Travis Buck, 23, is completing his first week as a big leaguer after making Oakland's Opening Day roster out of Spring Training. A 6-foot-2, 205-pound left-handed hitter from Richland, Wash., Buck batted .346 in the Minor Leagues in 2005. He was leading the Minors with 39 doubles through 84 games last year before a sports hernia ended his season. He recently answered some questions from MLBPLAYERS.com.
MLBPLAYERS.com: As a first-year player, how are you enjoying your rookie season so far?
Buck: I'm absolutely having a lot of fun. I got to make my big-league debut in Washington at Safeco Field in Seattle, which is where I'm from. It was a great way to start what I hope is a long career.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Since you're from that area, how many tickets did you have to get?
Buck: In terms of family, 15 tickets. In the ballpark, I had more than 100 friends. A lot of them have season tickets for the Mariners, so that helped me out quite a bit. When I took right field, a lot of them were out there and cheering me on. That helped calm me down quite a bit.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You came up with your first hit during that series. Did that help you calm down even more?
Buck: It was good to get that first one out of the way during my first game. It came off of Felix Hernandez during my second at-bat. It was a double off the left-center-field wall. He probably pitched one of the better games he's ever pitched, so it was even better to get the hit against a guy of his caliber.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Did you expect to make this team when you entered Spring Training?
Buck: They told me at the beginning of camp that I wasn't going to make the team. That helped take the pressure off. I was able to focus on going in there and opening up some eyes. I wanted to show the guys who make the decisions what exactly I could do. When some guys went down due to injury, and with me playing with no pressure and having a good Spring Training, it opened up the door and here I am.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Once you made the team, what did the coaching staff tell you in terms of your role for this year?
Buck: They told me that I would be playing every day. Fortunately for me, but unfortunately for some of the other guys on this team, we have had some injuries in the outfield. They thought I was ready, though, and they believed in me. At this level, that was very comforting. They expect me to play every day up here, and so do I.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Your season last year in the Minors was cut short due to injury. What exactly happened to you and when?
Buck: It was frustrating. I ended up having surgery for a sports hernia in November. I actually got hurt in August. We had problems getting it diagnosed properly, and at the same time, we were trying to get me ready for the Fall League. Rehab wasn't working, and surgery was the last resort. I was worried that I wasn't going to be 100 percent healthy heading into the spring. Once I got out there, it was really nice to see where I was at. I had no lingering effects from the surgery and my offseason work really paid off.
MLBPLAYERS.com: At least one person with the A's organization has compared you to Jason Giambi when he was coming up with this same organization. How does that make you feel?
Buck: Obviously, that is a special comparison and it means a lot that people think of me that highly. I've gone through the system, but my power had not really broken out until lately. It's a great comparison, but I won't try and go out there and live up to it. I won't dwell on it. I am who I am and I'm playing my game right now, which is gap-to-gap. If I hit a lot of doubles, the power will come. If I just get on base, I will be able to help the team.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You have a lot of good-hitting teammates in Oakland. Do you talk to any one person in particular?
Buck: I talk to everybody. Everybody has taken time out for me from their day and they explain situations and hitting. It's really cool. I'm treated the same and they all believe in me. They know I can do it. Getting to know these guys has been really cool. I'm trying to learn as much as I can.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Before turning pro, you played college baseball at Arizona State. What are some of your fondest memories from that program?
Buck: I wanted to play pro baseball coming out of high school. Everyone wants to do that. What worked out best for me, however, was going to college, and I could not have gone to a better program in terms of tradition. They have an unbelievable staff and they helped me be the person and player that I am today. The best moment came as a junior when we went to the College World Series and finished third. We came together and played as one.
MLBPLAYERS.com: One of your teammates in college was current Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier. Are you close with him?
Buck: He really took me under his wing my first year. I came in originally as an infielder before they threw me out in the outfield. We both swing from the left side and when he took me in the cage, I pretty much copied everything that he did. He is a great hitter and anything I could pick up, I looked to do that. We still talk to each other about once or twice a week. His success with the Dodgers is nothing new to me. I have seen him do it for years.
Jeff Moeller is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.