Seventeen year-old Christian Maselli of Dublin has played baseball virtually all of his life. He loves the game. He loves being around it. And it's in his blood, with his great grandfather being a catcher for the San Francisco Seals ballclub in the 1950s.

At first glance, then, it would likely surprise you to know that he decided not to play baseball at Dublin High his senior year and instead took a job filling water jugs, doing laundry and being somewhat of a gopher. That is, until you know that his employer is the Oakland Athletics and he gets to put on the A's uniform every home game as one of the team's ball/bat boys.

"I had to make a decision. It was take this job or play this season, so I had to make the tough decision to tell (head baseball Coach Shawn) McHugh that I wasn't going to play this season. But this was a lifetime opportunity that I couldn't just walk away from," says Maselli.

It was the connection that McHugh had with the A's that gave Maselli a chance to interview for the open job, which Maselli says turned out to be far more than catching a few foul balls or picking up a player's bat.

For a day game, he gets to the ballpark four to five hours before game time. Among his first duties are to make sure any leftover laundry is distributed to players and coaches, towels for the coaches' rooms are stocked and any orders for the players' pregame meals are ordered. There are occasionally also special requests, which have included taking a player's car to the carwash.


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Then it's time to help shag and restock baseballs at batting practice and get the water and Gatorade buckets ready for the players and coaches in the bullpens.

And then it's game time.

"Because I'm one of the new guys, I'm a ball boy. I warm up the outfielders (between innings) and protect the players in the bullpen."

The latter, he says, is probably his most important and nerve-racking role. If he misses a ball hit down the left-field line and it hits a pitcher or catcher warming up in the bullpen, there could be big problems for long-term employment.

Maselli admits he's missed a couple of hard-hit balls, but fortunately, there's been no harm -- except perhaps to his personal pride.

"(A's broadcast announcer) Ray Fosse made fun of me on TV once after I missed a ball once that went between my legs," says Maselli, who adds that a number of his friends and former teammates quickly piled on.

After the game, young Mr. Maselli is polishing shoes of the players and coaches, doing three or four loads of laundry and assorted other work that keeps him in the clubhouse long after the players have headed home.

"To be honest, everyone is really cool here. There's not one player that I've encountered who's been rude. It's just a really awesome job and makes those long-hour days really worth it."

Dublin Gymnastics Champ: Congratulations to 14 year-old Kelley Hebert, of Dublin, who recently returned from the Western National Level 9 Gymnastics Championships with a prestigious championship win.

The Fallon Middle School student finished with a 38.15 total score, which was a mere three hundredths of a point ahead of the second-place finisher. According to her mom, Deborah, Kelley's scores were consistent throughout the competition, but her floor routine put her over the top.

"I knew that I had a 38.15 all-around, but I did not know what the competitors' scores were. So, I didn't know I won first place until it was announced at the awards ceremony."

My understanding is that Level 9 is just below the Olympic gymnastics level, but while competing for team USA would be great, Kelley's mom says that goal is not among her daughter's aspirations.

"Training for the Olympics is a huge commitment, which requires most of your time training away from family and friends," says Deborah, who adds that the goal now is for Kelley to eventually earn a college scholarship and compete at the collegiate level. Kelley has been in gymnastics for nine years and continues to train at Edge Gymnastics in Dublin.

Contact Alan Elias at elias2000@sbcglobal.net.