When the Athletics franchise planted its Oakland roots in 1968, the city already carried a proud history of professional sports.
The Oaks, of the Pacific Coast League, had called the East Bay home since 1903, having brought five minor league titles to Oakland. Though they were a young franchise, the Raiders had been crowned the American Football League champions in 1967.
Arriving three years later, the Warriors brought The Town its first NBA title in 1975.
Now, the Warriors are leaving Oakland, crossing the Bay Bridge as soon as 2019. The Raiders appear stymied in their possible move to Las Vegas, or back to Los Angeles, or where ever they are welcome, leaving the A’s as the last bastion of hope willing to buy into that history.
Under new leadership, though, the A’s expressed a commitment to their home of nearly 50 years. In his first announcement as team president, Dave Kaval made it known that his primary goal is improve the experience at the Coliseum until the team can find the means to build a new stadium — in Oakland.
Third year Athletic and San Jose native Mark Canha told SFBay that he is excited to offer sports sanctuary to the entire city:
“I think, now more than ever with what’s going on with the Raiders, the Warriors are moving, that the fans can really get behind us, and we’ll be there for them.We’ll give them a show this year. … These are our people, and we really embrace them.”
Among his first actions at the head of the club, Kaval relocated the team’s annual FanFest from the Coliseum to Jack London Square in downtown Oakland. The turnout spoke volumes to the support of the fans, as nearly 20,000 showed up to meet a team that is coming off back-to-back last-place finishes.
Having been in the bottom eight in average attendance since 2005, the A’s will look to capitalize on the intrigue of fans over their recent pledge of loyalty, along with the team’s promising youth, as they continue to move towards a new Oakland home.
The sheer number of fans in attendance was not the sole focus for shortstop and San Francisco native Marcus Semien, he told SFBay that he is hoping for a re-invigoration of home-based fans:
“When I’m at the ballpark, I like to ask the fans ‘where you from?’ A lot of them come from over the hill — Walnut Creek, Moraga, Laffayette, Danville — I don’t here as much Oakland as I’d like to hear. So, I’m excited to see more Oakland people here, hopefully.”
It’s not just about what the fans can give them, though. The players, front office and coaches alike are excited to see what their staying in Oakland can do for the community.
“There’s a lot of jobs, there’s a lot of money — sports teams helps business in their community. I think when we play better, that’s going to get everybody more aware of what’s going on, and they’ll want to take their family out to the Coliseum and, in the future, a new stadium for that experience. That’s what we’re about: the fan experience in Oakland.”
Manager Bob Melvin, a Hayward native, went beyond expressing excitement in the commitment. In a moment of reminiscing, the skipper recalled the difficulty that came with managing his childhood team in his first year, as he was often whisked away by memories of games and events he took in at the Coliseum as a child.
“This offseason has been as exciting as I can remember since I’ve been here. Dave has come in and really raised the flag, and talked about a new ballpark, and that’s what our fans want to hear. I think, for the first time, our fans are expecting something to happen. That’s something to be excited about.”