San Francisco Chronicle
May bringing heat in kitchen, on mound
MESA, Ariz. — Reliever Drew Steckenrider walked into the Oakland Athletics’ spring clubhouse one recent morning to find an enticing aroma of pastry wafting from the kitchen area.
“I was like, I don’t know what that is, but I gotta have one,” Steckenrider said.
It turned out to be blueberry scones brought in by fellow reliever Trevor May. Not just brought by May, in fact — they’d been baked by May.
May is a right-hander who signed a one-year, $7 million contract with the A’s this offseason. He’s readying for a significant role in their bullpen, yes. He is, at the same time, on a serious baking kick. And that has made for a sweet — sometimes savory — deal for his new teammates this spring.
Along with blueberry scones, May has arrived at the clubhouse bearing homemade batches of bacon cheddar and buttermilk scones. He has brought bagels, everything and cinnamon raisin. Last week, he presented carrot-cake cupcakes with cream-cheese frosting, the description written on a whiteboard between screens showing the daily lineup and schedule.
“The dude can bake,” pitcher Adam Oller said. “He brought in some scones that were unreal. Bagels were good, too. Dude knows what he’s doing.”
“I’ll be honest, I didn’t know what a scone was,” reliever Zach Jackson said. “He was like, ‘Oh, you gotta try it, big baker.’ So he brought them in one day — super good. He’s got a knack for it.”
On a recent Sunday, May patrolled the clubhouse with a container of chocolate chip cookies, distributing them to teammates, staff and reporters. Pitching coach Scott Emerson’s verdict: “Outstanding.”
“I just heard that he’s a new baker,” Emerson said. “I didn’t know that until after I ate the cookie, so the cookie was really good.”
May, 33, is no stranger to the heat of an MLB game. He owns a 4.35 ERA in 309 career outings for the Twins and Mets. Off the field, his pursuits are eclectic. May used to DJ, performing electronic music under the name “DJ Hey Beef.” He has since become an avid video game streamer on Twitch.
“He is a man of many interests,” Jackson said. “So it’s always interesting to see what he’s going to talk about next.”
When May picks up a hobby, he dives in. His new one involves simply dealing with a different type of batter.
“The philosophical reason,” May said, “is I had a realization that I really like making things that exist and that I can say, ‘I made that.’ I used to make music. The Twitch stuff and the YouTube videos, everything has been digital. And baseball is great, but I just create stats. There’s no physical thing that I make. And I’ve had this itch to do that.”
A solution arose last fall. May’s wife, like so many others, took up baking amid the pandemic and had a bread-baking book lying around, he said. May decided to try making a no-knead boule — but he opened the book without realizing it to a kneaded version, which is supposed to be more difficult.
“I crushed it,” May said. “So I got hooked after that. Like, ‘I might be good at this.’ ”
May started gathering recipes to try. He made a focaccia for a holiday party and cookies for Christmas Day, sugar and toffee-chip varieties. He made three types of cakes for New Year’s festivities — olive oil, apple crumble and malted chocolate brownie — which “got crushed, like, immediately,” he said.
A few months in, May tinkers with recipes like a pitcher with pitches. He’s learning to toggle between crispier and softer cookies and what type of butter he prefers — “usually salted,” though with cookies, that “mutes the sugar a little more.” He’s “still figuring out the rising” dough but found it helped to bump up the heat in his Washington home.
“It’s just really, really relaxing and a thing you can do slowly through the day,” May said. “And then at the end of the day, it’s something that you made and is yours. And then I get to share it.”
While he figures out leavening, the A’s hope May can help them with high-leverage outings. May is the main addition to a bullpen that ranked 24th in MLB in ERA (4.54) last year. The A’s haven’t designated a closer this spring, but May would figure to draw at least some of those chances. He is both the highestpaid player and has the most MLB service time on the A’s projected season-opening roster.
May has 12 career saves, having pitched more as a setup man, and is coming off an injuryshortened season. The A’s also return three relievers — Dany Jiménez, Domingo Acevedo and Jackson — who had multiple saves for them last season.
Manager Mark Kotsay said it’s possible a closer could emerge but that “leverage and matchups is something I think we feel strongly about.
“Once the bullpen is in the game, it’s about getting outs, whether it’s three, six, 12.”
May, who said he is open to pitching as needed, already is making an impact in subtle ways. Jackson, a rookie last season, said May told him early in camp: “I’ve watched all your video from last year.”
“He’s gone through all of our video,” Jackson said. “Likes to understand the pitchers around him so we can pick each other’s brains. It was cool to see how invested he is in this team.”
Oller said May recently showed him a changeup grip that works “significantly better than the one I’ve been throwing” and watched Oller throw a bullpen session to “give me some cues” on the pitch.
“There are a lot of times you don’t want to approach a veteran guy because you don’t know if they’re open to talking about things,” Oller said. “But you don’t get that vibe from him. He’s very open.”
Emerson said older pitchers often get favorable treatment in spring training, such as not traveling to away games or being the first reliever to appear, but: “He pretty much said, ‘Just do whatever.’ And for me, that’s a blessing, because he’s willing to pitch at any time.”
May said he’s working in spring outings to sharpen his slider and fastball command. He has relied on those pitches and a changeup in recent seasons. Off the mound, he is looking to expand his repertoire. May said he wants to try making a layer cake. Oller said he heard maple bars might appear soon.
“I hope this goes on all season,” Oller said.