Melillo Grateful To Have Had Opportunity

Kevin Melillo got to live out every minor leaguer's dream this weekend when he made his major league debut with the Oakland A's. Melillo was with the team for three days during his first stint as a major leaguer, and he walked in his only plate appearance, which came against Mets' reliever Guillermo Mota. On Tuesday, we spoke to Melillo about his first taste of the big leagues.

OaklandClubhouse: How did you get the news for the call-up?

Kevin Melillo: We actually had a day game that day and after the day game, I came home and took a nap. During the nap, I kept getting a 510 area code number and I didn't know who it was, so I kept clearing it and going back to sleep. Finally, I just checked my voicemail and it was David Forst [A's Assistant General Manager] and he asked me to call him back because he needed me to join the team in Oakland to come to the big leagues to play against the Mets. So I found out on a voicemail, which was pretty cool. I called him back and then I found out everything that was going on. I called my parents and my fiancée and all of my friends and it was just so exciting.

OC: What was that flight like for you? Did you meet everyone at the Coliseum or at the airport?

KM: I met everyone at the airport. I got on the plane and I think some guys were surprised to see me, especially [Travis] Buck. I had called Travis the night before, and got his voicemail and I didn't leave him a message or anything. When I got on the plane, his eyes just lit-up and he was like: ‘What are you doing here?' It was pretty cool. Apparently a lot of the guys flew out the night before, but there were still a good number of guys there. I remembered them from spring training and it made it a lot easier to transition up to the big leagues knowing a lot of the guys already.

OC: Obviously, there are a lot of guys on the A's right now who have played with you this season in Sacramento. Did they help you with the procedures to tell you what to do when you are the "rookie" on the team?

KM: Oh, yeah. Ron Flores made it abundantly clear to me that I was in charge of the 40 pound poker chip set that I had to carry around everywhere I went. [laughs] Like you said, pretty much our entire bullpen [from Sacramento] is up in the big leagues right now. It was good to be reunited with those guys like Flo and [Santiago] Casilla and the other guys who had been in Sacramento this season.

OC: I know that you are from Florida, but your family is from the New York-area. Did you follow the Mets at all as a kid?

KM: No, I didn't really. I kind of followed the Yankees, because that was my dad's team. And the Cubs were always on WGN when I was a kid, so I followed them. So those were the two teams I followed the most. But it was great to have started up in New York because I still have a lot of family there with both of my parents being from there. It made it cool that I opened up in New York.

OC: I know it was a rough series for the team, but what was the whole three-game set like for you?

KM: You hit it on the head. It was a rough series for the team. But for me, it was unbelievable. Usually in Sacramento, I get to the ballpark at around 2:30, 3:00. In New York, every day I was at the ballpark by noon. I just couldn't wait to get there. I'd go with Travis and [Kurt] Suzuki. I would just walk around the ballpark and play some cards and look at all of the film equipment that they have on guys up there.

They do such a great job of preparing for their opponents up there. We get scouting reports on players down here, but they have so much film on guys up top in the big leagues. It is amazing. I was just trying to learn as much as I can about that stuff. Kind of learning the ropes of how these guys get ready for the game, going over the scouting charts and video stuff. It was really cool to be there. I couldn't wait to get to the park. As soon as I woke up, I wanted to get there as soon as I could.

OC: When you finally got the call that you were going to have that first at-bat, did you have a scouting report on Guillermo Mota or were you just trying to see the ball and hit it?

KM: It was cool because I didn't know I was getting ready to lead-off in the eighth. The inning before, [Marco] Scutaro was on-deck getting ready to hit and I believe [Jason] Kendall was hitting before him and he made the last out. I was still assuming that Scutaro was going to lead-off the next inning and Ty [Van Burkleo, the A's hitting coach] said to me that ‘they have Mota warming up in the bullpen and he's got 91-95 fastball and he's got a change-up, which is his best pitch,' and I'm thinking, ‘okay, I might be getting a chance to hit here.' Next thing I know, we are getting ready to bat and [Bob] Schaeffer [A's bench coach] is telling me that I am going to hit and I'm thinking, ‘finally, this is it.' I've got to give Van Burkleo credit because probably five or six of the eight pitches Mota threw me were change-ups and I was able to kind of expect something and I was able to lay-off some of them that were decent pitches.

OC: How did you keep your emotions in-check and stop yourself from just swinging out of your shoes while you were up there?

KM: [laughs] Well, if you watch my first swing, I do kind of swing out of my shoes a little bit. The first pitch he threw was a fastball for a ball and I'm thinking, ‘he's going to come back with another fastball and I'm going to let it all come out here.' Then he threw me a change-up and I was way out in front and I swung and missed. I thought, ‘that's the change-up he was talking about' and I kind of shortened up a little bit and decided not to guess fastball with him. I was really trying to see the ball out of his hand and maybe hit it the other way.

OC: Once you were on first base, did Tye Waller [A's first base coach] have anything to say to you?

KM: We talked about how he was going to help me with the signs because they were still pretty new to me and that he was going to be in my ear. We were down six at the time, so there wasn't really much that he had to say. I found myself talking a lot to Shawn Green [Mets' first baseman]. He was just saying ‘Congratulations on a good first at-bat. How long have you been up for?' It was cool to get to talk to someone on the other team who knew the situation.

OC: The Mets have a few guys who have been playing for awhile. Was it strange to be on the same field as guys like Shawn Green, who have been playing for awhile?

KM: Yeah. It was crazy because when I was walking through the tunnel to go to the batting cage and who's walking in, but Julio Franco. I mean, who knows how old he is and he's been playing forever and he is still successful and still working as hard as anyone. So it was cool to run into him and to shake his hand. Just to get to talk to a couple of the guys, like [Paul] LoDuca and [Carlos] Beltran. I still remember a couple of years ago when Beltran had that huge post-season and I was in college and I never thought back then that I would be in the big leagues and here I was talking to him. It was a lot of fun to meet those guys and play against them and be a part of all of that.

OC: I had read in the papers today that you were sort of anticipating that you would be sent back to Sacramento after the New York series. Did the team tell you that up-front or was it more that you figured that when the team moved back to an American League park, the A's wouldn't need an extra position player?

KM: It was a little bit of both. When I spoke with David, he said that it was a 10-day road-trip so pack for 10 days, but we don't know how long you are going to be up for. That was an indication that it wasn't a permanent thing. You have to play the numbers game and you know that we were in the National League and we were headed back to the American League and we needed some help in the bullpen and obviously I was the guy to go. I saw it coming. It wasn't a huge surprise. I am just fortunate that it was a National League series that gave me the opportunity.

OC: Now you are on the 40-man roster. Does that have any special meaning for you now that you know that they can call on you whenever they need you without having to make two roster moves?

KM: Yeah, that is the biggest thing. I have been disappointed all year with what happened last off-season with the collective bargaining agreement pushing the protection period back a year. I was thinking, man, that cost me a shot at the big leagues this year because they don't have to put me on there [the 40-man roster], why would they? It just worked out that there was a spot that freed up and I'm just glad that I am the one who got that shot because now they can call on me whenever they need me. There are so many advantages to being on the 40-man, so I am really happy to be on there right now.


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