," A's manager Bob Melvin added. "That was a very rewarding phone call I got to make today because we all know he should have been on the team."

It probably shouldn't have even come to this. Lowrie leads all qualified American League second basemen with 16 home runs, 62 RBI, 42 extra base hits, and a .504 slugging percentage. He ranks second with 25 doubles and 3.4 WAR, and third with a .288 batting average, .358 on-base percentage, and 100 hits.

"I put a lot of time and effort into my craft," Lowrie said. "I've said this a lot - getting the chance to go to an All-Star Game would kind of be the icing on the cake, and it looks like I get to eat some icing on my cake."

Added Melvin: "He's playing his best baseball. Last year was probably his best year, and this year is even better. It's a credit to him, the condition that he keeps himself in. He's certainly a smart guy, has a great understanding each and every year how to get better, what his strengths and weaknesses are, and how he's going to be pitched It's fun to watch and it's a great resource for our younger guys too."

Lowrie will become the first A's middle infielder to play in an All-Star Game since Miguel Tejada in 2002. At the age of 34, he truly cherishes the opportunity.

"I showed some perseverance and worked hard to get to this point," Lowrie said. "I think any All-Star Game would have a lot of meeting, but I think for the first time as a 34-year-old, it's pretty special.

"I'm going to have my daughter and son there. Those are moments that I'll never forget."

A's fans confident in team, Mike Fiers heading into 2020 MLB season

A's fans confident in team, Mike Fiers heading into 2020 MLB season

OAKLAND -- It didn’t take long for the Q&A sessions at the A’s annual Fan Fest on Saturday, to be swarmed with questions about “cheating” and “the Astros situation.” 

Yet a sense of excitement was in the air among the 32,000 green and gold faithful at Jack London Square. Typically, I would say “hope,” but A’s manager Bob Melvin said it was a season he looks forward to and there isn’t much of a message he wanted to send to his team.

They're ready.

And so are the fans. 

A young fan clutched her A’s teddy bear tightly to herself after A’s shortstop Marcus Semien took a sharpie to it. It was officially a collector’s item. 

She immediately gleamed with pride and appeared to barely catch her breath.

The long line was worth the wait. 

"We're behind Mike 150%," Fleetwood, long-time A's fan, told NBC Sports California. "We told him that, as they were marching in, 'We're behind you.'" 

"Mike is the hero, we love him for it," he added.

The combination of a strong roster on paper and support for Fiers was the theme of the day. 

"We just want to see good baseball, we want to see a competitive team -- want to see players signed, we want to be spoiled with these players just as the other teams are," he said.

And his future outlook for the team? It was a deadpan look into the camera during an additional interview saying that the A's would indeed be the World Series champions next season.

Fans look forward to the young pitching arms and there is always a mention of “that Matt Chapman guy.” 

Watching fans list the strong things the team possesses heading into the season left them in better spirits than previous seasons. 

"The over is 89 and a half," Michael Gilson of Lafayette, Calif. said. "I would bet the over -- there's no reason for them to be less than where they were last year."

[RELATED: Sportsbook predicts 89.5 wins for A's in 2020]

Time and time again, Las Vegas has come up short in what this team can do.

"I think they've got the luxury of plenty this year," Gilson said.

Looking around, it appeared a weight had been lifted off the shoulders of Oakland fans. They have confidence in the team that looks strong on paper. The confidence that you'll be able to hear in drum and cheer form. 

Why A's players don't mind trade-offs with extended protective netting

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USATSI

Why A's players don't mind trade-offs with extended protective netting

OAKLAND -- Back in December, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred declared that all 30 ballparks will extend their existing protective netting in advance of the 2020 season.
 
The movement has its reservations among fans but seems universally supported among players. Even in Oakland, where ample foul ground already buys added insurance.
 
“It will be tougher to interact with the fans, maybe to throw a ball to them,” A's shortstop Marcus Semien said Friday at the team's media day. “I love throwing a baseball to a kid. But, at least they will be safe.”

An NBC News investigation last year found at least 808 reports of fan injuries from baseballs from 2012 through 2019. The total was "based on lawsuits, news reports, social media postings and information from the contractors that provide first aid stations at MLB stadiums."
 
On May 29 in Houston, Chicago Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. lined a foul ball that struck a two-year-old girl in the head. Earlier this month, an attorney representing her family told the Houston Chronicle that the girl suffered a permanent brain injury, remains subject to seizures and might need to stay on medication for the rest of her life.
 
“It sucks, and I don’t want to see it anymore,” third baseman Matt Chapman said. “I’ve seen fans looking at their phones, not paying attention. I’ve seen people holding babies and not paying attention.”
 
Chapman understands the inconvenience but predicts eventual workarounds to make sure fans get their access, yet remain protected in critical situations. 

“I don’t understand why fan safety would be a bad thing,” he said.
 
In an era where exit velocities are measured with extreme precision, it’s scary to know that a baseball traveling 100 miles per hour could be headed straight towards someone who might not be able to protect themselves.

Even if they are paying attention to every pitch.
 
“We hit the ball so hard,” Semien said. “And sometimes we’re a little early. Or late. And now that they are up by the dugouts, you just say, 'Thank you the nets are there because that could have been bad.' ”
 
Even pitchers realize the dangers of line drives in foul territory. Starter Mike Fiers spends a lot of time in road dugouts, where he and other players often remark about how close young kids are sitting to the action.
 
“They’re in a bad spot,” Fiers said. “I feel like a lot of people don’t know that. It’s tough when those foul balls go in because everyone always watches and hopes nobody gets hit.”

[RELATED: A's teammates 'respect' Fiers for outing Astros' scandal]
 
As if there weren’t already enough thoughts running through the typical MLB hitter's mind, the concept of additional netting should at least take risk out of the equation. 
 
“No one wants to be that guy who hits a ball in the stands and hits somebody,” A's manager Bob Melvin said. “Our fans are baseball’s lifeline. You have younger kids in there. It’s a nightmare to think about. I think all players are in favor of that.”