PHOENIX -- If the A's exhibit as much skill, style and versatility on the field as they did in their first-ever player talent show Sunday, they may have no worries during the 2014 regular season.
Organized by new closer Jim Johnson, who staged similar shows with the Baltimore Orioles, the midmorning team talent contest -- held behind closed clubhouse doors in lieu of the usual morning workout -- was a huge success, according to manager Bob Melvin and several players.
Melvin said his players showed a surprising array of talent and said the timing of the event came just at the right time to ease the monotony of mid-spring.
"I've seen several of these over the years, but I can't remember a time when there was actually talent involved," the manager said. "Usually it's more laughing and booing somebody off the stage, where this was a very talented group, each and every guy. Jim Johnson said it best afterward, that we could have a fundraiser with the talent we saw today."
Shortstop prospect Addison Russell performed a dance that he concluded with a standing back flip. Pitcher Andrew Werner performed an original song he wrote about second baseman Eric Sogard. Outfielder Billy Burns juggled bats and balls. Outfielder Michael Taylor sang a song while playing a miniature piano. Pitcher A.J. Griffin played guitar and sang a song in Spanish with a trio of Latin players backing him.
But the surprise winner was infielder Jake Elmore, who performed a musical country/rap/pop panache while drumming on a table and alternating various hats. Elmore only dreamed up his routine the night before, but it was enough to upset the heavy pre-event favorite, catcher Stephen Vogt.
"I heard the pot was getting pretty big for the winner, so I figured I'd better get in," said Elmore.
Vogt, who so dominated two spring talent shows with Tampa Bay that he was banned from entering a third, re-enacted a "Saturday Night Live" routine of the late comedian Chris Farley. He wasn't upset in the least that he wound up second.
"I brought my A game today, and I nailed it, but at the end of the day, Jake Elmore's performance was better than mine," Vogt said. "Jake killed it. No one saw that coming at all."
No one saw Russell's back flip coming, either, which gave the staff a few heart palpitations.
"Maybe more so the training staff," Melvin said. "It was a little unexpected. When he's in midair, you're thinking, 'I hope he comes down in the right position here.' "
"I knew I had to land it," Russell said with a grin.
Werner's song about Sogard, entitled "Hashtag Eric Sogard," was the hard-luck loser. Werner said he worked on the song for two days and offered up the chorus: "Hashtag Eric Sogard, his glasses never fog / Chuck Norris thinks he's the boss, in his four eyes I get lost."
Melvin said he hopes the mid-spring show becomes an annual event, for more reasons than just laughs and high jinks.
"We have turnover here from year to year, so it definitely can act as a bonding type of deal," he said.
Straily, entering his second full year, said he is much more focused on detail work this spring during his outings.
"I definitely know what it takes now," he said. "Last year, coming into spring, it was completely foreign to me. I never had a spring training that lasted two months. I didn't really know how to prepare myself. This year, I had a lot better idea of what I needed to do."
Straily got support from Sogard, who made a gorgeous backhand glove flip of a ball up the middle to shortstop Jed Lowrie to start a double play, maybe the best infield play of the spring so far.
"If he can get that down, you'll see some defenses kind of shift around for him because he can do it," Melvin said. "That's the most comfortable we've seen him do that. He didn't stab at it."
Follow Carl Steward on Twitter at twitter.com/stewardsfolly.