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Haren's home is in the East Bay

Oakland Tribune,  Jul 21, 2006  by Josh Suchon, STAFF WRITER

DETROIT -- When Dan Haren pitches on the road, he's the only A's starter who routinely chooses the gray uniforms, which say Oakland across the chest.

Haren might have been born and raised in Southern California, but he's quickly turned himself into a proud member of the Bay Area. He spent the All-Star break in Napa, going on a guided tour of the wine- making process at one winery, and he hit up a couple of others recommended by former teammate and wine guru Scott Hatteberg.

In the ultimate sign of the roots he's planted in the East Bay, Haren bought a house in Walnut Creek, becoming the only current A's player who will live year-around in the area.

"It just made sense," said Haren, who starts the opener of a three-game series tonight in Detroit. "Originally, I thought Arizona, like everybody does. But I thought if I got a house in the Bay Area, I could live in it for 10 months, as opposed to living in an Arizona home for six months. That was the deciding factor for me."

Haren made the decision shortly after signing a four-year contract last September. While a trade is always possible, Haren has the financial security to afford the house, and the odds are strong he'll remain with the A's until the contract ends after the 2009 season.

"If I wouldn't have signed that contract, I wouldn't have bought a house here," Haren said. "I'd have looked in the Arizona area, something more cost-effective. Knowing I would be in Oakland for at least four more years made it easier. It's nice, especially during the season, to live in my own home. In the off-season, there's no move or getting settled.

"It's definitely uniquebecause nobody else is doing it. I'm excited. I love my house."

Many players don't want to get bombarded with personal appearance requests in the off-season, which is another reason they don't live where they play. Haren is already expecting to get called a lot.

A's director of public relations Jim Young said it's convenient that Haren is so close, but the number of functions are limited, and the A's are accustomed to flying multiple players into town for appearances.

"He enjoys the area and wants to make it his home," Young said. "Part of being a major league baseball player is being a member of the community. If you live there 12 months, instead of six months, that's a plus. We hope Dan is with us for a lot of years."

Before Haren, the only recent A's player to live year around was Eric Byrnes, who grew up along the Peninsula. Eric Chavez owns a home in the East Bay, but spends his off-seasons in Arizona.

On the veteran-laden late-1980s teams, it was similar.

Jose Canseco owned a home in Blackhawk but went back to Miami in the off-season. Gene Nelson went home to Florida, Rick Honeycutt to Tennessee, Terry Steinbach to Minnesota and Dave Henderson to Seattle. Carney Lansford went to Oregon a few years but later planted his roots in Santa Clara.

"It wasn't like they were just starting their career and knowing they'd be in Oakland for an entire career," said then-A's pitcher Curt Young, who is now the pitching coach. "It was veteran players with established roots in other cities."

Oakland natives Rickey Henderson and Dave Stewart were exceptions, staying in their hometowns through the winter.

Longtime equipment manager Steve Vucinich said players living year-round in the Bay Area was "more common" in the early 1980s, citing Mike Heath, Dave Beard, Steve McCatty, Tony Phillips, Mike Davis and Dwayne Murphy as examples. Murphy's son, D.J., became a well-known athlete at Monte Vista High.

It was different in the 1970s.

Former A's catcher Ray Fosse said former teammates Gene Tenace, Joe Rudi, Sal Bando, Rollie Fingers, Ted Kubiak and Vida Blue all lived year-round in the Bay Area. Reggie Jackson owned a house in Oakland but often was elsewhere in the off-season.

The Mustache Gang players would frequently work out together in the off-season at an athletic club in Walnut Creek, then head to spring training together.

But it's different now, and not only for A's players. An Orioles employee said a couple of players have homes in Baltimore, but only Melvin Mora lives there exclusively in the off-season.

"It's not just the Bay Area," Fosse said. "A lot of guys don't like to live wherever they play. Typically, guys have homes where they go back to see their family. Dan signed that long-term deal, he knows he's going to be there at least four years, he's getting married, and I think it's great he wants to live in the Bay Area."

Haren's parents, tired of the traffic down south, are planning to move soon from their West Covina home. That was a factor in Haren's decision too.

Deciding where in the Bay Area wasn't easy. Haren started his search in Half Moon Bay, since that's where Byrnes lives. He liked the area, but thought the drive to Oakland would be a grind. Next he looked at San Mateo and was close to putting in a bid on a house.

But he decided to check out Walnut Creek, fell in love with the downtown area, and thought it would be most practical for him and his fiancee, Jessica, who is also from West Covina. Jessica goes home during most road trips and works on their wedding details.