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Healthy Crisp ready for season

Healthy Crisp ready for season

OAKLAND -- As expected, Eric Chavez undoubtedly proved to be the star of the A's preseason media gathering held Thursday.

The A's longest-tenured player not only sported a new look in the form of a full beard but, more importantly, answered questions surrounding his questionable baseball future in front of dozens of reporters at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

And just minutes after Chavez was rescued from the media mayhem, another injury-plagued player all too familiar with shoulder setbacks like the ones Chavez has endured took his seat.

"We haven't shared scars yet," said the next victim with a laugh, referring to his mending teammate.

Said victim was offseason pickup Coco Crisp, who arguably stole the show away from Chavez within minutes.

Oakland's newly acquired outfielder, signed as a free agent Dec. 23, quickly proved he not only makes a good story, but tells a great one, as well.

Just ask him about his ties to the Bay Area, and he'll promptly talk about the first home run he ever hit in nearby Richmond.

Crisp was 11 or 12 years old at the time, visiting his Aunt Diane, when he joined some buddies in a baseball game played with tennis balls.

Well, one ball to be exact.

"I hit it over the fence," Crisp said. "And then it was gone. We didn't have another tennis ball."

Already sounding eerily similar to "The Sandlot," a reporter asks why Crisp simply didn't climb the fence.

"Oh, it was a huge fence," he replied. "There was no way to climb that thing."

So what did you do the next day?

"Nothing," he said. "We had to save up to buy more tennis balls."

Crisp then paused before announcing, "So I have some rich history here."

Thus, come Opening Day, Crisp hopes to build on that history -- this time with a baseball.

"I'm very excited to be here with this team," Crisp said. "I think that we have the chance to do something special here."

Following a trade from Boston -- where he earned a World Series ring -- to Kansas City just a year ago, Crisp had those same hopes for the Royals.

"We got off to a hot start, we had a good team, and I thought that if we were able to stay healthy, we might actually be able to surprise some people there," he said. "I started off with probably one of my best years as far as seeing the ball and on-base percentage."

It only lasted for 49 games, though, as Crisp went out with a season-ending right shoulder injury before Kansas City decided not to exercise his option for 2010.

"I tried to play a little bit with it even though I couldn't, so that was frustrating," he said. "Nobody wants to get hurt and lose a whole season and lose a chance to make something magical happen. It's hard when you have fans out there telling you your grandmother can throw further than you -- even though she probably could.

"It was a tough decision to not play the whole season hurt. I think everybody who's a gamer would just play hurt. I tried to do that, and then the decision had to be made to have surgery."

Following the procedure on his torn labrum June 24, Crisp endured another operation -- this time on his left shoulder -- in late July.

The 30-year-old outfielder insists, though, that both shoulders -- which hold a combined 12 pins -- should not be cause for concern entering camp in a few weeks.

"I definitely don't think it's going to affect me at all," he said. "I'm excited to start a whole new season and come back in great shape and stay healthy."

Crisp is equally eager to share an outfield with the likes of Ryan Sweeney and fellow speedster Rajai Davis, who finished fifth in the American League with 41 stolen bases last season while mostly playing in center field -- Crisp's natural home.

"To bring me in here can be questioned, especially with [Davis'] capabilities of playing center too, but I believe we can have a special outfield in whatever order you put us in," he said. "I'm actually looking forward to learning more about his base stealing techniques. I think you can always learn from a guy who's very talented in something, and he really excels, not only in base stealing, but other aspects of his game as well."

Looking at Crisp's career numbers, it's easy to assume he'll become a popular go-to guy for help in the clubhouse, as well.

The outfielder, who is now on his fourth different team in eight Major League seasons, owns a career .277 average to go along with 137 stolen bases and a reputation for defensive prowess.

"I'm here now," he said. "I'm healthy. I'm happy. I feel like I'm going to have a good year."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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