Hours before he headed out to Rickey Henderson Field to warm up for his 22nd start of the season, Jharel Cotton sat alone in the Athletics clubhouse, cell phone at the immediate ready, watching a movie on his laptop.
A vibration. His attention snapped from the computer screen to the cell screen.
He was focused on the game at hand. As much as he could be, at least. Cotton was born and raised on the island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, among the tiny Caribbean nations torn to shreds in the past 24 hours by Hurricane Irma:
“My house did get hit. My dad’s house, the roof came off and everything is gone.”
Cotton lasted just 5 innings, shelled for seven hits and seven runs. But nothing can put a game into perspective like the loss of life and destruction felt by his island home:
“It’s going to be on my mind, of course. Back home, it’s a total disaster, the whole town is wiped out from Hurricane Irma.”
He added that being in contact with his family has brought some ease to his mind:
“I talked to my dad a couple times yesterday, my uncle, and they’re doing fine so that helped me out.”
The 25-year-old rookie’s struggles all season have been very well pronounced, especially at his adopted home in Oakland where he is now 3-6 (after a no decision Friday) with a 7.52 ERA. With three more surrendered to the Houston Astros, he has also been tagged for 18 of his 27 home runs this season within the, for him, unfriendly confines of the Oakland Coliseum.
After the game, Cotton took some time to address his personal on-field failings, saying that he will need to study the game film and figure out if and how he is tipping his pitches, which has been a curiosity surrounding him this season after being all but untouchable in a brief stint last year.
He also took a minute to address the goings on in the Caribbean, even offering a heart-felt warning to the people of Florida, where the now-Category 5 storm is expected to make landfall early Sunday morning.
And while his mind is focused on Oakland, the A’s and his improvements on the diamond, his heart will certainly be with his friends and family:
“My family, they’re doing good so that’s a relief for me.”
“They’re trying to recover. It’s going to take them a long time, but they’re strong, they’ll do it.”