Yes, A's and Mills can go ho-ho-home again

Team returns to Mesa and Hohokam Stadium, where pitcher starred in high school

Yes, A's and Mills can go ho-ho-home again

MESA, Ariz. -- A new era in Hohokam Stadium history began Tuesday, as the A's celebrated their return to Mesa with a win over the Giants at the newly renovated ballpark in their Cactus League opener, following 33 springs in Phoenix.

It was a particularly special day for A's pitcher Brad Mills, who grew up in Mesa and frequented Hohokam for high school baseball tournaments. The lefty was given the nod to start the game, and he responded with one scoreless inning in front of several familiar faces, including his parents, wife and two young sons.

"It's been 12 years since I pitched here, but it definitely brings back some memories," said Mills, one of several rotation candidates. "I've been talking to a couple high school teammates about all our games at Hohokam, so it was definitely fun."

"If anyone had some nerves today, it was him," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "This is the guy that grew up right down the street, threw high school games in this ballpark, so I know he was really excited for the start. You kind of take a temperature of how he's doing with the nerves out there. Is he able to throw the ball over the plate? And he did."

The good vibes continued in the bottom half of the inning, as the A's pounced on Giants ace Madison Bumgarner for three runs en route to a 9-4 victory.

"It's fun," said Ben Zobrist, who went 2-for-2 with a triple and a double. "You hope that things like that, when you start off well and everyone hits and you get rallies, you hope that it translates into the feeling of the team with the chemistry, to where the team just starts believing you're going to do that, and if you can start believing that early on, hopefully it carries into the season."

Jane Lee is the Oakland Athletics beat reporter for She has been covering the club since January 2010.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.