I’m feeling hopeful today on Opening Day, but it’s a different kind of hopeful than I feel most Opening Days. My hopefulness has nothing to do with how the A’s might do on the field. I don’t expect them to contend this year and I figure they’ll probably finish in the cellar in the division with a record much like last year’s. What has me hopeful this year is that it seems the end is in sight in the long awaited quest for a new ballpark, and the ownership finally seems to be caring about the fan experience and is embracing Oakland as it the current and future home of the A’s.
As an A’s fan in Wisconsin, I’m viewing this from a distance. I haven’t been to an A’s game in Oakland since 2013 and haven’t lived in northern California for nearly 15 years. But even being over 2,000 miles away, I still feel connected to the feeling of being an A’s fan in a market that is completely dominated by another team, both financially and by on-the-field success. Even in the mid-90s, I felt like the only A’s fan in my circle of friends and acquaintances. They were either Giants fans or fans of some random non-A’s team. The A’s, post-Haas, were second fiddle. And it’s only gotten about a hundred times worse, thanks to Even Year Bull****.
But this isn’t just about the Giants. The post-Haas ownership has been either penny-pinching or Oakland-hating or both. Lewis Wolff was the most recent face of ownership and a constant reminder of attempt to leave Oakland, much to the ire of many A’s fans. But Wolff and team president Mike Crowley stepped down from day-to-day operations of the club in November and the A’s instilled a new leader as the face of the higher-ups, team president Dave Kaval, and it’s been a complete 180. He’s met with fans, he’s promised progress on the search for a new ballpark before the end of this season, and he’s helped usher in a new marketing campaign, “Rooted in Oakland,” and a better fan experience at the Coliseum. (They’ve even embraced some anti-Giants ribbing with the hat trade-in events over the last week.) It’s been fascinating to watch people start to actually care about the A’s again, but in a different way than usual. It’s about the overall experience rather than success on the field this season.
Of course, we all want to see the A’s win again, and the long term hope is that improved fan experience and a new stadium will help keep the the team successful over a longer period of time. But you’ve got to start somewhere and this is an excellent start. Go A’s…