"If I can't be the guy hustling the most out there," Menechino said, "I don't want to play."
That all-or-nothing mantra is what lit up the spark plug in the former Oakland fan favorite, who spent seven years in the A's organization -- four of them coming in green and gold at The Show. Now 37 years old and three years removed from his big league career, the wildly popular and always entertaining member of the A's clubhouse recently spoke -- in his heavy New York accent, of course -- from his home in Staten Island, where he is doing what the retired bunch do best.
"I'm fishing every day with my friends," Menechino said. "It's hard work, especially when you're fishing for trout."
Don't expect the New Yorker to join a card club or become an everyday golfer just yet, though. His playing days may officially be kaput, but the whole retirement-from-the-baseball-world stint is very much temporary.
"I'm going to start my coaching career," he said. "Right now I'm giving hitting lessons to little kids and I've been working for a Web site called 'Free the Fan,' which is basically You Tube for sports.
"I worked the All-Star Game doing interviews for them, but I want to start coaching next year, so I figure this is the last summer to have some fun."
Said fun follows a two-month gig with Danesi Nettuno, a professional Italian team for which Menechino played earlier this year before hurting his back.
"Then I just said, 'You know what? I'm done,'" he explained. "I had enough over there and came home. The main thing is that I'm happy with my career. I'm happy with what I did. It was time for me to quit because I just wasn't having that much fun anymore."
Although Menechino wouldn't mind working for a Minor League team with either the Mets or Yankees to stay close to home, he said he would never rule out a coaching offer from buddy Billy Beane, who he credited for his shot at the Majors.
"The reality is, when I was with the White Sox, they said I couldn't play any other positions," said Menechino, who primarily found time at second base. "You can't play, you don't have the arm, you don't have the range, you can't do this, you can't do that. I heard it all. Billy was the smartest one out of everybody because he knew what I could do."
The hard-nosed Menechino knew his Major League role was ultimately defined as a utility player, but the inconsistency of it all never affected his value to the organization.
"I was always put second," he said. "They always had these guys that were so great ahead of me, and then all of a sudden, there I was playing. That's an accomplishment for me.
"Nobody wants to be a utility player. You want to play every day. I think the coaches and the teams want it that way. They don't want a guy who is content playing every few days."
Every few days turned into a lot of days -- 139, to be exact -- during the 2001 season when A's starting second baseman Randy Velarde went down with an injury, prompting the fill-in Menechino to earn more than a slice of respect.
ARI: Travis Lee | ATL: Mark Lemke
BAL: Chris Hoiles | BOS: Bill Lee
CHC: Randy Hundley | CIN: Eric Davis
CWS: Dan Pasqua | CLE: Dave Burba
COL: Curtis Leskanic | DET: Steve Sparks
FLA: Charlie Hough | HOU: Doug Drabek
KC: Mike Macfarlane | LAA: Rick Reichardt
LAD: Jim Gott | MIL: Don Sutton
MIN: Kevin Tapani | NYM: Ed Kranepool
NYY: Jim Abbott | OAK: Ben Grieve
PHI: Tommy Greene | PIT: Barry Jones
STL: B. Tewksbury | SD: C. Hernandez
SF: Brian Johnson | SEA: Henry Cotto
TB: Doug Creek | TEX: Dave Hostetler
TOR: Alex Gonzalez | WAS: W. Fryman
"That year I had a great first half and everyone was saying it was just a flash in the pan," he said. "But no one realized I got two cortisone shots in my elbow and was playing with a torn quad. They threw me out there every day because I was getting the job done defensively and my on-base percentage was second on the team to [Jason] Giambi."
Giambi is one of a handful of past and present A's players Menechino has kept tabs on. He still keeps in contact with the likes of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Eric Chavez and Jason Isringhausen -- guys he said made his Oakland experience beyond memorable.
"The team chemistry we had was unreal," he said. "The way we pulled for each other, the way we hung out together. We never panicked. When everybody around us panicked, we never did, and we always seemed to turn it on at the right times.
"When you look back at the teams we had, I sit back scratching my head saying, 'How did we not win a championship?'"
It's a tiring question considering Menechino and the A's reached the playoffs four years in a row -- 2000-04 -- yet never found a way to get past that first round. Even still, he insists his days in the Bay were some of the best, made even better by his supporters.
"I know I was liked in Oakland because when I came there as a Blue Jay, they booed the heck out of me," he said with a laugh. "Then they gave me a standing ovation when I came up with the bases loaded and the A's were killing us. I was like, 'Oh, thanks.'
"We didn't have a lot of fans in Oakland, but the fans that did come were great. The players there, we recognize that."
Jane Lee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less