Opening Day for the 2011 MLB season is finally here. I drove 741 miles to Oakland California to watch the Oakland Athletics home opener against the Seattle Mariners. I have never been to this stadium before and I wanted to go here before the Athletics got a new stadium. Who knows when that will be but the rumors are circulating that in 2015 they will be moving to the San Jose area. The fans I talked to about it laughed and told me that, that rumor has been around for the last five years.
I got to California Thursday evening and enjoyed some family time farther south of Oakland. It was my cousins 27th birthday and since I was in town ( or in the state rather ) I thought it would be a nice surprise to see her and the rest of my family. The birthday cake was very delicious. So compliments to the chef. Friday morning I headed back to Oakland to grab a hotel room. I stayed at the Hilton Executive Suites about 2 miles from the stadium. It was a very nice room and I thoroughly enjoyed my stay. If youre ever in Oakland stay there. Trust me.
I caught the Phillies/Astros game prior to leaving for the stadium. It was such an awesome game too. The Phillies came all the way back in the bottom of the ninth to win it with a John Mayberry Jr RBI single. Watching that game really pumped me up. I couldnt have been more ready for this game to start at the Coliseum. But I had so much time and so many photos to take.
Here are two pictures of the view from my hotel room. They view was not at all impressive but it will give you an idea of where I stayed.
Anyway. Enough clowning around in the hotel room. The sun was out and it was time to see the stadium! As I approached the front gate ( the Coliseum is very easy to get to, by the way ) there was just one lone security guard standing in my way. As I rolled down my window he was already telling me I was too early. I told him its never too early for baseball and he waved me through. I finally made it!
Since the stadium had been built in 1966 I didnt expect much. In fact I thought the stadium would be more run down than what it was. It was in pretty good condition. Even for a structure that has survived a couple of earthquakes. So there I am. Standing directly in front of this beast. Of course I had to explore the grounds and take as many pictures as possible. My first mission was to find out where the players entered and exited the stadium. Since it was an older stadium I assumed it had an underground tunnel system. Plus when the Coliseum was built they also built the Oracle.
Thats where the Golden State Warriors NBA basketball team plays. Im not sure if the Oracle was specifically built for that NBA team or what. But thats what they use it for now. As I was exploring I was interviewed by KGO newstalk 810 AM radio station. I was initially asked if I lived in this area and I said no. The conversation goes something like this;
“Do you mind if I ask you a few questions, sir?” The reporter asked.
“No, go right ahead.” I replied.
“What do you think about the 10% tax increase in the San Leandro area?” She asked. I initially thought it was a tax increase for renovations for a new stadium. But I had to ask to be sure.
“Whats the tax increase for?” I questioned.
“Its a sales tax increase.” Said the woman.
“Oh.” This wasnt about baseball at all! It was a political question and to be honest I really wasnt prepared to answer. So I didnt really give a very intelligent answer. So we will just leave it at that. The interview lasted a few more minutes and I have yet to search for it on the internet. ( If they even put it in some kind of archives file )
I continued looking for the players entrance and exit and I was quickly intercepted by another reporter. This time it was from KCBS 740 AM. This interview was actually about baseball. The reporter was interviewing fans for opening day and asking questions like; “Do you think the Athletics are going to the playoffs this year? ( No ) and do you think the Athletics should get a new stadium? ( Yes ) and how well do you think Hideki Matsui will fit into the A’s organization? ( Not very ). It was a very interesting interview and I had a lot of fun with it. The guy complimented me on my quick thinking and ability to spit stats, player bios, and baseball history. I was actually more pleased with myself that I remembered so much! He told me I was a true baseball fan. I appreciated the compliment.
