Billy Burns was almost out the hotel door, heading to the ballpark in Frisco, Texas, where he’d be the center fielder Monday night for the Midland Rockhounds, the same as the day before and the day before that.
His manager, Aaron Nieckula, changed everything with one phone call. Pack your bags and come to the park, Nieckula said. An explanation would be awaiting.
It was, but Burns didn’t need it. Shortly after the first call he got another, this one from A’s traveling secretary Mickey Morabito, on the line to arranging a quick flight to Houston, where Burns would be joining the A’s. Oakland was down two center fielders, Coco Crisp out for at least a few days with a neck injury and Craig Gentry out possibly a couple of weeks or more with a broken right hand.
Before the night was over, Burns would go from being a .250 hitter at Double-A unhappy with the level of offense he was putting out, to being up two levels and getting his first big league at-bat. He flew out to right as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning of a 7-3 loss to Houston.