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A's new skipper meets with fans

By Bill Choy

Triplicate Sports Editor

At the Tsunami Sports Bar Tuesday afternoon, two men waiting for their burger and cobb salad perked up when the Major League Baseball wire flashed across the television screen.

The wire announced that Eric Gagne has just signed with the Texas Rangers and Miguel Batista had signed with the Seattle Mariners.

"He's pretty good," Bob Geren nonchalantly commented to Robert Buan about Batista.

Considering Geren is the new manager of the Oakland A's, he knows what he's talking about. After all, both the Mariners and Rangers are in the same division as the A's.

Geren, who was named the A's new skipper last month, was in town Tuesday as part of the team's winter caravan. He was joined by Buan, who is a radio radio announcer with the A's.

The pair made visits to local radio stations KPOD, the Crescent City affiliate of the Oakland A's, and KCRE, Tsunami Grill, Les Schwab Tires, Del Norte High School and the Brookings, Ore. area. They also visited Eureka on Monday.

Excited fans approached Geren with photos and A's hats to sign.

Geren, 45, was cordial and attentive with each fan, showing a genuine interest in what they had to say.

To him, it's important to interact with fans and to show them they are appreciated.

"It's been great," Geren said. "Everyone I've met has been happy we're up here."

Geren has been a member of the A's coaching staff for the last four seasons, serving as the club's bench coach in 2006 after spending the previous three seasons as bullpen coach.

He joined the A's organization in 1999 as manager of Single-A Modesto and spent the next three seasons (2000-02) at the helm of the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats.

A former catcher, Geren's professional playing career spanned 15 seasons, including five years in the major leagues with the New York Yankees and San Diego Padres.

On Tuesday, Geren said he even had the privilege to catch the last game of Tommy John's career when he was with the Yankees.

To be associated with a major league ballclub as a manager is something Geren said he feels fortunate to be a part of.

"It's an honor," he said. "A lot of people don't look forward to going to work everyday. I do."

To be able to start his MLB head managing career with a team that has the ingredients to go deep into the playoffs and potentially the World Series is an ideal situation.

"I feel like every year we have a great chance and this year is no different," Geren said. "It's a little bit intimidating and exciting. It's a big job. I feel like all my past experience has built up to it."

Despite the loss of designated hitter Frank Thomas and the long speculated free agent departure of pitcher Barry Zito, the A's have a lot of talent.

This includes third baseman Eric Chavez, catcher Jason Kendall and outfielders Milton Bradley and Nick Swisher.

The pitchers, including starters Rich Harden, Danny Haren and Joe Blanton, and relief pitcher Huston Street are young and full of vast potential.

Just last week, the A's signed Mike Piazza to be the team's new DH. He spent last year with the Padres.

Geren is pleased to have Piazza, one of the best hitting catchers to ever play the game and a likely future member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, with the A's.

He just talked to Piazza by phone a few days ago.

"He's excited and really pleased to be here," Geren said, adding he likes the way Piazza can hit the ball to all corners of the field and his potential to make a key hit at any time.

But all the talent in the world is for naught if injuries strike. Keeping healthy is always vital to a winning season, he said.

"A 162-game schedule is a lot of games,"Geren said. "Keeping everybody healthy is key."

To Geren, a good manager is someone that can relate to players and get a group of talented people to work as a team.

"I think you need to create an environment where players are comfortable and thrive," he said. "The players are pretty well-versed in the game. They just need to be led in the right direction from time-to-time."

Another thrill for Geren is the chance to bring his sons, 14 and 15, to the ballpark with him.

"They are pretty excited," he said, adding his boys were quite the hit at school after their fellow students found out who their dad is.

Not every dad, after all, is a major league manager.

 


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