A’s Coach Mike Gallego On New Shortstop Hiro Nakajima, What Brandon Moss Shouldn’t Do, And What To Save In An Earthquake!
As part of A’s FanFest this past weekend, a few members of the A’s staff took some time out to attend a bloggers-only press conference in the bowels of the Oracle Arena. One of those who made some time to chat with us was A’s third base coach, and second baseman for the A’s 1989 World Series championship team, Mike Gallego. The diminutive drill instructor for the A’s infielders proved to be an affable and loquacious raconteur. A’s Farm kicked off the questioning of the former 2nd-round draft pick by asking Gallego to share a highlight from his playing days…
On his most memorable moment – 1989’s earthquake-addled Bay Bridge World Series…
The earthquake World Series had to be something that was obviously very special and memorable to me due to the fact that, as horrible as it was for some families obviously, I really felt that because of that game that day, we saved quite a few lives, because I know for a fact that when I drove down the Nimitz Freeway at 5:20 on an off-day, that thing was bumper to bumper. And for many reasons, obviously because of the game, it wasn’t quite as packed. Quick story – no one really knew this one. When it did start coming – I don’t know if you’ve ever been in the locker room at Candlestick, but it was underneath the stands – and you could literally hear it coming. It was like this rumbling. I wasn’t playing that day again obviously, and I’m sitting in the locker room and I could hear this thing coming, and I thought it was the fans actually stomping their feet, because you’re right underneath them. And all of a sudden, you could look and all this dust and soot started coming through the air vents, and this place starts rocking. And we’re at Candlestick, and we’re not used to this locker room, and it’s huge – this locker room is really big. And boom, all of a sudden the power just goes out and people starts screaming, “Get the hell out of here. It’s an earthquake. This place is coming down!” That’s all we heard, “Get out!” Everyone starts running. And there’s probably about twenty of us still in the locker room, because the starters were on the field warming up. So all the power’s out and it’s around 5:20ish – I don’t know the exact time. But there’s one door open in the back where the light was coming through, so that was the only target you had of light. So we’re running towards this – as the place is literally rocking like a wave – running into tables, windows, chairs, tripping, running into each other. It’s complete panic. You know how they say, “Walk calmly out?” No, we were screaming and yelling and trying to get outside. We were scared to death. I get about halfway, and I turn around and I start going against the grain. And everyone’s like, “Where the hell are you going?” And I just keep going – complete darkness. I get to my locker and I’m feeling around and I grab my glove. And I said, “If I go down, I’m going down with this, because y’all know I didn’t get there ‘cause of my bat!”
On new A’s shortstop Hiro Nakajima:
I’ve seen some video on him. I know he can hit. Defensively, he probably doesn’t have one of the most expansive ranges of the shortstops that are out there. But as far as catching the routine play, that’s what we’re all about around here. Make the routine play – the great plays will come. And I think once he learns the league, once he learns his pitching staff, as far as knowing how to play each hitter, each situation, obviously you’re going to increase your range. There’s a few things I can give him as far as using his eyes better, anticipating balls better, which will help increase his range as well. But the guy’s a professional, so I think he’s going to be just fine…[his arm is] average at best, I’d say. But I know I played thirteen years with this arm, and this guy’s got a way better arm than I ever had. It’s all about playing the game right, and he seems like he knows what he’s doing, as far as what I saw in the video. I don’t know him personally yet, but he’s been around for a little bit and he’s pretty mature already, and I’m looking forward to seeing him get out there and work for the Oakland A’s.
On A’s fans last season:
Wow, incredible! As a player back in ’88-’89, I don’t remember that electricity to tell you the truth. Maybe because I was so scared, or focused, not scared – I didn’t say “scared,” I said “focused” – about being in the playoffs. Everything becomes a blur as a player. It’s so loud it becomes quiet. So I don’t know how loud it was as a player. I don’t recall it being as loud as it was this year. These fans, you fans – unbelievable! I’ve been in stadiums where you notice, “Oh shit, it’s loud here!” But here, I’ve never noticed that – till last year. That was unbelievable – the electricity that you guys brought to the ballpark everyday. And as far as bringing the old fans back, I’m sure we did do that – the guys that have been sitting there going, “the A’s will never win again,” “I don’t like the organization,” “they want to move,” whatever issues people have had in the past about the A’s – I’m sure we brought a lot of those people back. But I know one thing for a fact, we made a lot of new fans as well. That team was exciting to watch. Whether you’re a baseball fan, whether you’re a Yankee fan, whether you’re a Red Sox fan, whether you’re a Giant fan, these people wanted to watch that group of players play every day. I know I did. I enjoyed it. I’ve never enjoyed a year as a coach as much as last year, because there were no expectations, the young guys that came up, the walk-offs. Every day we came out the underdog to the ballpark and beat some butt. And I’ll tell you what, it made it fun to come to the ballpark every single day. And what the fans did for the group, to motivate them, to get them going, to believe in themselves – the fans believed the game wasn’t over until the last out. One of the funniest lines I heard this year, Brandon Moss about the walk-offs, he says, “You know, this is exciting. It’s just unbelievable how many walk-offs we have. But I just don’t understand, how come we always only do it at home?” I just looked at Brandon Moss, “Don’t think – whatever you do, don’t think.”