Athletics

Lessons from his father shaped Graveman away from mound

Lessons from his father shaped Graveman away from mound

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Watch the 2017 Coaching Corps Game Changer Awards this Sunday night at 9pm on CSN Bay Area.

OAKLAND — Like so many fathers, Gary Graveman took his perch in the dugout and coached his boys throughout their youth baseball careers.

That guidance set his youngest son on a path to the major leagues. But when Kendall Graveman discusses his father, the baseball wisdom isn’t what he focuses on.

“Off the field I feel like I’d be a little lost if I didn’t have my father in my life,” the right-hander shared on the most recent A’s Insider Podcast. “When we did do baseball, it was something we both loved to do. But we also spent quality time together. I think that helped mold me, not only as a person, but growing up, starting a family, I look at him as somebody I wanna be like as a husband and a dad.”

Graveman will honor his father during Friday night’s Coaching Corps Game Changers Awards ceremony in San Francisco. The third annual event allows an athlete from the Bay Area’s major sports franchises to spotlight a person in their lives who helped mold them into the athlete and person they are. Coaching Corps is an organization, founded by former A’s owner Wally Haas, that provides coaches and sports programs for kids living in underserved communities.

Talking to Gary Graveman on the phone is like talking to Kendall himself. The easygoing Southern accent is identical, and it’s apparent that common values have been passed down from father to son.

Gary always preached the importance of unselfishness. Listen to any postgame interview with Kendall, particularly after a good start, and he deflects most praise, going out of his way to credit his catcher, his coaches and the defense playing behind him.

But his work away from the field also reflects that mentality, and the seeds were sown long ago.

Gary Graveman is a longtime coach and physical education teacher in Alabama, and many of his students come from special-needs programs. Gary would have Kendall help out with his classes, opening his eyes to the fact not everyone had things as easy as he did.

“I think it was Knute Rockne who said, 'One man practicing sportsmanship is better than 100 men teaching it,'” Gary said. “I wanted him to see me working with those special-needs kids. Kendall seeing me work with those types of children is more important than me telling him to do that.

“He was always good with those types of children. I would always tell him, if you see someone at lunch who maybe doesn’t have any friends at the high school, go and sit and talk to them and befriend them. It’s all about you putting others first.”

Kendall was a multi-sport standout at Benjamin Russell High School who went on to play baseball at Mississippi State. In college, he got involved in Mississippi State’s ACCESS program, which helps the transition of students with intellectual disabilities into higher education.

“They started that program and I started getting involved in that,” Graveman said. “It was a lot of taking them to lunch. They’re on a strict schedule. Some of them would work at the library. Some buss tables and you’d need to get to these places. You’d have to drive them there, make sure they’re at their dorm at the right time of night and stuff like that. What that taught me is those kids can learn and do just as much as we can.”

Gary Graveman, who spent 33 years coaching high school baseball, put that pursuit on hold for roughly a decade to coach Kendall and his older brother, Kyle, in youth baseball.

A tragedy put things in perspective. He and wife Sharon lost their first son, Blake, who died at four months old from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. That made Gary realize he wanted to spend as much time around Kendall and Kyle as possible. He quit a summer rec department job to watch over his sons while they were on vacation from school.

“I always wanted to look back and be thankful,” he said. “That’s probably what motivated me more than anything.”

Coming off an impressive 2016 season in which he led the A’s in wins and innings pitched, Kendall Graveman is glad he’s got a sounding board who’s outside the walls of the major league clubhouse. He and Gary talk on the phone after every start. The longtime coach isn’t interested in discussing pitching mechanics. Instead he’ll bring up a particular situation in a game, curious of what Kendall’s thought process was, always looking to help his son grow.

“He wants me to win, but he’s a father first,” Graveman said. “He challenges me to never be complacent. We have such a special relationship. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

A's notes: Mark Canha hits career-high 17th homer in win vs. Twins

A's notes: Mark Canha hits career-high 17th homer in win vs. Twins

OAKLAND — Mark Canha blasted a pinch-hit two-run home run to tie the game in the sixth inning Friday night. It was his 17th homer of the season, a new career high.

“That's kind of cool,” Canha said after the A's walked off the Twins in the 10th inning. “To know that you don't have a ceiling of 16, it's just kind of cool for me. I love home runs. My favorite part about the game is hitting home runs. Hopefully I can get to 20. That's kind of been a goal for me the past couple months.”

