Athletics

A's Ramón Laureano stoked for friend becoming youngest minor-league coach

A's Ramón Laureano stoked for friend becoming youngest minor-league coach

When outfielder Ramón Laureano was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 16th round of the 2014 MLB Draft, he must have been flooded with phone calls. 

He made sure to answer one in particular. 

Ricky M. Rivera was a former teammate of Laureano’s at Northeast Oklahoma A&M several years back. Laureano had tears in his eyes as the two continued the call. Rivera wished him congratulations on his new adventure to the big leagues. 

That call would soon be returned when Rivera got a job opportunity to be the manager for the Gulf Coast League Astros. The 26-year-old is the youngest in professional baseball to currently hold such a title.

The two remain close. So close, in fact, I spotted Rivera at the A’s home opener last season as a guest of Laureano’s. The outfielder is a member of the Green and Gold following a trade in 2017, but Rivera remembers when the two met.

“I remember the first day I got there,” Rivera told NBC Sports California. “I walked up the stairs with my luggage bag and I was getting to my dorm room and I saw [Laureano] was just sitting and drinking coffee with his sunglasses on watching TV in the middle of our dorm room -- and I thought ‘Who does that?’”

The two clicked instantly, mirroring one another’s work ethics. Although Rivera admitted Laureano was “a bit more dedicated.”

“We would go to the yard together,” Laureano told NBC Sports California. “[Rivera] would go different times because he was a pitcher. He would be in the cage with us, but he was always running. His cardio was unreal.”

But the two were both chasing the same goal.

Responsibilities of the manager for the GCL Astros include, but aren't limited to, running the entire program for the rookie ball team. Anything a manager would do, at any level of the organization, Rivera takes care of it. 

“I would say my role is manager/player development, I do a lot of developing with the infielders and outfielders -- a lot of defensive work, plus the mental side,” Rivera said.

Rivera had a bit of a chuckle to himself upon asking about his background and what it took to get to where he was -- a sense of accomplishment appeared to be behind the action. 

The résumé includes being a graduate assistant at Central Missouri. After that, he had a part-time gig with the Royals youth program which consisted of him coaching the scout teams. 

It was a slow job market after that, Rivera said. That was until he saw the job post on LinkedIn from a friend. But he was hesitant at first.

“I applied obviously with my hopes really low,” Rivera said. “I had been out of the game, I’ve never been a professional player or professional coach.”

But the interview process went extremely well, obviously.

When Rivera got a call of his own that he would be working for the Astros organization, he made sure to give Laureano a ring. After all, the A’s outfielder knew if Rivera kept at it, he would make a career out of the game.

“He was one of the first people I called,” Rivera said. “He was like ‘Man, I feel like I just got the job' -- I’m so excited for you.”

Laureano immediately offered up any contacts his long-time friend would need.

“He’s taking care of me and he was really excited for me,” Rivera said.

He felt as if he too was just drafted to the bigs.

“I know he pays attention to detail pretty well, sometimes he’ll show me ideas and I’m like ‘Wow, that’s a pretty good idea,” Laureano said. “He helps me with my baseball stuff, and it’s good, he’s one of my best friends.”

Laureano cares about Rivera’s future but made it clear he would support him no matter what road he chose.

[RELATED: Laureano provides meals for Oakland healthcare workers]

“He knows when to ask me questions,” Laureano said. “I know how to ask him questions, but he’s very eager -- he’s as obsessed with baseball as I am. He’d be a pretty cool boss to have.”

Laureano marked his words that Rivera will be a major league manager one day. Would he want to play for him?

“Ricky?” Laureano laughed. “Yeah for sure, why not? That would be fun.”

Photos courtesy of Ricardo Rivera

Astros vs. Oakland A's live stream: How to watch MLB games online, on TV

Astros vs. Oakland A's live stream: How to watch MLB games online, on TV

The A's are rolling.

Oakland has won six straight games as they welcome the rival Astros to the Coliseum for the first time since Houston's cheating scandal was unearthed in the offseason.

The A's (9-4) are coming off a sweep of the Rangers, while the Astros (6-6) lost two out of three to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Here's how you can watch the A's play the Rangers online (download the MyTeams app here!) and on TV:

Friday, Aug. 7

When: A's Pregame Live at 5:30 p.m. PT -- First pitch at 6:10 p.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports California
Stream: MyTeams app

Saturday, Aug. 8

When: A's Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m. PT -- First pitch at 1:10 p.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports California
Stream: MyTeams app

Sunday, Aug. 9

When: A's Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m. PT -- First pitch at 1:10 p.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports California
Stream: MyTeams app

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]
 

Marcus Semien's hard work paying off as he builds A's culture, tone

Marcus Semien's hard work paying off as he builds A's culture, tone

Austin Allen’s single to score Matt Chapman in the bottom of the 13th set the things up for Marcus Semien in the A’s 3-2 win over the Houston Astros on Friday night.

Semien sealed the deal with a walk-off single to center field. Semien smiled celebrated with an ice bath from Tony Kemp. It was a much-need victory over the Astros for both Semien and the A's.

For Semien, the big hit was a long time coming. 

“For me, it’s trying to be on time,” Semien told reporters following the 13-inning game. “I’ve been struggling with my timing a little bit, so just being on time, and same thing with Austin. Like I said, that guy was getting guys to chase up, so anything that is hard and a little lower, just attack it. I put a lot of work in earlier in the day just trying to hit line drives to the opposite field and it’s a good feeling when it clicks because for a while it hadn’t been clicking.”

Semien wasn’t hitting the ball hard, he explained. And when that happens, there’s a reason for it.  

“My stroke feels good, but sometimes it’s approach, sometimes it’s timing -- body position, a lot of things that could be,” Semien added. “That’s what early work is for, cage work. Once you get in the game, you just have to compete.”

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Semien said he has to create habits that work.

“It’s tough because you think you have to tinker with everything,” Semien added.

Semien wasn’t sure what that tinkering would consist of: Would he need to work on his swing? Not necessarily. The timing was definitely a factor, but Semien also believes opposing teams were attacking him differently.

That seems to be the case when he leaves a third-place AL MVP season behind him in 2019.

“They’re being more careful, you saw that with Texas,” Semien said. “I’m trying to take the low pitches, sometimes they’re calling them, and you just find yourself in 0-for-3 like that. I think today was a good day to build off.”

“They know last year I put up some good numbers and you’re not getting as much to hit. You think that you’re just going to get the same pitches that they threw last year and that’s part of it, kind of created some bad habits early on. Even since spring and Summer Camp, just hadn’t really been driving the ball well.” 

Semien said he’s working on that every day. It hasn't gone unnoticed.

“Marcus, I think has set the tone and built the culture here,” A’s starter Chris Bassitt told reporters during his postgame availability. “Obviously I think [Matt] Chapman and [Matt] Olson and those guys have caught on to just the work ethic that Semien brings every single day.”

[RELATED: A's fan creates GoFundMe to troll Astros with 'Asterisks' aerial banner]

Bassitt himself had a good outing, allowing just three hits and one earned run in seven innings. That brings his total to just two earned runs allowed in 16 2/3 innings this season. But this wasn’t about him at the moment despite his solid outing in the 13-inning game. He wanted to give Semien his moment.

“It’s not a matter of when [Semien] walks up to the plate, but whenever he does, you know you are getting the best effort from him every single night,” Bassitt said. “Doesn’t matter what at-bat, what inning. Anytime he walks up with the game on the line, I’m extremely confident in him.”