OAKLAND -- Stephen Vogt this morning was announced as recipient of the A’s annual Catfish Hunter Award. According to the team’s release, the award "honors an A’s player whose play on the field and conduct in the clubhouse best exemplifies the courageous, competitive and inspiration spirit demonstrated by (Hunter)."
The award, named for the Hall of Fame pitcher who died of complications due to ALS in 1999, is voted on by A’s players, coaches and staff. It speaks to Vogt’s impact both on the field and in the clubhouse this year that he was given the award despite starting the season in Triple-A and not joining the A’s until June 1.
"Obviously it just means the world to me to have an honor like this," Vogt said. "To have your teammates and coaches think of you in that regard, it’s the highest honor you can have as a ballplayer."
"We have probably several candidates for it but certainly can’t go wrong with Stephen," manager Bob Melvin said. "He really embodies the whole spirit of the award. He’s such a versatile guy, one of those grinders that’s just out there wanting to win, period."
Vogt began contributing immediately upon arriving in Oakland. In 76 games, he’s batting .300 with nine home runs and 32 RBIs and has played five different positions for the A’s, mostly first base (34 games) and right field (13 games).
That’s notable as Vogt last season and this year at Triple-A was primarily a catcher. But the A’s have needed him elsewhere this season, and Vogt has made the adjustment. In the past couple months he has also battled a bone bruise in his right foot and a sprained left ankle that caused him to miss two weeks recently. He made his first start since that injury in last night’s 3-1 A’s win over the Phillies.
"With the injury, he’s not able to catch, which really is his passion," Melvin said. "It’s all about finding a spot for him and he really has played a great first base for us. He just wants to be in the lineup and help the team out when he can."
Vogt was a key part of the A’s second-half playoff run last year and caught every game of the playoffs. Back in April, Melvin said informing Vogt he hadn’t made the team out of spring training this season was one of the hardest cuts he has ever made as a manager. Vogt memorably choked up when talking to reporters about not making the 25-man, but didn’t let it affect his performance, playing his way out of Triple-A quickly.
"It’s been an interesting year with different injuries and different things, starting in Triple-A, but overall it feels like I’ve been here the whole time," Vogt said. "This team is so much fun to be a part of."
Vogt, one of the most personable and perpetually upbeat people in the A’s clubhouse, was asked where he gets his leadership qualities and demeanor from and credited his father, Randy, who coached him from Little League through high school in Visalia.
"He always leaned on my brother and I, and it was just kind of bred in us that you don’t have to be a vocal or outspoken leader, but the way you play the game, if you play the game hard and play the game the right way, that’s leadership all in itself," Vogt said.
Vogt said his brother, Danny, who’s three years older, was a senior when Vogt was a freshman on the varsity baseball team at Central Valley Christian High in Visalia. He said Danny was the catcher, and Vogt that year played whatever position was being vacated that day by the player the team had pitching.
Fittingly, Vogt has since made a career of being a versatile defender, despite having a physical build probably best suited to catching. He attended Azusa Pacific University and was a 12th round draft pick by Tampa Bay in 2007, but didn’t debut in the majors until 2012.
He went 0-for-25 that year with the Rays and stretched that hitless streak to 32 at-bats to start his career before collecting his first hit with the A’s on June 28, 2013 against the St. Louis Cardinals -- a home run. Since then, he has been a constant contributor to the A’s. As stories go, you might not script one much better.
"For me, it’s just my life. I haven’t really thought of it as this huge inspirational story," Vogt said. "But when I kind of look back on it, the way I see it is for me, if one kid looks at Stephen Vogt and says, ‘Wow if that guy can play in the big leagues, I think I can’ -- that’s kind of what you want.
"I’m a firm believer that if you want something bad enough and you work hard enough for it and make enough people say no, somebody’s finally going to say yes. And I’m just so fortunate and privileged to be able to be on this team and in the big leagues, I think that in itself has kept me going and made he play the game the right way and not take one game up here for granted."
* Vogt is back in the lineup today for the A’s, this time batting second against Phillies right-hander Jerome Williams. The A’s lineup:
And the Phillies lineup against A’s left-hander Drew Pomeranz:
* Pomeranz starts today with Jason Hammel still away from the team for the birth of his child. Melvin said Hammel’s wife did had the baby -- "I got a picture this morning" -- and Hammel is expected to rejoin the A’s soon and take his normal turn in the rotation Thursday.
* Josh Reddick returns to the lineup after missing the last two games with neck soreness stemming from his fall at first base Wednesday. Coco Crisp is off, with Melvin saying it’s a normal rest day for Crisp, who has battled nagging injuries most of the season.
* Melvin said Pomeranz, who will make his first start for the A’s since Aug. 27 and has just one other appearance since -- a three-inning relief outing against Seattle on Sept. 2 -- is probably good for 75-80 pitches today and, "We’ll see how he gets there."