Well, what I hoped was not going to happen is now all but guaranteed. And of course the news breaks right as I was getting ready for bed. The team, not surprisingly, did this when a good portion of the country was asleep.
I had held on to a miracle to happen, and that the speculation of a move to Nevada wouldn’t come to fruition and somehow a new ballpark would be built in Oakland. This is for a team that has called this city home since 1968. Now, much like the Warriors and Raiders, they’re leaving Oakland.
What sucks about this is that I have had many years to prepare myself for this. As the ongoing search for a new ballpark continued, it became more and more apparent that Las Vegas would be the final destination. And why wouldn’t it? The attendance has been so bad and the current stadium is in desperate need of a lot of help. And of course, the owner John Fisher and management has made no effort to field a competitive team. All the star players are shipped out for prospects that don’t even get a chance to establish themselves as stars in Oakland.
We can go about all the logistics behind this move, but I want to use this time to reflect on my fandom for this team and what is going to happen next for me.
I remember my first A’s game — vaguely. Well, maybe not vaguely. I remember the orange seats. Mount Davis had not yet been built. My mom had tickets to a day game. I swear this game was against the White Sox and the A’s walked it off. My guess is that it was the August 12, 1992 game. Here is the box score.
I was still grasping the game of baseball at the time but we played kickball a lot at school, so the rules were not too unfamiliar with me. It was cool to go to a professional baseball game and even though I was a kid, I wanted to go back. I would be gifted a glove later on by a friend and to this day, when I buy gloves, it is always black — just like the first one I had.
It wasn’t until 1998 when I became a dedicated fan. At that point, I had followed the team through newspapers and mini highlights back then. I knew who Mark McGwire was and was devastated when they traded him to St. Louis. But I was also excited for new stars like Jason Giambi and Ben Grieve.
In 1998, the A’s had a promotion where kids 14 years or younger could get a ticket to any home game for 98 cents. I am not sure if it was for any seat, but that season, my best friend and I would attend a ton of games with his dad. The team had a slogan “They’re Young, But They Can Play” to promote the team’s youth movement. But also, the tam brought back aging legend Rickey Henderson that season too. I got a chance to see the future Hall of Famer and some bright new stars that season.
We would continue going to games over the next few years. We saw the A’s clinch the West in 2000. I attended Game 18 of the 20-game win streak in 2002. The walk-off homer landed a section next to me. Check out that clip below.
And later on, I attended the home games for the A’s playoff run in 2012. In between that were more games and more memories at the dump of a Coliseum. But it was my dump and I loved watching this small market team beat the odds.
I just wish they had beaten all the odds and won one World Series title during that span.
That was my hope. Not only because I wanted my team to win the title, but that might have been the only chance the team had to staying in Oakland.
When the Raiders returned in 1995, they build Mount Davis. That was a monstrosity of a structure in the outfield that blocked off the gorgeous view of the Oakland Hills. The stadium didn’t have much attraction to it compared to newer ballparks that were built during that time period. And adding Mount Davis hurt the team. They were now dealing with two tenants in the stadium, which led to the field being torn up and just a constant moving around of things. It was a sign that the A’s needed to have ballpark to call their own without a roommate.
The push for a new stadium was definitely in the works but how could it happen? Did the A’s need to move to a new city like San Jose? Or was it possible for them to build a new ballpark in Oakland? I knew that the current location would have been ideal but with the Warriors playing (they moved out in 2019) you have to consider the tenants in that space. There was Jack London, Laney College and Howard Terminal as ideas. But nothing really came to fruition.
So for the the last two decades, there were ideas of where the team would go. San Jose would have been a great ideas but the problem was that the Giants own that territory. It’s stupid to own territories but they did so I didn’t know how realistic it would be. They’ve teased it for so long.
Despite all of this, I still remained loyal to the A’s. And it’s because of that relentless optimism that the team will find a way to either stay in the Bay Area at least if a new ballpark in Oakland doesn’t come to pass.
I remember the original renderings of Cisco Field, the supposed San Jose ballpark they wanted to put together. Then when that didn’t work out, the Howard Terminal idea became something that would make its rounds. That new ballpark had originally started as a Jack London park before an attempt at Laney College was found.
Ultimately, it would be Howard Terminal as the team’s last attempt to save the team.
It looked bleak. But I still held out hope. I wanted to believe that somehow the city and the team could work it out. But underlying all of this was just a team that was eager to move.
This reminds of the Warriors. They were loyal to Oakland for 47 seasons. But their new owner knew that there was more money to be made in San Francisco. Despite the titles, the team moved to a brand new arena in The City. This was already the plan and it there was nothing to be done. The owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber were set on it and there was nothing that could stop them.
As we look at the situation with the A’s, it’s the same. First of all, owner John Fisher doesn’t care about the team. He hasn’t made any effort to keep the team in Oakland. And president Dave Kaval has been his mouthpiece. He’s promoted the team staying in Oakland. For a couple seasons, #RootedInOakland was the slogan. He attempted to revitalize the franchise and give the Coliseum an attractive feel. And from the beginning, I believed it to be genuine. But he started picking fights with Giants fans and tried to invade San Francisco with campaigns and ultimately, no traction was being made and it was apparent that his efforts for Vegas were shown.
He would have his visits to Vegas made public and it became evident that the fight for Oakland wasn’t going to happen. It appeared good on paper, but by putting together a bad team doesn’t help. Fans aren’t showing up and they would use that as a reason why the team can’t stay in Oakland.
It’s hard to see this because the A’s fans are passionate. They love their city and team. And if the A’s put together a good team, they come out. And if they were to commit to Oakland with a new ballpark, it would produce so many good things for the city. But because of the lack of effort to be a contender, it only shows that the team doesn’t care about what the team means to the city. And if the team doesn’t care, it’s hard for the fans to show up with their hard-earned money to come out to a game. It’s not the fans’ fault. Their reverse boycott would tell you that. They care. But it’s hard if the relationship is only a one-way one.
So that leads me to this news. I had trouble sleeping because for over 30 years, this team and city were synonymous to me. But now, the split is happening and I don’t know how to put into words what it means to say goodbye.
Even if the team is in Vegas, which is only a four-hour drive for me compared to the six-hour one back to Oakland, it’s not the same. I didn’t grow up in Vegas. I have no connection to that city other than a few trips over recent years. Oakland is the heart of it all for me. That’s where it began. That’s where I attended all those games. Nothing else can replicate that.
I think about what it would mean to cheer for this team that now is in a different city. It’s not like the Warriors because they remained in the Bay. Not like the 49ers either when they left Candlestick Park. The A’s are going to be in a different state. The culture has all shift.
Do I still cheer for them? A part of me thinks I should. But this exodus is a product of betrayal, deception and lack of passion. That’s not something I can support. And right now, I cannot see myself supporting a team (and its front office) that did this to me, the fans and the entire city. I can’t.
It seems to me that it’s going to be bittersweet to see this team still play in Oakland leading up to their eventual move. I want to see them one last time, at least for my own sake. For my chance to say farewell.
The move won’t happen for a few years if everything goes according to the team’s ideal timeline. But it doesn’t matter. I’ve already packed my bags and moved on.