OAKLAND -– Friday’s game marked a special occasion for A’s center fielder Billy Burns, who had his older sister at the Coliseum to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Abbey Burns, 31, is a member of the U.S. Paralympic Swim Team. Next month, she’ll go to Ecuador to compete in the INAS Global Games. Abbey has competed in the Special Olympics in both swimming and equestrian, and she’s set S14 US Paralympic records in the 100 yard butterfly, 100 meter back, 50 meter butterfly, 100 meter individual medley and 100 yard individual medley.
“We like to say she’s the best athlete in the family,” Burns said before Friday’s game against the Astros. “It’s just fun for her to be out here showing off her arm.”
Burns said he draws inspiration from his sister, who has a learning disability. It’s become tradition for Abbey to throw out the first pitch at one of his games. She’s done so at just about every level Burns has played since college, but this will be her first time doing it at a major league ballpark. She made the long flight from Atlanta with their mother, Terry, and spent batting practice Friday taking pictures and chatting with A’s manager Bob Melvin.
Abbey works at a horse stable back in Atlanta, which feeds into her love of the equestrian. As A’s players were taking hacks in the batting cage, she was off to the side getting her arm loose.
“It’s a special day obviously,” Burns said. “It’s something that brings so much joy and happiness to her life, so it brings our family a bunch of joy just watching her, and giving her some glory out here today. It’s her first big league experience and hopefully it’ll be a special one for her.”
Closer Sean Doolittle, battling back from a season-long shoulder injury, will make a rehab appearance with Single-A Stockton on Friday night. It’s his first outing in an official game since he returned to the disabled list in late May after pitching in just one game for the A’s. If all goes well, Melvin said Doolittle would get a couple days off and then pitch again.
Danny Valencia is starting at third base and hitting cleanup for Oakland. He’s one of the few Athletics with a decent history against Astros ace Dallas Keuchel, having gone 5-for-9 against him. Brett Lawrie is hitting third and drawing his second start at second base over the past three days.
“I’m just trying to go out there, make the routine play, pick it up and throw ‘em out,” Lawrie said of playing second.
Coco Crisp is 7-for-19 (.368) against Keuchel.