At age 35, Athletics' Balfour has finally made it

  • Article by: JOHN HICKEY , San Jose Mercury News
  • Updated: July 16, 2013 - 12:44 AM

The former Twins reliever from Australia was rewarded for his perseverance with an All-Star invitation.

hide

Athletics catcher Derek Norris lifted closer Grant Balfour in celebration after the final game of last season -- when Oakland beat the Rangers to claim the AL West title from Texas on the final day of the season.

Photo: Ray Chavez, Mct

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

 

– For most of his decade-plus in the big leagues, Grant Balfour has thought about what it would be like to be an All-Star. At 35, in the midst of his best season, he’s finally made it.

And what a long journey it has been for Balfour, the Australian righthander who had stops in Minnesota, Milwaukee and Tampa Bay before signing a free-agent contract with Oakland in 2011 and eventually becoming the team’s closer.

With 25 saves in 25 chances and a 1.63 ERA, Balfour has been a major factor in the A’s getting to the All-Star break 17 games over .500 at 56-39, two games ahead of the Texas Rangers in the AL West.

“I like the fact that he really competes and isn’t scared,” one American League scout said of Balfour, a late addition to the All-Star squad because teammate Bartolo Colon was unavailable after pitching Sunday.

The A’s don’t have an intimidating roster, which is perhaps why they have only two players on the All-Star team, but they do have a fight-to-the-end attitude that is a reflection of their closer.

Before settling on baseball, Balfour participated in rugby, soccer, swimming and track and field.

“I fell in love with the game,” he said. “I like being out there with the game on the line.”

Said another American League scout: “He’s fearless. He seizes the moment and appears to have controlled rage, which develops a tremendous environment for the A’s.”

Balfour comes into games with the Metallica song “One” blaring over the Coliseum sound system, and fans throughout the stadium dance at their seats as he makes his entrance and takes his warm-ups.

The Balfour Rage is on.

Balfour agrees that “rage” is the right word to describe his attitude on the mound.

“That’s not from me; I’m not a self-promoter,” Balfour said. “But I can get a little bit crazy on the mound. I love the support I get from the great fans in Oakland when I come into a game. I know they’re truly behind me. It helps get me in the zone.”

Controlled rage, Balfour said, “suits me.”

Balfour is a competitive athlete, maybe even hypercompetitive, a trait he might have inherited from his father, David Balfour, who spent the early part of his life playing rugby.

Even now, Balfour’s dad is competing, as he tries to beat cancer for the second time. Last week, David Balfour began chemotherapy and radiation after a cancerous tumor was discovered on his neck.

“The doctors say he’s already lasted longer than most everybody who has this form of the disease,” Balfour said. “But he’s fighting it. I can’t imagine that he wouldn’t. He expects to beat it.”

It’s that kind of attitude that Balfour takes to the mound. Not the prettiest of pitchers, he doesn’t have a 100 mph fastball. But he’s the only closer in the majors without a blown save this season, so his fastball obviously is plenty good enough.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions
Final123456789RHE
Minnesota000000000040
Detroit «00100002X340
@Ballpark Replay
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
W:D.Price(15-12) L:K.Gibson(13-12) S:J.Nathan (35)
HR: MIN- None DET- I.Kinsler (17)

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 14 FINAL
Kansas City 41
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
NY Rangers 6
Toronto 0 FINAL
Detroit 3
Pittsburgh 1 FINAL
Minnesota 4
Columbus 3 FINAL
Nashville 0
Florida 4 FINAL
Dallas 5
Winnipeg 1 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Arizona 4 FINAL
Vancouver 2
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Is it the right move to replace Ron Gardenhire?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close