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Original Issue

Accommodating A's

For these Oakland teammates it's always open house

OAKLAND A'S outfielder Nick Swisher, 26, and pitcher Chad Gaudin, 24, live in a gated golf course complex, but their teammates have an open invite from these Southern boys, who take hospitality seriously. "Guys are always stopping by to hang out by the pool, play Ping-Pong," says Gaudin, a New Orleans native. The-four-bedroom, four-bath house is 30 minutes east of McAfee Coliseum in the upscale community of Blackhawk. "It can be a little snobby," says Swisher, who grew up in Parkersburg, W.Va. "We didn't even talk to our neighbors last year. That's unheard of where I'm from." The roomies pay $4,000 a month (plus utilities and furniture rental) and have brought in such bachelor staples as three flat-screen TVs and the Ping-Pong table. The walls are bare save for a strand of plastic "St. Patrick's Day beads" that Swisher hung in his bedroom. After signing a five-year, $26.75 million contract last month, Swisher says he'll look for a permanent pad next season. For now he and Gaudin, who's 6--1 with a 2.85 ERA that's the fourth-best in the AL, are happy to stay grounded in Blackhawk.

On his nightstand is a framed poem, The Guy in the Glass, given to him by his father, former big league catcher Steve Swisher. "It keeps me driving," says Swisher of the 1934 verse by Dale Wimbrow. "Someone is always working harder than you." Swisher's acoustic guitar (1) was a gift from his ex-girlfriend (she bought it from former A's teammate Barry Zito), and he keeps his clothes hanging on open racks so he can "see where everything is." Shoes—mostly variations of well-worn cowboy boots and pristine white sneakers—go in a hall closet. "Guess which ones I wear," says Swisher, whose cellphone rings to the Dukes of Hazzard theme. "I'm a boot man."

A friend—the wife of Swisher's dentist, who helped them find the house last year—picked out his bedding (on which he's reading a hunting book called Making the Most of Your Deer (2), but his personal touches include three pictures above his fireplace: his sister, Wendy, at her wedding; his parents, George and Gaynell, at one of Gaudin's games at Triple A Syracuse; and his best friend Brennan Bourgeois on a fishing trip before he died tragically at age 18. (Says Gaudin, "I look up, and it brings me back to good times with the people I care about.") Gaudin, who was nicknamed Wolverine last year after a debate about superheroes with teammates Jason Kendall and Bobby Crosby, has acquired a pair of X-Men claws and a full wolf pelt (3), an outfit he likes to don to amuse his teammates.

(4) Swisher sprang for the 60-inch, flat-screen TV for games of Nintendo Wii. "Nonstop, all day. We're competitive," says Gaudin. "We'll come home from a game and play Wii or Ping-Pong for hours. It's how we're wired." On the mantle are A's bobbleheads, including one altered by beat writer Mychael Urban to make Swisher look like the main character in the movie Nacho Libre. "It's because they said once on Cold Pizza that I look like Jack Black," says Swisher. "I don't see it."

(5) Gaudin's other nickname is Crusher, for his ability to wreak havoc on the clubhouse spread. He's also an accomplished cook who learned from his mom. "Guys always ask if Crusher's kitchen is open," says Gaudin, who recently served a New Orleans--style meal for six teammates and their significant others. "I enjoy seeing their reaction when they have something like my chicken and andouille jambalaya." Gaudin doesn't stint on the Cajun seasoning. Swisher, who's on regular dish-washing duty, says, "He doesn't think anything's too spicy."

The side lawn is, well, unkempt. Swisher has tried tackling the overgrown area with a push mower (6) that was left in their garage. The experience was unsatisfying. "This thing doesn't cut anything," he says. "It just rolls." The oval pool (7), however, is inviting: Gaudin regularly skims it to make it suitable for visitors.



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