After the radio interviews I came across another baseball fan. He asked me if I were from around the Oakland area ( mainly because I had my A’s hat on ) and I told him I drove all the way from Seattle to watch the home opener. ( I also explained I had my Mariners hat in my backpack )
His name is Benson and he is from Southeast Asia. he actually flies out to see Major League games and the Oakland Coliseum is his 17th Major League stadium he has been to. After this game he is flying to Cincinnati to go to Great American Ballpark and then Busch Stadium after that. I told him all the tricks and tips I knew about Busch Stadium. And some stuff about GABP. Benson had a lot of interesting knowledge to share with me about baseball where he comes from. Did you know that baseball players in Taiwan only get paid if they are a starter? Did you know that their training differs so much from American baseball that the coaches make a pitcher pitch 200-300 times to get the pitches perfect? That results in a lot of injuries. Did you know that baseball players over there get paid a tenth of what big leaguers in America get paid? Very interesting stuff.
Benson is also very knowledgeable specifically about the stadiums. Like, where the players enter and exit.
See the tunnel? Benson found that and told me about it. So I ran down here to get a picture. Thats where the players enter and exit both the Coliseum and the Oracle. Since Benson is an autograph collector ( much like I was two years ago ) he finds this stuff out just by walking around the stadium. We exchanged emails and he also told me that he got a picture of me while I was talking to the reporter for KCBS 740 AM. He told me he would email me the picture when he got home. It was pretty awesome talking with him about baseball. He has a lot of autographs from players that come out to Taiwan to play baseball.
By 3pm the game finally sold out and I was the first one in line. Thirty-minutes before the gates opened up there was virtually no one in line. Fifteen minutes prior to the gates openining up a small line started to form. The ushers confirmed that the game was sold out and they even mentioned that tomorrows game would only see about 15,000 fans. I really thought the whole series would be sold out.
Of course I was the first one inside and I started snapping pictures right away. See how the seat bottoms sort of sag in the rows? Yeah. I cant tell you how many times I bashed my legs up running through the rows trying to catch a foul ball. I had to actually give up chasing them down to save on injuries. It was that brutal. Anyway. I went into this game with 97 baseballs so I was looking for my 100th. I was only three away. As the Athletics were playing catch in the outfield and shagging fly balls a lot of fans were calling out to Jerry Blevins, one of the Athletics pitchers. I just let them do the calling and when he turned to fire a baseball our way I held up my glove and he launched me number 98. Moments later the Mariners started to come out onto the field. So I disappeared for a while to switched hats.
See the security guard in the picrure? I call him the Enforcer. He is not one to mess with. The good thing is he has a bum knee. So he is very, very slow. The slower they are the better. Thats what I say.
Once the Mariners came out onto the field it was very easy to get baseball number 99. Miguel Olivo is very responsive to the crowd and after he was done playing catch he was obviously looking to toss the baseball to someone. So I just called his name from about four rows up, held up my glove, and he underhanded me my 99th baseball of my collection. It was that easy. Now it was all about the 100th. Would it even happen today? All of a sudden it felt like someone dropped a ton of bricks on my shoulders. One baseball away from a milestone. I really wanted it to be a foul ball during the game and I had really great seats for that to happen too. I decided to run to the other side of the stadium. Batting practice was in full swing ( no pun intended ) and I had plenty of time. The awesome thing about the Coliseum is there is a concourse walkway that you can walk to get to the other side of the field and not have to cut up through the stadium like at Kauffman or Safeco. Its pretty awesome. Thats the only thing I really liked.
On the other side I saw this.
Was it really going to be this easy? Surely not. Not to spoil the rest of the blog entry but I didnt get my 100th baseball on Opening day at the Coliseum. I didnt want it to be like that because going into the next game trying to get that one baseball really puts the pressure on.
But I did enjoy watching the Mariners beat the Athletics though. Here are some pictures from the Opening Day ceremony.
Here is a picture I took during the introduction of the players. Notice all the empty seats? I guess thats sold-out Oakland style.
The Athletics took an early two-run lead thanks to Josh Willinghams two run home-run. But as the A’s defense fell apart the Mariners capitalized on all the errors and routed the A’s for the victory. Chone Figgins, who only hit one home run all season last year, blasted one into the left-field seats. It was a very well played game by the Mariners with smart base running and a powerful performance by King Felix.
The Oakland Coliseum staff needs to do some serious weeding around the seats too.
Game; April 1st 2011 Seattle Mariners Vs Oakland Athletics