Athletics ready to forge new identity
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OAKLAND -- As they stood waiting in a hallway just outside the arena floor, members of the 2013 Oakland Athletics could hear the music blaring, and the sold out crowd buzzing.

Then the introductions began.

One by one, the A's led by skipper Bob Melvin filed out in front of the audience. As applause rained down upon the reigning American League West champions, it became evident that the vibe around these A's is categorically different than it was last season.

They are no longer under the radar and they don't seem to mind one bit.

"We just have to put it in our heads that we are a good team together," Yoenis Cespedes said through translator Manolo Hernández-Douen. "Go out and enjoy the game and don't put too much pressure on ourselves."

While the players did enjoy their reception at A's Fanfest, it wasn't all pomp and circumstance, as there are still questions surrounding the seemingly completed and mostly present roster.

One such issue is how the newest players will step in and fill the void left by the departing members of the club. Gone are key veterans like Jonny Gomes, Brandon McCarthy, Stephen Drew and Brandon Inge. Replacing them are names like Hiro Nakajima, and Chris Young.

"Things are going to change up a bit with our chemistry," Coco Crisp said. "That's what made us so good last year. Our chemistry was perfect and that's something we are going to have to work on in Spring Training."

Even with a loss of veteran presence, manager Bob Melvin and his coaching staff remain almost completely intact. Melvin believes the chemistry won't be adversely effected. After all, winning helps lead to a happy clubhouse, and the A's roster from last season is still very similar.

"The people are changing but I don't think the mood and the atmosphere is going to change a lot," outfielder Josh Reddick said. "It's going to be a little bit harder without Gomes or Inge in the house, but I think we've learned quite enough from them to carry it on."

Crisp suggested the A's forge a new identity.

"I know everyone digs the Bernie Lean, the Balfour [Rage], and hopefully all that can still be catchy and continue, but there is still going to have to be some kind of change."

One new player was forced to make himself at home right away. During a live question and answer session Chris Young was forced by the fans to move it like Bernie in front of the sold out crowd at Oracle Arena while sharing a stage with his new general manager and manager. Josh Reddick egged him on the whole time and even helped demonstrate the dance.

"It just seems like a loose ball club, a group of young guys and great characters that just like to have fun and I like that," Young said. "I'm sure in a week you'll see me talking trash to all the guys and it won't be like I'm the new guy, but right now I am just trying to find my place."

Young got familiar with right fielder Josh Reddick during the A's commercial shoots, met Coco Crisp at an offseason function for the popular video game franchise Call of Duty, and compared Yoenis Cespedes to Bo Jackson.

He seems prepared to go with the flow. Nakajima seems poised to ratchet the crazy up a notch.

"I have no worries about him," general manager Billy Beane said of Nakajima. "I'm worried about my transition to him."

After all the media hoopla from his signing, the now legendary press conference in which he called Beane "sexy and cool," and the extravaganza that is A's Fanfest, the Japanese-born shortstop says he is very excited just to get on the field and play baseball.

After meeting many of his teammates for the first time, Nakajima singled out third baseman Josh Donaldson as a guy he will probably get along with the most.

"He came up to me and showed me some video he found on YouTube of the press conference," Nakajima said through interpreter Hiroo Nishi. "He seemed to be a pretty interesting guy to hang around with."

As for the fans, he offered some very specific analysis.

"Very aggressive, very wild, and very energetic," Nakajima said. "Very strong fans, very powerful fans."

The A's and their fans hope their new shortstop's transition to a new team and new country will go as well as Cespedes' did last season. He escaped his home county of Cuba, signed with the A's and joined them late in Spring Training, then had to adjust to a new life very quickly and publicly.

Chemistry is not quantifiable, and often overlooked, but even Cespedes says it made a huge difference for him last season.

"Relationships among players is very important on a baseball team," Cespedes said. "Last year I came here for the first time and didn't know anybody."

The A's will have a chance to get really cozy when the full team reports to their Spring Training home of Phoenix, Arizona on February 16.