OK, so Kurt Suzuki’s not really dead. At least, not literally. But, given that the Oakland Athletics longest tenured player has just been traded away, it sure feels like something died. Despite his recent struggles at the plate, there was a time where he was considered by some to be the best catcher in the AL not named Joe Mauer. And in some years it was a real shame that he did not win that coveted gold glove. Ever since Suzuki took the job from Jason Kendall in 2007, Oakland A’s fans could rely on Kurt filling that spot with spectacular defense and (usually) average offense. And, while A’s fans have been excited to see the emergence of Derek Norris as the “catcher of the future,” and perhaps some are intrigued by new prospect David Freitas, I thought it would be appropriate to pay tribute to the man who has, in some ways, been the face of the franchise for the past several years. Join me after the jump to recap some of Suzuki's best moments with the A's.
On August 18th, 2009, the Yankees were playing a series in Oakland. C.C. Sabathia was on the mound for the Yanks and Oakland decided it would be fun to pit Vin Mazarro against him. That has to turn out well, right? Well, in the top of the first, Mazarro is a bit shaky and ends up plunking A-Rod. So, you know what that means. Gotta “protect your players,” or something like that, right? Sabathia gets 2 quick outs in the bottom of the inning and then up comes Suzuki. Sabathia throws the first pitch directly at Kurt Suzuki’s mid-section. Overthrowing a bit, the ball sailed behind Suzuki and hits the backstop. The ump steps out of the box and warns both benches. Message received. But, the thing is, Kurt don’t like being thrown at. No one really does. Taking a 95 MPH fastball in your back isn’t something batters are actively looking to do (unless the batter happens to be named Carlos Quentin). So, Kurt decides to send a message of his own. On the very next pitch, Suzuki takes Sabathia deep, planting the ball in the left field bleachers.
Ahh. Yeah. That felt good.
My absolute favorite “holy-s**t-did-that-actually-just-happen” moment for Kurt Suzuki came against the Mariners in 2010. Up in Seattle, the A’s and M’s were locked in another one of their infamous and oh-so-thrilling 0-0 ballgames heading into the bottom of the 7th. Zeigler is sent in to pitch with 1 out and Figgins on 2nd (thanks, Breslow). After getting 2 quick strikes on Franklin Gutierrez, Ziggy throws one of his famous side-armed sliders that would have sailed behind the batter, had Gutierrez been batting left handed. Lucky for us, Suzuki decided to audition for the 2012 Olympic gymnastic squad at that moment. He prevents the ball from hitting the backstop by leaping out of his crouch and grabbing the ball while doing a full-on cartwheel. Just a fantastic grab. Figgins sees this and takes off for third, because, you know, how in the heck is a dude supposed to throw you out while in mid-cartwheel? I don’t know how, but ask Suzuki, becasue that’s exactly what he did! Suzuki jumped, made a very nice catch while showing off what he learned in gymnastic lessons as a toddler, planted his feet, and threw a strike to Kouzmanoff at third, nailing Figgins for our number two. Watch it here. And when you’re done watching it, watch it again, if for no other reason just to see that stupid s**t-eating grin on Figgin’s face. Amazing.
On April 9th, 2009, just hours after making his major league debut against the Oakland A’s, Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and two of his friends were killed in a horrific car accident by a drunk driver. Jon Wilhite was in Adenhart’s vehicle and was the lone survivor. Kurt and his wife Renee immediately created the Jon Wilhite Recovery Fund, aimed at raising funds to pay for Jon’s medical expenses and recovery efforts, including an operation reattaching Jon’s skull to his spinal column. Last I heard, Jon has made an amazing recovery and did not have to pay much out of pocket due to the fantastic efforts of the Suzuki’s.
In addition to his efforts in the Jon Wilhite Foundation, you may have seen Kurt Suzuki promote his Family Foundation in commercials during A’s games. This is a foundation dedicated to helping fund scientific research of chronic illnesses and it encourages people to lead healthy lifestyles. Recently they have been tackling kidney awareness (I assume this is awareness of kidney diseases rather than awareness of the existence of ones kidney’s).
And, sometimes it’s the small things you do that make a difference in the lives of others. I’m not going to recap this story, just go read it for yourself. It’s short and certainly worth the read. Just a small, simple effort on the part of Suzuki was able to create a fantastic father-son moment that I’m sure the kid will remember forever. It’s the sort of intangible that really, really counts, and I still get a warm feeling when reading this story. Maybe this is just me being a softy, but the story was absolutely heartwarming.
In an effort to prevent this post from being too long, here are a number of other memorable moments in the career of Kurt Suzuki:
Suzuki hits a walk-off double against Seattle in Oakland
Walk-off HR against the White Sox
Did Kurt just jump out of a pool without using his hands? Holy crap he did!
Nice Block of Home
Random defensive highlights
Kurt Suzuki will be greatly missed here at AN, in the Oakland community, in the A's clubhouse, and on the field. He has meant a lot to this organization over the years. I think we can all wish him the best of luck at his new home in Washington. I, for one, will be looking forward to October, where we will hopefully get to see Kurt catching Gio in game 1 of the World Series against the A's.