Melvin a hit with students at De La Salle Academy

Melvin a hit with students at De La Salle Academy

CONCORD, Calif. -- After playing shy in front of Bob Melvin in the early going of a much anticipated meeting Tuesday morning, middle-school students at De La Salle Academy quickly warmed to the A's manager, peppering him with a hodgepodge of questions.

"Are you famous?"

"That's probably dependent on the year we have," Melvin said.

"What are the catcher signals? Is it hard to share a stadium with the Raiders? Do you get free food there? Is your job stressful? Did you play with Babe Ruth?"

"What team do you root for?"

"Easiest one I've had all day," Melvin said, smiling. "The A's."

A's in the community

Melvin's visit to the Concord school, situated about 25 miles northeast of Oakland, was surely the highlight of another rigorous day for many of the 60-plus enrolled students. The academy, a middle school for boys of academic promise from low-income families, operates on an intense curriculum and extended school hours -- 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. most days -- with hopes of ridding them from a cycle of poverty.

It opened in August 2014 with a first-year enrollment of 34 students in grades five and six, less than a year after Oakland native Ken Hofmann -- owner of the A's in partnership with Stephen Schott from 1995-2005 -- dreamed up the idea. Hofmann pledged $5 million to fund the first five years, and the academy will celebrate its first graduating eighth-grade class in 2017.

The school is considered a division of De La Salle High School of Concord, which is expected to welcome most, if not all, of the academy's eighth-graders who applied. Together, the schools put forth an emphasis not just on academics, but also structure, social and cross-cultural skills and community building.

Hofmann has hosted the academy's classes at A's games in the past, making Oakland fans out of some students -- several of whom were in awe of Melvin on Tuesday morning, including a pair of eighth-graders who gave him a tour of the school.

"We hear that you guys are big fans of the A's, and we appreciate that," Melvin said. "To be able to be the manager of your hometown team is pretty special, so I'm always aware of guys like you watching us and trying to put on a good show for you guys.

"There's a pride factor of being at home that's like nowhere else. We're certainly trying to put together good teams so that you can be proud of us."

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, the A's have also been active at the St. Vincent De Paul Free Dining Room in Oakland this past week, assisting with feeding the less fortunate. Several front-office members participated as volunteers, including general manager David Forst, who served meals with the organization on Tuesday morning.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.