ORINDA -- Perfectly positioned at the climax of a glorious, improbable season as the Oakland A's public address announcer, Dick Callahan refuses to be a sacrifice flyer.
That's no baseball typo -- it's the truth.
In April, believing the naysayers, Callahan booked an $11,000 air and cruise vacation for his family that was to have happened this week.
"I drank the Kool-Aid of the prognosticators," he admits, shaking his head. "People were saying they would lose 100 games. I thought, 'This team is not going to develop into a contending team.' "
In the nine years since succeeding announcer Roy Steele after his 37-year run as the Coliseum voice of the A's, Callahan has used revenue from working for the A's to finance trips with his three grown daughters and their husbands. He has never scheduled a trip during the postseason -- until this year.
"I didn't buy trip insurance, either," he says, laughing at the irony, after a lifetime in the industry. (Callahan is the founder/owner of Lafayette's Kosich & Callahan Insurance Services, in operation since 1981.)
Known for his impeccable work ethic and grand-slam pronunciation of player's names, there was no question where Callahan would be Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week. As of press time Thursday morning, the A's were still in it, after an improbable come-from-behind win in the ninth inning against the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday night to tie their playoff series at two wins apiece. "My obligation is to stay here, even if it was just the Wild Card game. In the rare event we made the playoffs, I wasn't going anywhere."
Applying the sticky "endurance of a man who sells insurance," he recovered most of the canceled trip's expense.
Which is why his derrière was in the "best seat in the house" at O.Co this week instead of on a cruise chair in New England. He hopes he's still on the job beyond Thursday, too.
To prepare for the big show, he took a page straight out of the A's playbook.
"Nothing different," he says. "I'm a creature of habit and a proponent of preparation."
Callahan starts game days with a printout of the 25 players on each team's roster. Using a pronunciation guide put out by the league, he rolls each name across his well-practiced tongue. With players hailing from countries all over the world, Callahan is recognized for getting names right. Reviewing with radio announcers Ken Korach and Vince Cotroneo ensures they will all sound the same. A tightly produced script and a ballpark production meeting complete the prep.
"Then, we go to work," Callahan says.
This year, Callahan's professional decorum has been hard to maintain.
"I want to say, 'Watch out for his curve ball!' or shout, 'Don't fish!' I almost miss turning my mic on for the next batter because my fist's still pumping in the air. It's not easy for me to separate from this team in terms of being a fan and being the stadium announcer," he admits.
The fever he suffers is contagious, because fans are wildly in love.
"We've had 36,000 people before -- but this isn't 22,000 Yankee fans and the rest A's fans, this is 36,000 people, all helping them get past 5-1 to win the division."
Reaching this point has been an uphill grind with downhill sinkholes.
At a preseason luncheon, Callahan asked Jonny Gomes, arriving from the Washington Nationals after stints with the Cincinnati Reds and the Tampa Bay Rays, "What's it like to come from where you've been, to a team that's rebuilding?"
"Jonny said, 'That "rebuilding's" a bunch of ...(baloney) -- I'm paraphrasing -- the amount of money in the payroll doesn't mean anything in the locker room.' He was visionary, even when the team was 13 games behind the Texas Rangers. That's where the buildup started, with a lone voice," Callahan recalls.
But he wasn't alone.
Callahan says third baseman Brandon Inge, picked up early in the season, was a huge influence. He brought a veteran's perspective and his first grand slam homer (as an A) won the game.
"That built their courage," he says. "And (Manager) Bob Melvin pushed all the right buttons. He's a hard worker. He doesn't just come in, throw the lineup card on the desk and say, 'Fill this out.' The players will go through the wall for him."
The blend works, he suggests, saying the no-backbiting atmosphere is a departure from seasons when they were not as cohesive.
Even when they felt "hammered" in the press during the trading deadline, or when they crawled through a nine-game losing trough, or when their future in Oakland was questioned, the rookies stayed focused.
"Stop looking at the ownership or the relocation. Look at the players! Come see them play and enjoy it!" Callahan would announce to anyone with an ear to hear.
The lowest point was pitcher Brandon McCarthy's recent injury.
"I heard the crack of the bat and the crack of his head at the same time. It was awful. As the announcer, you think of what you're going to say. He got up and walked away, so I introduced the new pitcher. We had no idea until that night about the severity (of the injury)."
Like many A's moments after the All-Star break, McCarthy joined their uphill sweep and is listed as "possibly 2012 postseason" on the team's injury update report.
It's a phrase that would have caused guffaws, if applied to the A's in April. In October, a slightly amended "definitely 2012 postseason" can be born aloft with pride.
Callahan is still thunderstruck, two days after the A's swept the Texas Rangers to win their division outright.
"I sat there in awe, looking at the stadium, thinking, I don't want this balloon to burst. All I could say was, 'Ladies and Gentlemen: your Oakland A's are the American League Western division champions!'" he recalls. "They're ragtag champs and no one can take that away."