I was on the train heading towards the Oakland Coliseum on assignment when a man in a striped red and white shirt sat next to me. His smile was enormous and he wore an A's lanyard.
The man with the infectious smile who I had met that day's name was Jimmy Graff. He passed away suddenly on Christmas morning at the age of 49. He served hot dogs to A's and Giants fans for over 30 years, but he was so much more than that.
We had small talk on the short ride to the A's game about the team, and I reminded myself to make sure I watched him in action. Despite the busy day, my eyes spotted him giving out the baseball treats.
And that smile. I'll never forget that smile. It didn't fade as he hoisted the hot dog holder on his chest with ease.
The Athletic's Alex Coffey wrote a beautiful remembrance piece on Graff that delivered anecdotes of "Jimmy the Hot Dog Guy," who knew that while money was important to pay the bills, the friendships he made were priceless.
So priceless, in fact, he would offer to carry around a fan's favorite brand of mustard -- in the bottle, of course. Packeted condiments were something he was uncomfortable schlepping around.
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Fans tweeted about the legend that was Graff after his passing. The man who delivered hot dogs with a smile -- that unforgettable smile.
The investigation into Graff's untimely death is still ongoing.
Allow A.J. Puk to reintroduce himself.
The A's young, hard-throwing left-hander made a cameo at the end of last season working out of the bullpen. He's expected to be a staple of the A's rotation this season, and he gave fans a glimpse of what makes him so special Saturday when he struck out Chicago Cubs star Kris Bryant on three pitches to open the A's first spring training game.
That last pitch made me feel things.
Puk, along with fellow southpaw youngster Jesus Luzardo, gives the A's rotation two potential aces in the making. During his one inning of work Saturday, Puk featured all four pitches in his arsenal -- four-seam fastball, changeup, slider, curveball -- and lit up the radar gun by touching 97 mph.
But it was the punchout slider to Bryant that has people buzzing.
"First one of the year, it was a pretty good one to start out with. I was pretty happy with that," Puk said of the slider, via The Athletic's Alex Coffey.
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After coming off UCL surgery in 2018, Puk worked his way back to form last season before getting the call up to Oakland late in the year.
Now, he and Luzardo are ready to be the face of the A's rotation for years to come. If that slider to Bryant was any indication, the Green and Gold are in great hands.
November wasn't the first time A's pitcher Mike Fiers blew the whistle about the Houston Astros' sign-stealing nature.
After the Astros won the 2017 World Series thanks to a lot of help from trash cans, they returned to the American League Championship Series to face the Boston Red Sox. But if the Astros still were cheating, it didn't matter because the Red Sox knew it was coming. And not just because then-manager Alex Cora was part of the Astros' scheme the year prior.
"Alex Cora never influenced us and never told us about that thing," Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez told WEEI's "Ordway, Merloni and Fauria." "The only way I ever found out was in the playoffs was when Fiers, who is a really good friend of mine, reached out to me and said, ‘Hey, make sure you’re doing this because this, because this is what these guys are doing in the playoffs.' I was like, 'What? How is this a thing?' And then I mentioned it to (Cora) and he told kind of me about the whole system and everything like that. That was kind of why it was so crazy. (Cora) was so relaxed going into those playoff games because he knew and we were ready for it."
Fiers also alerted the A's to the scheme in 2018 and they brought it to the league. It was only when nothing was done that Fiers went public to make sure the playing field was leveled.
That's why David Ortiz's comments Thursday in which he said he disagreed with Fiers outing Houston two years after he won the World Series with them were so misguided.
Fiers tried to go about the matter quietly and even helped make sure Ortiz's old team was prepared for what awaited them in the ALCS. He could have spoken up in 2017, but he tried to right those wrongs in 2018 before making sure the Astros had their trash cans confiscated.
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The Astros were able to bang their trash cans to one title, but Fiers made sure they wouldn't be able to repeat using the same old tricks.