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Street Shows No Fear As Rookie Closer

By Casey Tefertiller
September 16, 2005


2004 Draft Class Update:
Progress Report On All 30 Picks
Rice Trio Finds Path To Pros Plagued With Injuries
Bush Looks To Shed Premature "Bust" Label

FIRST TO DEBUT

Huston Street, a supplemental first-rounder, was the first player from the 2004 draft to reach the big leagues, debuting with Oakland on April 6 of this year. Debuting first is not always a precursor of success as the following list shows:
Year Player, Pos. Club (Round) Debut Date

1965

Ken Holtzman, lhp

Cubs (4)

Sept. 4, 1965

1966

Rich Nye, lhp

Cubs (14)

Sept. 16, 1966

1967

*Mike Adamson, rhp

Orioles (S-1)

July 1, 1967

1968

Bill Lee, lhp

Red Sox (22)

June 25, 1969

1969

Rich Hand, rhp

Indians (S-1)

April 9, 1970

1970

*Steve Dunning, rhp

Indians (1)

June 14, 1970

1971

*Burt Hooton, rhp

Cubs (S-1)

June 17, 1971

1972

*Dave Roberts, 3b

Padres (1)

June 7, 1972

1973

*Dick Ruthven, rhp

Phillies (JS-1)

April 17, 1973

1974

Jack Kucek, rhp

White Sox (2)

Aug. 8, 1974

1975

Rick Cerone, c

Indians (1)

Aug. 17, 1975

1976

Pete Redfern, rhp

Twins (JS-1)

May 15, 1976

1977

#Brian Greer, of

Padres (1)

Sept. 13, 1977

1978

*#Mike Morgan, rhp

Athletics (1)

June 11, 1978

1979

Jerry Don Gleaton, lhp

Rangers (1)

July 11, 1979

1980

Rich Bordi, lhp

Athletics (3)

July 16, 1980

1981

Mike Moore, rhp

Mariners (1)

April 11, 1982

1982

Bryan Oelkers, lhp

Twins (1)

April 9, 1983

1983

Jeff Robinson, rhp

Giants (2)

April 7, 1984

1984

Oddibe McDowell, of

Rangers (1)

May 19, 1985

1985

Will Clark, 1b

Giants (1)

April 8, 1986

1986

Mike Loynd, rhp

Rangers (7)

July 24, 1986

1987

Jack McDowell, rhp

White Sox (1)

Sept. 15, 1987

1988

Gregg Olson, rhp

Orioles (1)

Sept. 2, 1988

1989

*John Olerud, 1b

Blue Jays (3)

Sept. 3, 1989

1990

Alex Fernandez, rhp

White Sox (1)

Aug. 2, 1990

1991

#Benji Gil, ss

Rangers (1)

April 5, 1993

1992

Jeffrey Hammonds, of

Orioles (1)

June 25, 1993

1993

Brian Anderson, lhp

Angels (1)

Sept. 10, 1993

1994

Dustin Hermanson, rhp

Padres (1)

May 8, 1995

1995

*Ariel Prieto, rhp

Athletics (1)

July 2, 1995

1996

Mark Kotsay, of

Marlins (1)

July 11, 1997

1997

Jim Parque, lhp

White Sox (1)

May 26, 1998

1998

J.D. Drew, of

Cardinals (1)

Sept. 8, 1998

1999

Eric Munson, 1b

Tigers (1)

July 18, 2000

2000

*Xavier Nady, 1b

Padres (2)

Sept. 30, 2000

2001

Mark Prior, rhp

Cubs (1)

May 22, 2002

2002

Kevin Correia, rhp

Giants (4)

July 10, 2003

2003

Ryan Wagner, rhp

Reds (1)

July 19, 2003

2004

Huston Street, rhp

Athletics (1)

April 6, 2005

2005

Joey Devine, rhp

Braves (1)

Aug. 20, 2005

* Went directly to major leagues
# High school player
S--Secondary phase
JJanuary draft

--ALLAN SIMPSON

OAKLAND--It was one of those spring-training moments so strange that the old hands around Oakland A's camp could not stop laughing.

Huston Street, a callow rookie just a few months of the campus of the University of Texas, stood on the mound shaking off Jason Kendall, the jut-jawed catcher who has spent more than a thousand major league games behind the plate. Just how brash can this kid be?

Not brash at all, it turns out.

