Elmore takes top prize in A's talent show
Prospect Russell's 'unexpected and phenomenal' performance not enough to win
PHOENIX -- As if the spotlight couldn't already love Addison Russell even more, the A's top prospect delivered what pitcher Dan Straily called an "unexpected and phenomenal" performance during the club's talent show Sunday morning.
"He danced his butt off," said Coco Crisp, one of three judges. "I'm talking break dancing. He was getting down. Then he went straight into a standing back flip. Unreal."
And he didn't even come in first place.
That honor went to new infielder Jake Elmore, who stole the show with a medley of tunes, seamlessly switching from country to rap to pop all to the same beat, complete with different hats -- since he wears so many on the field, having played all nine positions in his career.
Russell finished third, while team comedian Stephen Vogt's group finished in second place.
"Elmore's there, setting up his pens and he starts hitting them on the table, and you're thinking, 'What's this guy doing?'" said Straily. "Then he starts singing. It was the same beat the entire time for three songs. It was really cool. He's got some good lungs in there."
"It was called a talent show, and he was by far the most talented in the show," added Nick Punto, also a judge. "It was incredible. I think shock value had a lot to do with it, too, because it was just very unexpected. He sang a country song that was right on key, he did a rap song that was right on key, had all the right dance moves and then he sang a pop song, too. It shocked me."
Lefty Scott Kazmir was the other judge, as decided by service time, but it was veteran closer Jim Johnson who organized the event, which was mandatory for all players with less than a year of service time and closed to media. Players with over one year of service time had the option of buying out for $100.
Straily was one of several players who contributed to Elmore's winning pot.
"I gladly bought out," the righty said, smiling. "If I had under a year, I think I would've been in there, and I don't think they really want to watch me play 'Call of Duty.' That probably would've been my talent."
Performances had to last a minimum of two minutes, and Johnson said, "There was not one bad act."
"The quality was so impressive," he said. "Usually you get one bad act, or multiple, but everyone was really good. It was definitely the most talented group I've ever seen."
"I tell you, I've been to several of those over the years, but I can't remember a time when there was actually talent involved," said manager Bob Melvin. "Usually it's more laughing and booing someone off the stage, whereas this was a very talented group. I mean, this was a pleasant surprise. Jim Johnson said it best afterward. You could probably have a fundraiser with the talent that we had today.
"They were all really good. There were plenty that didn't place in it that, in others, would've placed very high."
Melvin was most surprised by Elmore's vocals and joked he'd reward the infielder with a start in Monday's game. The infielder wasn't the only one who got creative, though.
Outfielder Billy Burns juggled bats, at one point flipping one underneath his legs while still juggling the other two, while pitcher Andrew Werner was staged as an "Eric Sogard stalker fan," as Ryan Cook described, and played guitar while singing a song he wrote himself, titled, "Hashtag Eric Sogard" -- inspired by Sogard's second-place finish in MLB Network's "Face of MLB" Twitter competition.
Werner went so far as cutting his facial hair just like Sogard's. Then there was Michael Taylor, who played the piano on "the world's smallest keyboard and was really good at it," said Straily.
"It just brings the team even closer together," he said. "We've got a loose clubhouse."
"We have turnover here from year to year and it can act as a bonding type of deal as well," Melvin agreed.
Vogt, considered a great impersonator with many talent show victories with the Rays already under his belt, imitated the legendary Chris Farley in his own rendition of the Saturday Night Live "Van Down by the River" sketch.
"Second place was really tough for me," said Punto," but I ended up going with Vogt and his crew. I think Nate Freiman kind of stole the show as a supporting actor. He was great. He played the dad and just nailed it. It's not easy being a judge. There was a lot of talent."
Pitchers Sonny Gray and Jeremy McBride performed as the Chipmunks, while A.J. Griffin led several of the club's Latino players in song -- all in Spanish. As he does most days in the A's clubhouse, he did it while playing the guitar.
"Every day's a talent show with him," said Straily.