It’s September and the Oakland A’s have punched their ticket to the postseason. Beset by a reload loop that has seen them shed the occasional name player and tally a lot more losses than wins since a brief run of contention from 2012-14, this team of graduated prospects playing to their fullest potential (and, sometimes, above it) coupled with a few shrewdly acquired veterans count as one of the better surprises of the 2018 season. It’s the kind of story that sports fans love and one that will be romanticized further if the team manages to slingshot Goliaths like the Yankees, Indians, and Red Sox in the eye.
But while you might want to slap an “underdog” label on the A’s, their All-Star second baseman (and one of their veteran leaders) isn’t sure it applies. Perhaps because the guys in that clubhouse aren’t as surprised as everyone else is that they’re playing at this high level this late in the season.
Uproxx Sports spoke with Jed Lowrie about that label, playing in a small market, assuming the mantle of leadership, and what this season means to the fans in Oakland. We also spoke with Lowrie about his work with the Starlight Children’s Foundation, a non-profit that is working with 15 Major League teams (including the A’s) to distribute 3,000 team branded hospital gowns while visiting sick kids as a part of baseball’s charitable efforts during September, which is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
The word “underdog” gets thrown around when it comes to you guys because a lot of people didn’t think you’d still be in the hunt at this point. Do you bristle at the word or embrace it?
Jed Lowrie: I mean, I don’t know if underdog is the right word. I think it’s just a matter of guys not being the household names that other organizations or other teams have.
Khris Davis has been one of the premier power hitters in the league for a while but he doesn’t get enough attention. What you’ve been doing the last couple of seasons hasn’t gotten a lot of attention — save for that first All-Star appearance this year. Why do you think that is and what do you think the league needs to do to spread the wealth around in terms of making guys more known?
What the league should do, that’s a little above my pay grade. But I think Khris, myself, there are some guys on this team that are very good players. I was able to take part in that All-Star game for the first time this year, which was awesome and a great experience. I’m glad I got an opportunity to do that.
Khris is on his third straight 40-homer, 100-RBI season. You’re talking about something that hasn’t been done in this organization since, I think, Jimmie Foxx back in the Philadelphia A’s era [1932-1934]. And it probably hasn’t been done very much in the history of the game. So yeah, clearly that guy is deserving of a lot more national attention.
The market in Oakland is not as big as other places, but what can be done? I don’t know, I guess it’s not my department.
I understand, but I would imagine it’s gotta be a little frustrating. Not to put words in your mouth, but obviously, popularity is about more than name recognition, it filters down to endorsement opportunities and bigger contracts. Like you said, Oakland is a smaller market. But there are national games and stuff like that.
I mean, it’s kind of alright. You’re talking about a sport that we play every single day. It’s not basketball or football where you play once or three or four times a week and you have a lot of other days to go out to do promotions and to get your name out there. I mean, we’re playing every single day, so that makes it a little bit more challenging to get that exposure when you’re not in a big market.
That’s a good point. You’ve been in the playoffs before. A lot of your teammates haven’t been down that road before. Do you embrace the role of mentor or leader?
I’ve had some good experiences in the past with getting to the playoffs, and so if I can use those experiences and pass along some anecdotal experience and help guys get through high-intensity situations, then yeah, I enjoy it. Absolutely.
I would imagine the atmosphere at the stadium has been a little more electric this year and that crowds are a little more into it. Can you talk a little bit about Oakland and what you think this season has meant to the community?
Yeah, I mean I think we could certainly be doing better as far as attendance is concerned. The numbers don’t lie. But there’s a community within Oakland that is very passionate about the A’s, and they’re big supporters and we like to see all those faithful A’s fans out there at the game.
I think what’s great about this, particularly being with this group of guys, is they’re involved in the community, I think they’ve been doing a lot of good stuff in and around Oakland.
I watched video from the visit where you guys were handing out A’s hospital gowns from Starlight and you talked about having a kid of your own. You’ve done these visits throughout your career. Has fatherhood changed that experience for you and what’s your objective when you do these visits?
Yeah, 100 percent. I think I’ve always enjoyed doing those trips and interacting with the kids but I think having your own changes your perspective completely and I don’t know how else to say it. But it certainly changes your perspective.
I think it’s a responsibility for guys in my situation. If that’s something that we can be a part of and go and distract kids who are fighting real things in life, I think that’s the least we can do. And I enjoy interacting with those kids because they’re the ones with real strength.
To donate and help supply a kid with an A’s gown or learn more about Starlight’s efforts go here.