In a prolonged at-bat against Moises Alou of the Giants, Kendall wanted Street to throw a changeup, a pitch the youngster had barely begun tinkering with and had no confidence in his ability to execute. Street preferred a slider. Kendall demanded a changeup. Finally, Kendall got his way and Alou was retired.

That was one of those profound moments when it really stuck with me, Street said. He trusted my stuff. He told me to trust the catcher's call and to trust my stuff. 'Don't be afraid of your pitches.' It gave me the confidence that I can get people out with all my pitches, not just my go-to pitch.

At the age of 22, Street has taken over as the closer of the Oakland Athletics, a team in the middle of a pennant race. He still relies mostly on his fastball and go-to slider, but when Kendall puts down the sign for a change, Street follows orders. As a closer in a heated race, he owns one of the most high-pressure jobs in all of baseball. He has yet to flinch.

He has no fear, said manager Ken Macha.

His poise is as good as in any young player I've seen, said A's broadcaster and former all-star Ray Fosse, who has been catching or calling major league games since 1967.

He gets better and better every time he goes out there. He wants to learn and find ways to keep improving, Kendall said.

Opportunities, Not Obstacles

There is something very special about this slender Texan from the suburbs of Austin. He has physical tools, but they were not dazzling enough for any major league team to call his name with the first 39 picks of the draft last June, when the A's took him 40th overall in the supplemental first round. What makes Street so different is his refusal to be intimidated: not by situations, challenges, other players or the most intense forms of pressure. Street simply thrives on pressure.

The roots of Street's unusual poise go far back in his life. His mother Janie and father James, a two-sport college star at Texas during the late 1960s, were dedicated to raising children who would be both confident and respectful. There is no reason to fear a big challenge, they taught; rather, come to enjoy it.

I just learned it from my parents, Huston said. Both of them always preached to look at things as an opportunity, then you see it from a totally different perspective and you're not nervous or apprehensive about going into certain situations. I think it came from my parents, growing up. Never be timid when you go into these situations because everything is an opportunity. It's just what you think of it.

Simple as it sounds, this approach to athletics has carried Street to remarkable highs through college and his brief professional career. Back at Texas, Street helped the Longhorns to three consecutive College World Series appearances, winning the CWS Most Outstanding Player award as a freshman in 2002 when he recorded four saves, including the championship game over South Carolina.

At 18, he showed no fear on the greatest stage in college baseball, and he has only continued to build on that success. After signing with the A's last July, he debuted at low Class A Kane County, moved up to Double-A Midland and advanced to Triple-A Sacramento, where he had two postseason saves to help the River Cats to the Pacific Coast League championship. He followed that with an excursion to the Arizona Fall League, where he was again on the mound when his Phoenix Desert Dogs won that league's title. In his first 38 appearances as a professional, he had a 1.09 ERA and 17 saves.

I saw the fall league as a golden opportunity to prove to myself that I could compete with some of the best prospects in the minor leagues, Street said. For me, it was trying to take as much advantage of the opportunity as possible. When you go in and have success, it slowly builds your confidence, one day at a time.

Plus-Plus Aptitude

Street has always treated every stop as a learning experience on the way to higher goals. At Texas, he worked with pitching coach Frank Anderson to perfect a three-quarters arm action that would bring more movement to his pitches. He was not afraid to change from the overhand style he used in high school because Anderson bred confidence that the new delivery would make him more effective. He was not afraid to move into the closer role when coach Augie Garrido needed someone to finish games back in '02, and now he loves the bullpen with passion. Anderson and UT prepared him mechanically to make the move to the pros. Janie and James gave him the other tools.

What makes Street different from the hundreds of other 22-year-olds laboring through the minor leagues, slowly learning both the mental and physical demands of a professional, is the mindset to overcome challenges: the poise to perform. Street and the A's are a perfect match. There is an organization-wide philosophy that baseball aptitude is a tool, just as much as hitting or throwing; that knowing how to play the game is an underrated skill that makes for major league success. Street is aptitude in action.

Where that aptitude leads will be something for the A's to savor over the next few years. This is the organization that originated the concept of the closer with Rollie Fingers in the late '60s, then perfected it with Dennis Eckersley two decades later. Both Hall of Famers have their retired jersey numbers hanging on the outfield wall in Oakland.

There's (Fingers') 34 on the left-field wall, and Eck in right. There's plenty of room to put (Street's) 20 up there, too, Fosse said. And that's not putting pressure on him.

Doesn't matter. Street seems to handle pressure quite well. It's all an opportunity, after all, just as Janie and James told him so many years ago.

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