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

ADVERTISEMENT

Buffalo 17 FINAL
New England 9
Cleveland 10 FINAL
Baltimore 20
Dallas 44 FINAL
Washington 17
Indianapolis 27 FINAL
Tennessee 10
Jacksonville 17 FINAL
Houston 23
San Diego 7 FINAL
Kansas City 19
NY Jets 37 FINAL
Miami 24
Chicago 9 FINAL
Minnesota 13
Philadelphia 34 FINAL
NY Giants 26
New Orleans 23 FINAL
Tampa Bay 20
Carolina 34 FINAL
Atlanta 3
Detroit 20 FINAL
Green Bay 30
Oakland 14 FINAL
Denver 47
Arizona 17 FINAL
San Francisco 20
St. Louis 6 FINAL
Seattle 20
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Pittsburgh 27
Arizona 1/3/15 3:35 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 1/3/15 7:15 PM
Pittsburgh
Chicago 6:00 PM
Indiana
Milwaukee 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Sacramento 6:30 PM
Brooklyn
Orlando 6:30 PM
Miami
Washington 7:00 PM
Houston
Utah 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Detroit 6:00 PM
Boston
Pittsburgh 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Washington 6:00 PM
NY Islanders
Montreal 6:00 PM
Carolina
Buffalo 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Toronto 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Colorado 7:00 PM
St. Louis
Minnesota 7:00 PM
Winnipeg
Nashville 7:30 PM
Chicago
NY Rangers 7:30 PM
Dallas
Los Angeles 8:00 PM
Calgary
Philadelphia 8:00 PM
Arizona
Rice 12:00 PM
Texas
UMass Lowell 1:00 PM
Boston College
Johnson (TN) 5:00 PM
Char Southern
Wentworth 6:00 PM
Boston Univ
Lipscomb 6:00 PM
Chattanooga
Toledo 6:00 PM
Duke
FIU 6:00 PM
Florida A&M
Quincy 6:00 PM
Illinois State
Valparaiso 6:00 PM
James Madison
Southern Miss 6:00 PM
LSU
Capital 6:00 PM
Miami-Ohio
Maine 6:00 PM
Quinnipiac
North Florida 6:00 PM
Tenn Tech
Fair-Dickinson 6:00 PM
Towson
Cleveland State 6:00 PM
VA Commonwealth
Rider 6:00 PM
Wagner
IUPUI 6:00 PM
NC Central
Southern Arkansas 6:30 PM
Louisiana Tech
Howard Payne 6:30 PM
Sam Houston St
Hampton 7:00 PM
Northern Ill
Mount St Marys 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Midwestern St 7:00 PM
SMU
Tennessee St 7:00 PM
TCU
North Texas 7:00 PM
Texas Tech
Alice Lloyd 7:00 PM
Western Ky
Morehead State 7:00 PM
Central Arkansas
Nebraska Omaha 7:05 PM
Chicago State
Middle Tennessee 8:00 PM
Auburn
Portland 8:00 PM
BYU
Saint Josephs 8:00 PM
Denver
Pepperdine 8:00 PM
Loyola Marymount
San Francisco 8:00 PM
St Marys-CA
Stephen F Austin 9:00 PM
CS-Northridge
Santa Clara 9:00 PM
Pacific
UC Irvine 10:00 PM
Oregon
Gonzaga 10:00 PM
San Diego
Ark-Pine Bluff 10:00 PM
Stanford
Southern U 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Virginia Tech 33
(15) Arizona State 36 FINAL
Duke 31
Miami-Florida 21 FINAL
So Carolina 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Penn State 31
(25) Nebraska 42 FINAL
(24) USC 45
Texas A&M 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
Tennessee
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
East Carolina 1/3/15 11:00 AM
Florida
Toledo 1/4/15 8:00 PM
Arkansas State
Holy Cross 11:00 AM
Western Mich
Chattanooga 12:00 PM
South Dakota
UNC Greensboro 12:00 PM
Florida A&M
Savannah State 12:00 PM
Fordham
NJIT 12:00 PM
Clemson
St Gregorys 1:00 PM
Oral Roberts
CS-Northridge 1:00 PM
Saint Josephs
Harvard 1:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Norfolk State 1:30 PM
Stony Brook
LSU 2:00 PM
Miami-Florida
Princeton 2:00 PM
Hartford
New Mexico St 2:00 PM
Southern Utah
SIU-Edwardsville 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
Loyola Marymount 3:00 PM
Pepperdine
Fla Gulf Coast 3:00 PM
Quinnipiac
Lipscomb 3:00 PM
Georgia Tech
Miami-Ohio 3:30 PM
Davidson
Nebraska Omaha 4:00 PM
Utah Valley U
Robert Morris 5:00 PM
Marshall
UC-Riverside 5:00 PM
Brown
Kennesaw St 5:00 PM
Alabama A&M
Auburn 5:00 PM
FIU
Seattle 6:00 PM
Oregon
St Francis-PA 6:00 PM
(21) West Virginia
SE Louisiana 6:00 PM
Ole Miss
Southern Miss 6:00 PM
Nicholls
Rider 6:00 PM
Delaware
Drexel 6:00 PM
Virginia
Furman 6:00 PM
Elon
UMBC 6:00 PM
Penn
UNC-Wilmington 6:00 PM
Florida Atlantic
Akron 6:00 PM
Youngstown St
Jacksonville 6:00 PM
Florida State
Grambling 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Evansville 6:00 PM
(7) Louisville
Western Ky 6:00 PM
Belmont
Chicago State 6:00 PM
Wright State
Buffalo 6:00 PM
Canisius
Cleveland State 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Iona 6:00 PM
East Tenn St
Ohio State 6:00 PM
(15) Maryland
Mercer 6:30 PM
Jacksonville St
Ark-Pine Bluff 7:00 PM
(19) Miss State
Northwestern St 7:00 PM
(18) Oklahoma St
James Madison 7:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Texas Southern 7:00 PM
McNeese State
Bowling Green 7:00 PM
Hampton
Prairie View 7:00 PM
(6) Baylor
Samford 7:00 PM
Kansas
South Dakota St 7:00 PM
Northern Iowa
Howard 7:30 PM
Iowa State
Old Dominion 8:00 PM
California
Charlotte 8:00 PM
Utah
(5) Texas A&M 8:00 PM
Washington
San Diego 8:00 PM
Gonzaga
(10) Duke 8:00 PM
(2) Connecticut
UT Martin 8:00 PM
Arizona
(12) Nebraska 8:00 PM
Minnesota
Coll of Idaho 8:00 PM
Idaho State
BYU 9:00 PM
Portland
Pacific 9:00 PM
Santa Clara
St Marys-CA 9:00 PM
San Francisco
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: Do you like the Twins' offseason moves so far?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close