Checking In With Sierra
It’s interesting to learn from fans why they chose the team they root for. That’s where the conversation with our teammate Sierra started. “I was in San Diego in the fall of 2006 going to school, and I noticed that all the baseball fans were either pulling for the local team, the Padres, or the Giants, since a lot of San Franciscans were living there. No one seemed to be rooting for the A’s, who were in the playoffs. I was from Sacramento, where the A’s Triple A farm team, the Rivercats, played,” Sierra explained. “I saw them play a lot when I was a kid.” Since both the A’s and she were from Northern California, it made sense for Sierra to pull for the Oakland A’s. The pieces all came together, and that’s how Sierra became a committed Oakland Athletics fan.
It was a good time to do it. The 2006 Oakland A’s were a very good club, winning the American League West Division with a 93-69 record. The team’s offense was powered by Designated Hitter Frank Thomas, who hit 39 home runs, left fielder Nick Swisher, who clubbed 35, and third baseman Eric Chavez, who smacked another 22. Catcher Jason Kendall batted .295, hit 23 doubles, walked 53 times and stole 11 bases. The A’s swept the Minnesota Twins in the American League Division Series before losing to the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship Series.
“I especially liked Scutero and Zito,” Sierra told me. Marco Scutaro was a versatile infielder who played second base, shortstop and occasionally third base that season. He had a sharp batting eye and plenty of zip on the base paths, as evidenced by his 21 doubles, 6 triples and 5 stolen bases. In time he would find his way to the San Francisco Giants where he performed admirably and contributed to their 2012 World Series Championship. Left-handed starting pitcher Barry Zito was an All Star that season and chipped in with 16 wins. This would be his last season with the Athletics; he would sign as a free agent with the Giants late that year. Below we see Scutaro on his 2008 Topps card and Zito on his 2005 Topps Heritage issue:
It doesn’t take long when discussing the Oakland Athletics to get to their financial challenges. Several factors cause them to keep expenses low. For many Bay Area baseball fans, the Athletics are the “other” team in the area. The Oakland Coliseum is not an attractive venue, nor does it deliver the healthy revenue stream that modern ball clubs need to compete. They don’t have a mega-television contract like the teams in larger markets. The Athletics have to make every dollar count, and even then the current baseball financial landscape makes them small fries. More often than not, the Athletics have to trade their stars for prospects, who will command smaller salaries.
It’s happening right now. Just two weeks ago the Athletics sent proven relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to the Washington Nationals for three prospects. Two-time All Star catcher Steven Vogt was recently jettisoned, and “I miss him already” was Sierra’s comment. Sonny Gray was Sierra’s favorite player on the team, and he was just traded to the New York Yankees for several prospects. As a result, most A’s fans understand they’re going to see players at the front end of their careers. The memories of feats performed by former players remain, however, and many of them are good ones.
When I asked Sierra what was her favorite memory, she thought for a moment and then started talking about the 2013 American League’s Division Series. She was at the Coliseum when the Athletics hosted the Detroit Tigers in the second game of that set and saw Sonny Gray pitch a masterpiece. He held the Tigers, who lead the American League in batting average and hits that season, to four hits over eight innings, striking out nine. Sierra still remembers the energy and sense of exhilaration in the ballpark that day. “Playoff baseball is exciting,” Sierra said.
Sierra’s whole family roots for the Athletics. The featured picture above shows her Dad TJ and her sister Lexi. That’s Sierra on the right. The picture was taken on this season’s Opening Night, which was a “must see” for any Oakland Athletics fan. That was the night that the team named it’s field in honor of Rickey Henderson. A special pregame ceremony was conducted, with Oakland’s native son Rickey Henderson the guest of honor. It can be tough being an Athletics fan, but at least their fans can now say that their field… is the greatest field… of all time.
Sierra is very optimistic about the future. With the football Raiders leaving soon for Las Vegas, and the basketball Warriors building a state of the art arena in San Francisco, the Athletics will soon be IT when it comes to Oakland’s major league sports teams. The new expression “Rooted in Oakland” has taken a firm hold on the collective mind set of most Athletics fans. “The A’s are staying, and that warms my heart,” Sierra said. “The city of Oakland deserves a team.”
With new management in place, there’s every reason for the optimism. All involved agree that the decrepit Oakland Coliseum won’t house the Athletics much longer. The team has identified three sites in Oakland that are currently being studied; the site of the current Coliseum, a plot of land near Laney College and an area northwest of Jack London Square. A selection will be made and presented to the public later this year. By the time the new stadium opens, the recently acquired prospects should be ready to compete on the major league level.
And that brings us back to where we started, with all of the pieces about to come together. It’s a great time to be a fan of the Oakland A’s. Right, Sierra?
Photo credit: Rickey Henderson Field by KTVU, Oakland, California.