Khris Davis could be the face of the new Oakland-centric focus the club is taking under new president Dave Kaval. Davis, who came to the A’s almost exactly a year ago from the Brewers, spent the offseason in Oakland. To be sure, he took some vacations, but when he wasn’t traveling he was at home, learning the city and working out at a West Oakland gym.
“It was great, really good,” Davis said Sunday morning as all the position players reported to Oakland’s spring training facility. “I got to see the heart of the city. That was the purpose of being there.
“I was able to work out in a small gym (Dogtown Athletic) in West Oakland where it’s not pretty around. It was nice. I just worked every chance I got.”
He has a huge fan in Kaval, the man charged with getting the A’s a new Oakland ballpark. Kaval has spun the A’s emphasis specifically toward Oakland since his arrival in November..
“It’s tremendous,” Kaval said. “That’s exactly what we are trying to do with the club, to connect not only the entire organization but the players to the city. There is something about seeing the players out on the streets that really creates that connection with the fans.”
Bob Melvin, who lives in Berkeley, noted that when he first got here, almost no players lived locally. Now shortstop Marcus Semien and infielder/outfielder Mark Canha do and reliever Sean Doolittle spends much of his offseason in the East Bay.
And now Davis can be added to the crew.
Over the course of his last four months, Davis grew to appreciate the city in a way it’s tough to do over just the course of a baseball season.
“I went with the flow,” he said. “I went with the flow. I love it, honestly. I love that city.”
That city’s baseball fans grew to love Davis last year when he overcame a slow start to finish with 42 homers. He was a beacon of hope for a team finishing last in the American League West for a second consecutive season.
Oakland does have its problems, one of which is what to do about the Raiders, who want to leave, and the A’s, who want a new ballpark.
Those issues got dwarfed at times this winter by current events, including the Ghost Ship Fire in which 36 people died.
“Oakland is a beautiful city, but it also has its dark side too.” Davis said. “Citizens of Oakland should get what they deserve.”
Good baseball is part of what Davis feels the citizens deserve. He had the opportunity to hang with Oakland legend Rickey Henderson Dec. 1 at the Oakland Zoo with kids from the Castlemont Primary academy. He described it as “like happiness.”
“They didn’t look at me as a baseball player. They looked at me as a role model, kind of,” he said. “That was biggest highlight of my offseason, honestly, minus all the vacations. To be able to be with those kids to have the opportunity to hang out with them was amazing.”
Davis entered the offseason wanting badly to play for Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. He is eligible because his mother, Sonia, was born in Mexico. But on Sunday he made it official that he wouldn’t be in the WBC and would stay with the A’s throughout the spring.
“I’m not going to be able to do it due to some timing issues,” Davis said. “I kind of feel overextended personally. You take on a lot; it’s days away. My main focus is this organization. I feel this year I want to get off on the right foot this year.
“It does take me away for a while. I need to be in Arizona, training in the states. I feel horrible about it. At the same time, I have to be here.”
By John Hickey