Over the weekend the A’s held their annual Fan Fest, much like all the other teams in the league do. This one, however, was different.
It was different than any Oakland Athletics Fan Fest in decades. Long ago in a time far, far away Fan Fest had been held at Jack London Square in Oakland but for many fans these days, if in fact they were even born yet, those memories are short and fuzzy.
That isn’t the case anymore after Saturday’s 2017 Oakland Athletics’ Fan Fest. The venue was moved from Oracle Arena, where question and answer sessions were usually held, and the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, where the same clubhouse tours were always given and activities provided, to the waterfront at Jack London Square.
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The change of venue was one draw to many of the estimated 15-20,000 fans that showed up to celebrate their team, a team that for the past two seasons has finished the season in the cellar of the American League West.
First, it’s important to absorb the gravity of the number of attendees. During most regular season games 15,000 people is the average attendance at an Athletics’ game.
The stadium is literally falling apart, the team has been good, more often than not, but still spotty – winning for a few years and spending a few years in last place over the past almost two decades since Billy Beane was first named GM just prior to the 1998 season.
There were 20-plus players and coaches there, more than the usual turnout and most importantly, new team president Dave Kaval was there with a big announcement.
No, he did not yet announce the new stadium site or timeline but he assured all the fans in attendance for his “State of the Team” speech that not only have the potential stadium sites been narrowed down to four, that before the year’s end the fans will know exactly where the stadium will be, when the ground-breaking will be and when the first game at the new A’s ballpark will be scheduled.
As you may imagine, for a small fan-base, always overshadowed by their cross-Bay rivals, despite being the more successful team overall, these were the words that they’d been waiting for.
After almost two decades of wondering if the team will move to a different city or if there would ever be a new ballpark to bring in enough revenue to keep the fan favorites and the team’s superstars, the people of the East Bay Area were finally given their answer.
As Kaval put it (and made it a new hashtag on Twitter) this team is #RootedInOakland and will not be going anywhere for a very long time. That opening speech alone made everyone’s day.
The Athletics’ Twitter account went as far as to say that the attendance at this year’s Fan Fest was larger than that of President Trump’s inauguration (they were very likely correct and regardless the A’s fan-base was having A LOT more fun!).
It appears it’s time to stop saying that the Athletics’ have no fans which is a blatantly untrue statement. It is time to begin to realize that the majority of that loyal fan-base had become disillusioned with former Commissioner Bud Selig and former owner Lou Wolff’s “we’re working on it” answer to questions about a new stadium and bigger budget.
President Kaval has done more in his few months as team president in the past few months than Lou Wolff did in a decade.
And, on Saturday it appeared that even the most skeptical of A’s fans were convinced that the A’s are not leaving Oakland and that they are in fact rooted there.
The acknowledgement and belief that both the fans and the team were finally going to be getting what they have been denied for so long, was simply everywhere. It was in the air in Oakland Saturday and it is likely still lingering today.
To say that the 2017 Oakland Athletics’ Fan Fest was a roaring success is an understatement, the impact it left on everyone in attendance was enormous.