Oakland A's Organizational Notebook: 2/19/05

Pitchers and catchers report in Arizona; FanFest draws a huge crowd in Oakland; and A's affiliates offer fans a chance to get a job in baseball. These stories and more in this edition of <I>Oakland A's Organizational Notebook…</I>

Pitchers and catchers report to Phoenix: The Oakland A's spring training camp officially opened on Saturday, February 19 with pitchers and catchers reporting. New faces dominated the scene at the A's spring training complex. On hand in Phoenix for the first time were newly acquired pitchers Kiko Calero, Juan Cruz, Dan Haren, Keiichi Yabu, Seth Etherton, Tim Harikkala and Dan Meyer. All-Star catcher Jason Kendall also arrived for his first official day in A's camp. The A's welcomed some of their minor league free agent pick-ups who were invited to camp as non-roster players, including Evan Fahrner, Jim Serrano, and Billy Sylvester.

Also suiting up at Oakland A's camp officially were A's pitching prospects Joe Blanton, Huston Street, Jairo Garcia, Chris Mabeus, John Rheinecker, Tyler Johnson (a Rule V pick) and Brad Sullivan and catching prospects John Baker, Jeremy Brown, Daric Barton and Kurt Suzuki. Saturday marks the beginning of a six-week period where these prospects will try to impress the A's coaching staff.

Some of the most intriguing spring storylines for the A's will involve the pitching staff, with as many as 14 pitchers vying for "open" spots in the rotation and bullpen. The A's coaching staff will use spring training in part to determine whether the A's will begin the season with 11 or 12 pitchers. And, of course, the A's will be looking to re-establish roles for each of their pitchers, as the pitching staff has been altered this off-season through the trades of starters Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Mark Redman and relievers Arthur Rhodes and Justin Lehr, as well as the free agent defections of relievers Chris Hammond and Jim Mecir.

Although the rest of the A's roster is not scheduled to report until later in the week, many of the A's position players have been on hand in Phoenix for a few days doing light baseball workouts and taking at-bats in the batting cages. The first Spring Training game for Oakland will be March 3 at home at Phoenix Municipal Stadium against the Chicago Cubs.

Rain has been affecting spring training camps in Arizona all week and threatens to disrupt the training camp schedule for all Arizona camps next week, as well.

A's FanFest a huge success: On Saturday, February 12, more than 24,000 fans filed into the McAfee (formerly Oakland-Alameda County) Coliseum to participate in FanFest. All of the proceeds from the event went to the Oakland A's Community Fund and the Cure Autism Now Foundation.

The A's had a strong contingent of their players on-hand to interact with fans. Barry Zito, Bobby Crosby, Eric Chavez, Mark Kotsay, Scott Hatteberg, Jason Kendall, Eric Byrnes, Joe Blanton, Nick Swisher and Keiichi Yabu joined A's GM Billy Beane, manager Ken Macha and former A's greats Rickey Henderson, Dave Stewart, Ray Fosse, Billy North, and Terry Steinbach in answering A's fans' questions during four lively Q&A sessions.

Beane answered numerous questions about the A's off-season trading activities and Zito entertained fans with stories about his surfing exploits with teammate Eric Byrnes and his confidence that the A's new pitching staff will have similar success to the staff once led by the Big Three.

In addition, Charles Thomas, Dan Meyer, Bobby Kielty, Keith Ginter, Erubiel Durazo, John Baker, Dan Johnson, and A's coaches Ron Washington, Dave Hudgens and Bob Geren were on hand to teach fans baseball skills, sign autographs, lead batting cage sessions and other interactive activities.

FanFest also represented the first opportunity for fans to purchase single game tickets for the upcoming season. The ticket sales were brisk, as the A's set a franchise record for number of individual game tickets sold at a FanFest. Ticket sales at FanFest surpassed last year's total by a 40% margin.

A's minor league affiliates hiring: The Sacramento River Cats, Stockton Ports, Midland Rockhounds and Kane County Cougars are all actively searching for part-time employees to fill positions in areas ranging from concessions to ticket sales to promotions. Of particular note is the Ports' search for a public address announcer whose voice will set the tone for the Ports first season at Banner Island Ballpark.

The River Cats will be hosting a job fair at Raley Field on February 26 from 12pm-4pm. The Cougars will be hosting a similar job fair at Elfstrom Stadium on March 2 from 10am-2pm. Both the Ports and the Rockhounds are encouraging interested job seekers to fill out applications as soon as possible. Applications for the Rockhounds can be downloaded from their website at www.midlandrockhounds.org and applications for the Ports can be picked up at the Ports' current offices at Billy Herbert Field in Stockton.

Rockhounds hosting NCAA baseball tournament: The Midland Rockhounds will be hosting an NCAA tournament from February 24-26 at First American Ballpark. The 2005 Rockhounds College Classic will feature baseball teams from Texas Tech University, Lamar University, University of Texas, San Antonio and New Mexico State University.

Oakland A's Spring Training Tournament washed away: The rain reeked havoc on the Oakland A's Spring Training Tournament, which was scheduled to be held the weekend of February 11-13 in Arizona. Heavy rains forced the cancellation of all but one day of the NCAA tournament, which was scheduled to feature teams from Northwestern University, Kansas State University, University of Portland, Brigham Young University, University of Nevada, Washington State University, Oregon State University, University of San Francisco, and Missouri University.

--Staff Writers Rachel Afraimi and Melissa Lockard contributed to this report.

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