“[He's meant] a lot,” added manager Bob Melvin. “He plays multiple positions, knows how to come off the bench. ... He's ready for every situation. He's a lefty killer. ... He's a real weapon for us later on in the game and has been really for a few years now.”

Canha has hit 13 of his 17 home runs against left-handed pitchers, second most in the American League behind the Rangers' Joey Gallo.

--- The A’s scored seven or more runs in their eighth straight home game, setting a record for the longest streak in franchise history.

--- Blake Treinen leads MLB pitchers with a 0.83 ERA. He has allowed seven earned runs the entire season. Treinen has not allowed a hit in his last 13 1/3 innings, the second-longest streak in Oakland history.

--- Liam Hendriks has thrown seven straight scoreless first innings as an “opener.” He lowered his ERA to 2.35 in his seven starts this season.

--- Matt Chapman set an Oakland record with his league-leading 25th double since the All-Star break. Chapman also leads the majors with 41 extra-base hits since the Midsummer Classic.

--- Khris Davis set a career high with his 44th and 45th home runs of the season, fourth most in Oakland history and sixth most in A's history. This was his 22nd career multi-homer game, and his seventh this season.

--- Oakland starting pitchers have a streak of 35 consecutive games of seven innings or fewer. A's starters have pitched 798 innings this season. The fewest in a non-strike season in A's history is 858 2/3 in 1997.

--- The A’s have won eight of their last nine games against the Twins, and 17 of their last 20 at the Coliseum.

--- Oakland improved to 30-13 (.698 winning percentage) in one-run games, which is the best record in MLB. The A's record for winning percentage in one-run games is .698 (30-13) in 1928.

--- The A's are 38-19 since the All-Star break, which is the best record in the majors.

A's slugger Khris Davis stakes AL MVP claim with two homers vs. Twins

A's slugger Khris Davis stakes AL MVP claim with two homers vs. Twins

OAKLAND — Khris Davis probably isn't going to win the AL MVP award. Heck, he might not even finish in the top five. But after Friday night's performance, it became even more clear that there is no one in baseball more valuable to their team than the A's designated hitter.

Davis hit two more home runs, including a walk-off blast in the 10th inning, which sent the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum into a frenzy, followed immediately by boisterous chants of “MVP.”

“I was one of those (chanting),” A's manager Bob Melvin joked. “You look at his numbers and what he's meant to this team, he definitely needs to be in the conversation.”

“What do you say?" asked outfielder Mark Canha. "I'm at a loss for words. He does things that just leave you speechless. It's crazy.”

“I can't explain (the feeling),” Davis said. “There's not a better feeling in the world.”

Davis set a new career high with his 44th and 45th home runs of the season, four more than anyone else in MLB. His 119 RBI are also a career high and rank second in baseball, five behind Boston's J.D. Martinez.

“It's one-of-a-kind power,” Melvin marveled. “He's so strong. He uses his lower half well, but sometimes he loses his lower half and just kind of flicks it, and that means his hands and forearms are pretty strong. He keeps himself back just enough to drive it.”

“I thought it was a double, just the ball off my bat initially,” Davis said of his game-winning home run. “I was thinking, 'Get on second.' And then it just kept carrying, which is even better.”

Davis will likely finish behind Martinez and Mookie Betts of the Red Sox, Cleveland's Jose Ramirez, Houston's Alex Bregman, and Mike Trout of the Angels in the MVP voting. They are all admittedly terrific players, but are any of them truly as valuable to their team as Davis is to the A's?

Take Davis out of Oakland's lineup and it's a completely different team. Sure, Oakland has other good hitters. But Davis affects the way opposing pitchers approach the entire lineup. He is a constant in the back of their mind, lurking just beneath the surface.

“He's obviously awesome for us on the field,” Canha said. “He's an awesome teammate. We love the heck out of him.”

“It's pretty dramatic how he started the game and ended the game,” Melvin added. “He's as good a power hitter as anybody in the game.”

Davis' 45 home runs are already the fourth most in Oakland single-season history. He is trying to become the first A's player to lead MLB in homers since Mark McGwire in 1996.

“It would be a nice achievement,” Davis acknowledged. “But first and foremost, I want to get deep in the playoffs. That means a lot more.”